The Universe is not Lumpy

When I was a field rep Thanksgiving was my happy time.  I planned my schedule to allow a road trip into northeastern Texas and northwestern Louisiana the week of Thanksgiving.  OK, I know it’s just Monday through Wednesday and a lot of driving, but it’s the most beautiful driving.  Often there is a chill in the air, with trees turning color.  My favorite trip – On Monday I’d make a stop at Lufkin TX then spend the night in Nacogdoches. On Tuesday stop in San Augustine TX, Many LA, then spend the night in Natchitoches LA.  Although it was Thanksgiving week Natchitoches would have Christmas everywhere!  Even the hotels would be decked out with the spirit of the season.  After my Wednesday morning visit, I would head back home, making stops in Leesville LA and Jasper TX. My Thanksgiving loop, no matter how I did it, put me in the spirit.

Thanksgiving Day is a different story. There is a certain level of stress.  Will the turkey be good? Will the stuffing be good? How about the cranberry sauce, green beans, and sweet potatoes?  Will conversations go off the rails? Will the gravy be smooth?

Like Thanksgiving gravy, there is a bit of stress surrounding the theory of our universe’s large-scale structure.  I know, a long segue.

The standard model of our universe predicts a somewhat lumpy structure, with galaxies clumping into galaxy clusters and clusters clumping into webs.  Until now this appeared to be the case, it appears to be true when looking at a few degrees of sky.  But our universe is big, way big!  So big it took a team of investigators a long while to study enough of it to make conclusions.  Called the KIDS (Kilo-degree Survey) Collaboration, this team examined 1,006 square degrees of sky, including 31 million galaxies! Their conclusion, our universe is much smoother than predicted.

So?! What’s the big deal?  Well, it seems this surprise indicates our current physics is somehow flawed. It also seems to be associated with another stressor in physics, the Hubble Constant controversy.  The Hubble Constant is our universe’s expansion rate, and its value determines the ultimate fate of our universe (never ending expansion, big rip, big crunch).  Right now, physicists are arguing over this value.  It varies depending on the type of measurement and that is unexpected.  Something funny is going on in physics and like Isaac Asimov said, most great discoveries are not noted by “eureka!”, they are noted by… “that’s funny”.  Like, that’s unexpected but cool.

Could it be physicists are on the verge of discovering a New Physics?

Let’s hold on for a “that’s funny”.

What’s in the Sky?

November

22; before sunrise; southeast:  Venus joins Mercury (lower left) and Spica (upper right)

25; 7pm; southeast:  Mars is above the bright Moon

27; dusk; southwest:  Saturn and Jupiter are getting ever closer

I hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving!