In the initial seconds of the Big Bang did matter travel faster than the speed of light?

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Brian Strappini

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Brian Strappini asked the Naked Scientists:
   
In the initial seconds of the Big Bang did matter travel at over the speed of
light and how is this possible? If we can still see the light from the Big Bang
we must have got into the position we are faster than the light.

What do you think?

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Offline neilep

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Hi Bri,  [:)]

I once heard that the speed of light was limited to that speed of 'c' within the universe !

Now, what ever the universe is expanding into then what ever is ' outside' is governed by different laws.

Now I know that what I have written above is incorrect but can someone relay to me that what I have written may be relevent (very loosely) to something that I may have heard  !
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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Matter did not move faster than light.

It is a difficult concept to grasp but it was space itself that expanded (and is still expanding). As each point expanded, and each subsequent point expanded, regions that were furthest apart moved away from each other faster.

Think of stretching a length of elastic with dots on it. The dot at the middle of the elastic will not move. As you get nearer to the ends the dots will move away from the central dot faster. The dots at each end will be moving away from each other fastest of all. But the dots are not moving on the elastic, the elastic itself is stretching.

Applying that principle to the expansion of the universe, you can see that matter itself does not move very fast; it is carried along with the overall expansion. As you look further away, so the matter appears to be moving  away faster. You can therefore get to the situation where 2 points sufficiently far apart are expanding away from each other faster than the speed of light.

As for Neil's point about what is outside of our universe, there may or may be anything. We just do not know.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2009 14:04:24 by DoctorBeaver »
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Offline yor_on

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It is a very strange state you are asking about, and I don't think we know very much about it. As DB states it wasn't matter specifically but more like space itself that inflated, or perhaps, what we call 'matter' and 'space' didn't exist as 'proprieties' before this transition. And if so, one can question if lights speed was an barrier at that instant. It seems that the 'laws' governing this 'transition' was different from what we observe now.

I see it as the quark gluon soup inflated and spread out, and as it started to 'coagulate' it also created what we have today, spacetime. Or maybe I'm using the wrong words here? You see, if there was no 'space' before then the ideas of 'distance' and 'speed' and 'velocity' loses their purport, don't they. Also it might have started before the 'quark gluon soup' became into existence?

But leaving us as of today consisting of matter and space as observed through times arrow.

The way I see it as what we call space and matter is two states closely bound to each other. You can't have 'only' matter, as little as I would expect there to exist 'only' space. And that makes us a very strange sort of 'bauble' where both states are in harmony. As Neil wonder and me to :). Is there 'anything' outside our 'bauble'. If space still is expanding it seems to me that this is some sort of 'work' and that should use some sort of 'energy', if that is 'transfered' into our bauble then there must be something outside. On the other hand space itself seems to be able to 'hide' energy, so perhaps it all consists of transitions inside our 'bauble' from quarks to atoms to 'matter'. If so I don't see how we ever would know what there might be 'outside'.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2009 20:15:01 by yor_on »
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Offline LeeE

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Hmm...  the 'initial seconds' of the BB actually covers rather a lot of ground.  The BB is generally split in to a number of epochs, each with it's own different characteristics and types of behaviour.

Have a look at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Big_Bang#The_very_early_universe

and then continue scrolling down through 'The early universe' phase.
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Offline yor_on

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Thanks LeeE :)
But I still see that period as something we don't really know of.
We do make 'educated guesses' about it, deducting them from experiments and theory.

Those high energy experiments where in we try to create what we think was the circumstances surrounding the BB may describe a similar situation, most probably so.
But it still doesn't explain inflation. And where would we say that we have 'matter' in this timescale?
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Offline LeeE

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I think it's fair to say that it's a little bit more than guesswork, but I would agree that any conclusions about the very early stages of the BB are far from certain.

The reason that it's more than just guesswork is that the bits of QM that have been shown to work experimentally imply other bits which, although they haven't yet been proven, are required if QM is to remain consistent.  It's these currently unproven bits that are features of the very early stages of the BB but as they seem to be necessary parts of QM, then if QM is to prove to be true in it's current form, these other bits must exist under the appropriate conditions/circumstances.

According to that wiki article, the first particles to appear would have been the Higgs Boson, during the 'The grand unification epoch', although whether these could be regarded as matter might be debatable.

An 'Inflaton' field, and associated particle, have been suggested to account for the inflation during the early BB.  Don't know anything about them though, apart from their spelling.
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Offline Vern

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Quote from: LeeE
An 'Inflaton' field, and associated particle, have been suggested to account for the inflation during the early BB.  Don't know anything about them though, apart from their spelling.
I get the feeling from scanning physics forums that the general understanding is that the universe (space itself) is now expanding and has always been expanding. Wouldn't this notion eliminate the need for a special early expansion period?

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Vern - The Inflationary Epoch has been proposed to explain the homogeneity of the visible universe.
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Offline Vern

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Thanks DB I didn't realize that.