Big Bang - Moment After Conception: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Jul 12, 2012
Scientist: Dr. (David) Mark Whittle

Big Bang - Moment After Conception

Big Bang - Moment After Conception
Astronomers are using information from microwaves to learn about the beginning of structures in the universe.

Big Bang - Moment After Conception

Music; Ambience: Timelapse sound of first million years of universe

JM: When scientists turn their radio telescopes to the skies, they're able to detect microwaves that originated from the early days of our universe. Those microwaves give us a picture of glowing sound waves which were present in the universe long, long ago. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

MW: "We're looking back 13.7 billion years. So, just to put this in context, if the age of the universe were a human lifetime, we're looking at the universe as it was 12 hours after conception."

JM: Mark Whittle is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Virginia.

MW: "So, there's a lovely metaphor here, which is that if you take a human back to 12 hours after conception, there's no structure. We have no arms or legs or torso. There's just DNA. If you go back in the same time in the universe, there's no structure. There's no stars or galaxies. It's a uniform gas, but within it are the seeds of what are to come. And those seeds are the sound waves. So, in a sense, the sound waves you can think of, as sort of cosmic DNA.

MW: And you know from the life sciences there's been a huge interest in the human genome project because it unpacks a huge amount of information about both our ancestry and our current life and how humans develop. And it's in just the same way that studies of the microwave background you can think of as the cosmic genome project. They're looking at the seeds of structures which will ultimately emerge. And the beauty of it is that the seeds are actually sound waves, something which we as humans can relate to and feel."

JM: We'll hear more about sound waves from the early years of our universe in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.