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What's new with the Big Bang?

Could you please send info about the latest research about the Big Bang.

The latest research on the Big Bang is a pretty big subject. Probably the most famous recent discovery is the discovery that the universe's expansion may actually be accelerating. In standard cosmology, after the Big Bang occurs, the gravity of the many galaxies acting on each other slows the expansion, perhaps eventually even turning it around into a contraction of the universe. Recent measurements of distant galaxies, however, seem to indicate that this is not what is happening; they seem to be receding from us at too slow a speed for this scenario to be borne out. Therefore, it may be that the expansion is actually accelerating instead of slowing down. This is what you would expect if a "cosmological constant" existed. You can get such a constant, which acts a little bit like an anti-gravity force at very large distances, if the vacuum of space itself has stored energy in it. Usually, it is assumed to be zero, but these measurements may change that.

May 2002 update by Karen: Research over the last three years has yet to disprove that the observations of distant supernovae show an accelerating universe so the cosmological constant is still a hot topic. Another exciting development was the observations of the CMB made by BOOMERanG. By looking at the characteristic scale of fluctuations in the CMB, the experiment indicated that our universe is flat. Since we cannot find enough matter in the universe to make it be flat, this observation also points to the need for a cosmological constant or some other form of "dark energy."

January 1999, Karen Masters (more by Karen Masters) (Like this Answer), Dave Kornreich (more by Dave Kornreich) (Like this Answer)

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