How fast was the Big Bang?

Image of the Big Bang
When astrophysicists and mathematicians look into deep space they can see light from planets and astronomical events, but also a glimpse back in time. Energy detected as photons of light deep in space indicate the conditions of the universe millions – even billions – of years ago, where the further the distance the older the particle.

Although ancient particles can be detected, there is a limit to how far back can be seen. The universe’s conditions immediately following the Big Bang were far too hot for subatomic particles to combine into atoms and release photons of light. As a result, the closest observable particles to the Big Bang, as in the ones furthest back in time, are known as cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). This is the earliest known form of radiation in space that can be detected.

Achim Kempf, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Waterloo and a former Canada Research Chair in the Physics of Information, developed a new, more precise way to measure CMB. Working jointly with his former graduate students Aidan Chatwin-Davie and Robert Martin, Kempf took quantum gravity into account in revolutionizing the mathematical model measuring CMB.

This calculation effectively reveals the maximum rate at which changes in the universe can occur. Similar to how the sharpness of a video image on Skype informs of the bandwidth of the internet connection, high resolution measurement of CMB can tell more about the bandwidth of the universe.

The increased accuracy of the researchers’ calculation revolutionizes our understanding of the early universe – specifically the Big Bang event. Exploring the CMB gives insight into the composition of the universe, revealing more about the influence of dark energy and dark matter with each improved calculation. This probing of the early universe is ultimately shedding more light on the mysteries in the dark depths of space.