Come, Let Me Explode Your Brain

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 17 2014 4:50 PM

Inflated Timescales

When I wrote the article this morning about the new evidence for cosmic inflation, I was in a hurry because it was breaking news. The post was getting pretty long, and I had to leave something out that I think is quite astonishing.

Also? It will destroy your brain.

Advertisement

Consider: When the Universe underwent inflation, it was a mere 10-35 seconds old. That’s an incredibly short time by human terms, too small for us to really grasp well. And it only lasted until 10-32 seconds after the Big Bang.

That duration is so short that analogies are difficult to use. That time period compared to one second is far, far smaller than one second is compared to the current age of the Universe.

But that’s in human terms. Compared to the age of the cosmos back then, inflation lasted for more than 1,000 times the amount of time the Universe had already existed.

Scaling that to current terms, if something like inflation started now, it would have to last for tens of trillions of years to be comparable in length. We think of the Universe as old, but it is as fleeting as the single wing beat of a mosquito compared to that.

By our scale, inflation lasted an immeasurably shorter time than the blink of an eye. But to the Universe itself at the time, it lasted flippin’ forever.

So you just go ahead and chew that over for a while. Take your time. We have plenty of it.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The Simpsons World App Is Here, and Nearly Perfect

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.