Ever since the Big Bang, the universe has been ringing. And scientists are just now picking up.
At least, that's the idea being presented by Lawrence Mead and Harry Ringermacher, two physicists at The University of Southern Mississippi. According to their calculations, the universe has been acting like a giant bell that was rung by the Big Bang, and it is still oscillating to this day, still rippling the fabric of spacetime.
The pair made their discovery while attempting to plot a graph that described the scale of the universe against its age. Their measurements made the most sense when understood in terms of an undulation or "ringing" of the universe that is gradually slowing in its rate of oscillation over time, much like the fading reverberation of a bell that has been rung.
“We found there was more than one such time – in fact multiple oscillations with a frequency of about 7 cycles over the lifetime of the universe. It is space itself that has been speeding up its expansion followed by slowing down 7 times since creation,” explained Ringermacher (who, given his role in this discovery, doesn't have an ironic name at all).
"The ringing has been decaying and is now very small – much like striking a crystal glass and hearing it ring down," described Mead.
The theory doesn't challenge the notion that our universe is expanding overall — a universal expansion is still happening, say the scientists — but the pace of this expansion appears to speed up or slow down depending on where we are in the cycle of oscillation.
These oscillations are also happening on extremely large timescales, each taking over a billion years to occur. So they aren't something that can be felt in any tangible sense from our experience. So no spacetime tidal waves or space-quakes are expected to suddenly start knocking down buildings or spinning planets out of orbit. But our understanding of how the universe has been shaped since its inception at the Big Bang could certainly be rocked by the discovery.
Ringermacher and Mead acknowledge that their finding must first be reviewed by independent analyses before it can be confirmed, but it at least goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about the behavior and origin of our universe.
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