An Evening at SLAC in Menlo Park


As you guys know, I love anything astrophysics and pretty much show up at events which highlight the out-of-the-world topic. If you are interested in learning more about the current research in Astrophysics, I suggest doing a little research for nearby NASA locations, community college courses, or any science organizations. I know your endeavors won’t result in disappointment when you come out of these lectures and discussions with a universe of knowledge and a new approach to life (yes, these events can get pretty existential).

Another great resource is the SLAC, a Stanford laboratory in Menlo Park, where cutting edge research is done in various areas of sciences. To learn more about this wonderful place, you can click HERE. If you live in the Bay Area or are planning to visit, please like their Facebook page (HERE) to stay abreast with all the happenings here.

Anyways, on October 3rd, 2017, I attended a public lecture called “Viewing the Beginning of Time from the Most Remote Places on Earth” (See HERE). I was particularly excited about this one because a Muslim was speaking and I love, love when Muslim participation is in areas of expertise besides engineering and medicine. The joke was on me because Mr. Ahmed Zeeshan was ha ha an engineer in this program.

About the Speaker:

Zeeshan Ahmed is an observational cosmologist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. He received his PhD from Caltech in 2012 and held a postdoctoral position at Stanford University before being appointed a Panofsky Fellow at SLAC in 2015. Ahmed is a member of several scientific teams imaging the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) from the South Pole and the Atacama Desert in Chile. He spends his time pouring over data from these cameras and devising tricks to build more powerful CMB cameras. This year, Ahmed was a recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy’s prestigious Early Career Award.

The Discussion:

The lecture was on the early “time period” after the birth of the universe and what it would have looked like. According to many physicists, space was filled by plasma that was literally red-hot. The light radiated by that plasma traveled the vast emptiness of space (this is where I disagree because I think space was also created after The Big Bang, much like light, matter as we know it, and space-time) for billions of years, with the expansion of the universe slowly stretching its waves until today it appears as microwave radiation. This is the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), a glow still visible in the night sky. This glow is almost uniform, but small variations from point to point hold information about the conditions of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. The lecture also introduced the sophisticated cameras built to observe it and described the remote outposts of our planet where they deploy these cameras to take pictures of this faint radiation (Think Antarctica). The goal is to image the CMB in finer and finer detail in hopes to improve our understanding of the beginning of the universe and perhaps of time itself.

  • Gamma Rays- probably the beginning/earliest time of the beginning of space-time.

-high heat area

  • Radio waves are given out by buildings!!
  • As objects in the universe go far away from you, they get redder and the waves are longer (basic physics here). Red waves are shorter in frequency and longer in crests.
  •  As objects come closer to you they get bluer and waves get shorter.
  • According to Ahmed, the time and universe after the Big Bang was a faucet spread. Meaning the universe is expanding from the point of origin to new frontiers like water from a faucet.

My Ponderings:

1. Time: Was there time before time? Based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, time is connected with space so if there was space as we know it know-expanding and contracting, then yes, there was time before The Big Bang. If the point of THE beginning was like a densely packed, highly heated black hole, like I theorize, then we won’t know if there was time before space-time until we learn what a black hole is. And I would suggest studying neuron stars and building our way up to black holes.

2. My Confusion: According to many theorists, including Edwin Hubble, the universe is not only expanding, but accelerating. However, time/speed of light is constant. The universe is expanding “speed-wise”, but does that include light is accelerating. How should that impact how we measure space-time?

3. I think the start of the universe (the very beginnings) looked like a giant galaxy and as it spread, there was unevenness due to presence of dark matter. As I mentioned earlier, dark matter doesn’t interact with matter so this is the reason for any “gaps” in the lit-matter we know.

4. Taking Mr. Ahmed’s metaphor of the faucet, we can easily judge, well, from a faucet, if the water speeds up or slows down as it moves from the origin. From my experience matter moves faster from the point of origin than further from it so the universe is not accelerating as many scientists tend to believe.

– Also if it is like a faucet, then how do you explain unevenness in the universe? I don’t think it’s a full influx/flow of matter, right? I think that’s where black matter comes into place. Black matter has a lot to contribute to the shape of the universe.

– Again, scientists like Edwin Hubble theorize that the universe is accelerating. To learn its shape of it, one must ask the following questions. Is it accelerating in one direction?

– Red means older, cooler stars, blue means newer, hotter stars. Maybe look at the locations (cluster/clusters?) of red stars to determine the origin of The Big Bang. Are the clusters in one place? Or spread out? Could the possibility of multiple origins of universe possible?

5. Ahmed says that in his experience even with the most sophisticated technology, there is white noise. How about using organic-made instruments rather than plastics, and steel, etc. I think there will be less interaction with the data collected and less interference. Just pure clean readings.

Well, I hope you learned something from my post. Yes, I know it has a lot of information, so please comment, give feedback, and ask questions. Why? Just Because this is a super fun topic for me and I can talk till the evening about it.

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