By Szabo L.

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In air, this distance is a negligible 10–5 centimeter. But in the primordial plasma just before recombination, a particle would typically travel some 10,000 light-years before striking another. ) As measured today, after its 1,000fold expansion, that scale is about 10 million light-years. Therefore, the amplitudes of the peaks in the power spectrum are damped below about 10 times this scale. Just as musicians can distinguish a world-class violin from an ordinary one by the richness of its overtones, cosmologists can elucidate the shape and composition of the universe by ex- make up the bulk of so-called ordinary matter, and cold dark matter, which exerts gravity but has never been directly observed because it does not interact with ordinary matter or light in any noticeable way.

As we go backward in time to search for the origin of structures of a particular physical size, the horizon eventually becomes smaller than the structure [see illustration on opposite page]. Therefore, no physical process that obeys causality can explain the structure’s origin. In cosmology, this dilemma is known as the horizon problem. Fortunately, the theory of inflation solves the horizon problem and also provides a physical mechanism for triggering the primordial sound waves and the seeds of all structure in the universe.

We are thus led by degrees to an improbable conclusion: most of the universe today is composed of invisible dark matter and dark energy. Worse yet, dark matter and dark energy seem to be coincidentally comparable in energy density today, even though the former vastly outweighed the latter at recombination. Physicists dislike coincidences; they prefer to explain the world in 50 density fluctuations in the primordial universe were nearly the same at all scales. The first stars might have formed sooner if the small-scale fluctuations had higher amplitudes.

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21-neighbour packing of equal balls in the 4-dimensional Euclidean space by Szabo L.


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