The Big Bang Theory hasn’t been having a good year. First, of course, the iconic television sitcom of the same name ended. Besides being a top-performing show right up until the end, it did wonders for convincing the general public that nerds can be cool while showing nerds that they can meet attractive soulmates as long as they don’t spend too much discussing Star Trek movies or string theory. Then last week, THE Big Bang theory itself was brought into question by new data which seems to show that an old star appropriately dubbed “Methuselah” is actually older than the universe. If that hit to its big ego was wasn’t big enough, a study released this week showing how dark matter, which was thought to have been created by the Big Bang, actually predates it. What next? Secret documents showing Dr. Sheldon Cooper cheated on his IQ test?
“If dark matter were truly a remnant of the Big Bang, then in many cases researchers should have seen a direct signal of dark matter in different particle physics experiments already.”
Tommi Tenkanen, a postdoctoral fellow in Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University and author of “Dark Matter from Scalar Field Fluctuations” published recently in Physical Review Letters, uses the enemy of many weak theories – mathematics – to put the Big Bang theory into question. Tenkanen developed a simple mathematical framework (graphs can be seen here) which illustrates a scenario where dark matter was produced in a period of cosmic inflation BEFORE the Big Bang, causing a massive production of scalars. Scarlars (also called scalar boson – you can see where this is going) are boson particles whose spin equals zero. The only boson particle ever found is the Higgs boson, also known affectionately as the ‘God particle’ because it gives all other particles their mass. In other words, it created the mass of the universe, which up until now was believed to have birthed the universe.
Does this mean dark matter really existed before the Big Bang?
“We do not know what dark matter is, but if it has anything to do with any scalar particles, it may be older than the Big Bang. With the proposed mathematical scenario, we don’t have to assume new types of interactions between visible and dark matter beyond gravity, which we already know is there.”
Well, if the math says it did … then it did – although it would be nice to have some physical evidence to back it up. Tenkanen told Phys.org that’s coming in 2022 when the Euclid satellite is launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Euclid Consortium. It will be carrying a near-infrared space telescope that will accurately measure the acceleration of the universe as it expands, thus giving scientists the means to trace back to the origins of dark energy (the theoretical cause of the expansion) and dark matter (the content of up to 85% of the universe).
“It’s going to be very exciting to see what it will reveal about dark matter and if its findings can be used to peek into the times before the Big Bang.”
That’s a BIG if … meaning the Big Bang theory — and the universe and all that is in it — is safe.