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Friday, May 05, 2006

Cyclic universe could explain cosmic balancing act�

 Big bounces may make the Universe able to support stars and life.
A bouncing universe that expands and then shrinks every trillion years or so could explain one of the most puzzling problems in cosmology: how we can exist at all.
Why is the energy pushing apart the Universe so small? Maybe because it's much older than we thought.
If this explanation, proposed in Science1 by Paul Steinhardt at Princeton University, New Jersey, and Neil Turok at the University of Cambridge, UK, seems slightly preposterous, that can't really be held against it. Astronomical observations over the past decade have shown that "we live in a preposterous universe", says cosmologist Sean Carroll of the University of Chicago. "It's our job to make sense of it," he says.
In Steinhardt and Turok's cyclic model of the Universe, it expands and contracts repeatedly over timescales that make the 13.7 billion years that have passed since the Big Bang seem a mere blink. This makes the Universe vastly old. And that in turn means that the mysterious 'cosmological constant', which describes how empty space appears to repel itself, has had time to shrink into the strangely small number that we observe today.


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