Geek Zone: Origins of the universe detected

It took us 98 more years of technology advancements to invent and create the machines capable of finding this evidence.

It’s been labelled “The Scientific Discovery of the Year” — the Gravitational Waves discovery that hints at the structure of the first trillionth of a second of the beginning of the universe. While sipping a Guinness on St. Paddy’s Day, I was delighted to hear about this new discovery from a chemist friend. The discovery provides the first evidence of something we thought was happening was actually happening. Actually, it was Einstein who first thought this must be occurring back in 1916. However, it took us 98 more years of technology advancements to invent and create the machines capable of finding this evidence. This evidence has a great correlation with the standard model of cosmology which, in turn, supports the Big Bang, a discovery Stephen Hawkings called the “greatest discovery of the century, if not all time.”

The Gravitational Wave discovery, which will likely receive a Nobel prize, was discovered using extremely precise measurements from the Cosmic Microwave Background detector near the U.S. South Pole Station in Antarctica. In this first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, the Universe expanded extremely violently in what is known as the theory of cosmic inflation — much faster than light acceleration. Cosmic background radiation is the afterglow of the big bang and luckily we can still see this faint glimmer of the past, which shows how our universe expanded to an enormous size nearly 14 billion years ago in just a split second.

Scientists have not yet published their work in peer reviewed journals and scientists are far from reaching a consensus about the origin of the detected waves. Now science will do its thing — whether these gravitational waves have inflationary or phase-change origins will continue to be tested until one theory is left standing.

Quantum computers made in BC.

U.S. scientists recently announced they soon hope to create the coldest temperatures (around -273.15 C) in the universe on the International Space Station. Actually, colder temperatures are already occurring, right here on Earth — in Canada, in fact — and I don’t mean Edmonton. Right here in B.C. — Burnaby, to be precise — a company called D-Wave is creating supercooled Quantum computers that operate a fraction of a degree below absolute zero and are able to calculate much faster than we can currently calculate with conventional super computers. Quantum computing leverages quantum mechanics to create computers that aren’t merely upgrades of the today’s conventional computers — they work in a completely different way.  While today’s computers have data in binary digits (bits), each a 0 or 1, quantum computing uses quantum bits — qubits — that can be in more than one state simultaneously, a bit like Schrödinger’s cat — dead AND alive, at the same time.

Rob Orchiston is a software programmer who lives in Invermere and stays on top of the latest trends in technology. Send any questions of comments his way: echo.geek.zone@gmail.com.

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