WMAP*

WMAP, cosmic microwave background, NASA

“Let there be light”, said the Lord. After the flash, whereupon the electrons and protons did recombine out of the plasma, at T=110,000 years give or take, there was light.

“Don’t look directly at it until it cools down”, said the Lord.

And Mrs. God said, “You create an entire universe without even consulting me? It clashes with the drapes. ** Everyone will say my drapes look hideous.”

And Satan said slyly, “Which half is mine?”

And the Lord said, “One thing at a time. I had foreseen the problem of the drapes, but I had supposed it would be easier to change the drapes, though now I see I was mistaken.”

And the Lord said to Satan: “You had your chance to help with the grand design, and you walked off on the project. Now that it’s all done, you are back. Can’t you be a team player on even the simplest effort?”

Satan said, “All I ask is equal access to any intelligent beings that may evolve in this creation of yours.”

The Lord said, “Fat chance of that, Satan. Everywhere you go, there is nothing but trouble. You will have to wait a while until there are places called seats of government, and then I will give you half of those. Best offer; you can take it or leave it.”

Satan said it would be worth the wait.


*WMAP, or Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, is a NASA microwave sky survey showing that the temperature of deep space is remarkably uniform in every direction, around 2.725 degrees Kelvin. The survey also shows that there are “hot spots” and “cold spots”, differing by about .0002 degrees after 13.7 billion years, that are best explained as temperature anomalies in the inflation plasma that later evolved into galactic structures we see today. Thus it is thought that the WMAP survey (and the lower resolution COBE survey before it) represent a snapshot of the very early universe. The microwave radiation that paints the WMAP image may be thought of as echoes of the Big Bang event itself.

There is no “you are here” point on this map because we are on the inside looking out. The entire 360 degrees of sky, northern and southern hemispheres, is mapped by the most powerful microwave receivers on the planet. The remarkably consistent two degree arc of the hot spots is seen as mathematically consistent with the age of the universe as calculated by other methods, and with the speed of inflation (a trillionth of a second), for reasons I can’t quite follow. The very large dark spot is said to be the “billion light year hole” in the sky.

** When Garry Trudeau’s “Lacy” died and was led to Heaven (Doonesbury, about 10 years ago), she criticized the drapes. “Shhh”, she was told, “Mrs. God picked them out.”

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