On St. Patrick’s Day, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced a scientific breakthrough of immense impact. This team of astrophysicists, using a sensitive microwave telescope located near the South Pole, discovered “polarization distortions in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation”. If you are anything like me, which I seriously doubt, this announcement rattled my world view to the point that I just sat there thinking, “Whut?”
The special microwave telescope at the South Pole is located there to take advantage of the continent’s crystal-clear air, lack of light pollution and enviable weather. Astrophysicists like to get away from the hurly-burly of civilization and gather in remote locations and speak in their native tongue, “Astrobabble”. It’s not unlike going to a Star Trek convention. Their spouses often encourage these retreats.
As you likely know, the South Pole is unusually cold, to the point where outside peeing is not possible due to the risk of serious injury. Psychologists consider outside peeing as the main driver of penis envy, frequently experienced by women on ski vacations. Therefore, since outside peeing is not possible at the South Pole, all the scientists, male, female and members of the scientific LGBT community, are thus on equal, although often slippery, footing. But I digress.
The observation of these polarization distortions–waves in the space/time continuum, if you get my drift–allows scientists to look back in time to 10-35 of a second after the Big Bang. This is, as you might imagine, a very short period of time. For perspective, think of the amount of time after the light turns green that the jerk behind you honks. It’s even shorter than that.
During this teeny-weeny, itsy-bitty, partial micro second following the Big Bang, the universe expanded by more than 30 orders of magnitude. Everything that composes the observable universe emerged from a spec smaller than a single atom during this time. That’s right, everything, even Michael Moore and Chris Christy.
This period of rapid universe expansion is known as “Inflation”. This spacial Inflation, which is based on verified scientific evidence, is not the same as monetary inflation which will, at any 10-35 of a second now, ravage the U.S economy if the Fed doesn’t “straighten up and fly right”. The latter view is held by several conservative sources, lack of solid evidence notwithstanding. One should take care not to confuse the two similar terms. This warning is aimed particularly at you, Senator Cruz, a known reader of this blog.
Spacial Inflation allows “gravitational waves” to move through space and time in a pattern of ripples, much like the ripples in a pond when someone from the Mob throws a snitch’s body into it. These ripples go on and on and on and on through space and time until we can barely detect them, now that they are 14.5 billion years old. A ripple that old hardly qualifies as a ripple at all. For instance, as a younger clown, some of my muscles rippled, or at least that’s what I liked to imagine. Now that I am an older clown, these ripples can best be described as memories. In any case, these ancient gravitational ripples can be measured by the microwave telescope at the South Pole. In an emergency, this telescope can also be used to reheat leftovers.
Back to the Big Bang part of the science. As you might imagine, a “bang” that created the bulk of the observed universe in 10-35 of a second was one hellavu bang. While very brief bangs have been observed in post adolescent males, none have been as brief as the Big Bang. Further evidence of the Big Bang is a residual haze of wafting gas stretching through the universe. This gas has been spectrographically identified as second-hand smoke from an ancient Marlboro Light. Who smoked it is something of a mystery, although it does give ammunition to the religiously inclined.
While some would say that science is stranger than fiction, Mr. Science Clown would have to disagree. Only science can be stranger than science but nothing can be stranger than Mr. Science Clown. On that, I think we can agree.
Observoid of the Day: Everything in the universe is made from the same basic components. Cheese is not one of them.