Experts have rapidly expanded a cloud of atoms and witnessed an occurrence that may have happened while the early universe is undergoing the period of inflation.
Several sets of experiments conducted by experts in atomic physics and gravity revealed that atoms hum a symphony when triggered to undergo a rapid expansion. While this may be a discovery expected from a study in atomic physics, the finding relates to a cosmological phenomenon. Specifically, the experts concluded that the early universe has also sung a similar symphony as they underwent drastic changes during the period of inflation.
More specially, however, the discovery may set a precedent where unanswered cosmological occurrences may be simulated through numerical equations and vice versa, where convoluted equations may be demonstrated by cosmological models.
The study, to be published in the journal Physical Review X, exhibited new connections between atomic physics and cosmology.
The authors, headed by Stephen Eckel, an atomic physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said that their finding is a testament to the versatility of the Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC).
BEC is when gaseous clouds of atoms cooled to extreme temperatures would suddenly flock in the lowest possible energy state, causing for them to sing in unison.
The study notes that some of the leftover energy that propelled the expansion of the universe was also the same force that created all the matter and light at present. There are several theories in the past that attempted to explain how this expansion took place. Cosmologists, however, have yet to precisely explain how that extra energy created the matter that people have today.
Eckel and his team concluded that BEC could be a testing bed in order to answer this area in cosmology that remains under discussion.
In the BEC, on the other hand, it has been a common observation that the energy of expansion was quickly transferred to a medium, like sound waves traveling around the ring. However, physicists could only hypothesize how exactly that energy transferred into another medium or form. They have yet to explain the exact process of energy conversion that is taking place.
This latter anomaly was what Eckel and his team were initially attempting to solve through numerical simulations. It subsequently paved the way to the discovery that cloud of atoms is humming during rapid expansion and that it is highly comparable to what the universe is doing while in inflation.
Cosmology And The Atomic Physics
This is not the first time that a study correlated BEC and cosmology. Eckel and his team's finding, however, focused on BECs response to a rapid expansion rate and consequently created a simulation of a cosmological phenomenon.
Eckel says that their discovery will one day enhance future models of cosmology or that a difficult model of cosmology can instead be simulated using a cold atomic gas.