Introduction to physical mathematics by Philip G Harper; D L Weaire

By Philip G Harper; D L Weaire

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After the last scattering by an electron, each photon left from a different point in space, travelling in a given random direction. Today, we only receive those which happened to travel in our direction. Every photon had exactly the same velocity—the speed of light—so they all travelled the same distance. 8). 8 The CMB radiation appears to come from a sphere surrounding us, marking the boundary between an opaque and a transparent Universe. The radius of the sphere corresponds to the distance traveled by photons since they decoupled from matter.

The energy needed to create a plasma out of ordinary matter is not easily found in everyday life. But in the early Universe energies were so high that no atom could survive in its neutral form. The primeval Cosmos, say, a few minutes after the Big Bang, was uniformly filled with hot plasma, at temperatures in excess of a billion degrees. The fact that the Universe went through such a dramatic and inhospitable phase may seem disconcerting at first, but it is actually great for cosmologists. It means that the early Universe was indeed very simple, and that it can be investigated by using the standard tools of modern physics.

The Big Bang model still had to show itself unmistakably to be a valid description of reality and, as any scientifically motivated theory, it had to do so by convincingly passing the observational tests. But the really important thing was that cosmologists had a model, a plausible working hypothesis to compare with real world facts. One of the consequences of any new scientific theory is that of simplifying the description of phenomena that previously appeared to be terribly complex. For example, Newton revolutionized the scientific knowledge of his times by discovering that seemingly unrelated events—the fall of bodies on Earth and planetary orbits—were actually explained by a single law of gravitation.

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