QUO Fast Radio Bursts

How to Inflate a Universe ft. Simran Nerval

August 23, 2021 Queen's Observatory Season 2 Episode 11
QUO Fast Radio Bursts
How to Inflate a Universe ft. Simran Nerval
Show Notes Chapter Markers


Understanding Inflation:

  • Today we can observe the Cosmic Microwave Background and see that the universe is very smooth, but that shouldn't be possible. Light isn't fast enough for opposite sides of the universe to reach a common temperature, density, etc.
  • Inflation solves this problem by suggesting an initially small patch of the universe could have been stretched out to mostly the size we see now. Thus smoothing out differences across the visible universe.
  • The "Inflaton" is a hypothetical particle that allows cosmologists to write out the math of what could have happened to cause inflation.
  • When the Inflaton is first created it would have a "potential" that it could fall into, releasing energy along the way (kind of like how a ball on top of a hill has potential).
  • Simran studies two possible models for the potential, the E and T models (changing how the ball rolls down the hill).
  • She found that these models could produce observable gravitational wave signatures.
  • New experiments are needed to detect these gravitational waves though. 

A Cosmic Big Picture:

  • Simran got her results using code that she adapted from a different cosmology project. It is common in astronomy to share and build on each others code.
  • There are lots of other models for inflation, although Simran chose the E and T models as they are representative of many models. 
  • Once experiments can measure gravitational waves from the period of inflation, we will need a program like Simran's except one that can run backwards to tell us which model best explains the data.
  • Inflation is a mystery of astronomical proportions, finding out the answer may lead to clues about other mysteries in astronomy such as Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
  • Simran's advice to future cosmologists and scientists: make sure to take care of yourself!

Links to Science Outreach Material:

Special thanks to Colin Vendromin for the music, also thanks to Zac Kenny for the logo!

Break 1
Understanding Inflation
Break 2
The Big Picture
End Note