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

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  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
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  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
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  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.