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Space Science

BOSS: The Universe's Most Precise Measurement 128

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the you-are-a-meaningless-dot dept.
Cazekiel writes "Observing the primordial sound waves created 30,000 years after the Big Bang, physicists on the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey have determined our universe's most precise measurements: 13.5 billion years old. The article detailing the study reports: '"We've made precision measurements of the large-scale structure of the universe five to seven billion years ago — the best measure yet of the size of anything outside the Milky Way," says David Schlegel of the Physics Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, BOSS's principal investigator. "We're pushing out to the distances when dark energy turned on, where we can start to do experiments to find out what's causing accelerating expansion."'"
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BOSS: The Universe's Most Precise Measurement

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  • Well (Score:1, Funny)

    by Shai-kun (728212)

    ...like a boss.

  • by tomhath (637240) on Monday April 09, 2012 @07:36PM (#39625099)
    Isn't Slashdot supposed to be News For Nerds? Oh wait, it probably doesn't get any more nerdy than this. Good stuff.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday April 09, 2012 @07:47PM (#39625189) Journal
    It says the universe is precisely 13.75 billion years old, not 13.5 billion years old.
    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday April 09, 2012 @08:32PM (#39625659)

      The Universe may be 13.75 billion years old, but it doesn't look a day over 13.5 billion. I wonder if it's had work done. Maybe some cosmic surgery to reduce those time-space stretch marks.

    • It says the universe is precisely 13.75 billion years old, not 13.5 billion years old.

      ... the universe is actually 13.74892103652974083 billion years old, and counting ...

      • by mikael (484)

        I imagine there is a cloud of interstellar gas sonewhere which displays the current capacity of the universe like one of those online data storage companies.

        • by WhiteDragon (4556)

          I imagine there is a cloud of interstellar gas sonewhere which displays the current capacity of the universe like one of those online data storage companies.

          yes, it's online data storage in the cloud... /me ducks in shame

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It did say "precise" measurement afterall not "accurate." http://saturn.cis.rit.edu/~dxl1840/data/uploads/accuracyprecision.gif [rit.edu]
    • by pgn674 (995941)

      It says the universe is precisely 13.75 billion years old, not 13.5 billion years old.

      Actually, you're both wrong. What you read is a link to a different, unrelated article that's 2 years and 2 months old [discovery.com]. I looked at the articles and papers [sdss3.org], and I don't think any claim about the age of the universe is ever made.

      I think this is instead the most accurate measurement of the distance between here and very far away galaxies, and of the distances between those galaxies. But I may be wrong on that. RTFA

  • I always try to get my head around the meaning of measuring something in units which didn't exist then.

    • Why? Would you also say it's questionable to measure the pyramids of Egypt in meters?

      • by mspring (126862)

        No, that's different. The meter and the pyramids do exist simultaneously.

        • The universe existed before the unit of time 'years' existed.

          The universe and years exist now.

          The pyramids existed before the unit of time 'meters' existed.

          The pyramids and meters exist not.

    • by Sneeka2 (782894)

      If you mean to say that the sun and the earth didn't exist back then and that hence the "year" didn't exist, then that's nonsense. A "year" is a somewhat well defined length of time, which applies just as much now as it did then, regardless of when that length of time was first defined or when the ingredients for defining it came into existence.

      Now, if you'd be talking about whether the length of time we define as a "year" nowadays is the same now as it was back then, and whether time is a universal constan

    • I'd mod you up, but my mod points currently don't exist. :(
  • While this project may yield a lot of data it still won't be able to answer most of the fundamental questions. I know they have to advertise that way in order to receive sponsorship and grants, but dang it I'm tired of hearing it.

    We still won't have a clue about what Dark matter is, or even if it exists. It's still a hypothesis that makes big bang models work and gives us the idea that we understand gravity.

    We still won't know what the Universe was just before the big bang, or what caused it.

    Cool, but I'l

    • In other news, the Universe still doesn't owe you an accounting of itself. Ric has more at 11.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Wait, you're complaining that this project is overhyped because it doesn't claim it will answer questions like what is dark matter or what happened before the big bang?

  • by FrootLoops (1817694) on Monday April 09, 2012 @08:02PM (#39625327)

    The title meant to say "BOSS: The Most Precise Measurement of the Universe". The other way round can mean these measurements are the most precise ever, which isn't even remotely true. For instance, the article says, "BOSS gives that distance to within 1.7 percent", whereas (to pick something out of a hat) the fine-structure constant has been measured to a precision of less than one part in a billion or within less than 0.0000001%.

    Maybe a physicist can chime in here--how is the red shift actually measured in an experiment like this? You could of course measure the wavelength of incoming light, but how do you know what the wavelength "should" be? Are there some common spectral lines one can look for?

    Also, is there any practical use to this experiment? I'm fine with pure research, but I was curious if maybe some of the techniques find application elsewhere. The article didn't mention any.

    • Even discounting the title, I can't parse the first sentence of the summary in any way that makes sense. I suspect that the summary was trying to say that they've precisely measured the age of the universe as 13.5 billion years (which isn't even right, according to the linked article).

      Maybe Unknown Lamer is CmdrTaco coming back in disguise!

      • Yeah, it's a lame sentence. I forgot to criticize it in my haste to read the article and figure out what it might mean. I'm pretty sure the submitter just misunderstood the Discovery article. It uses the phrase "most precise measurements ever made" in the first paragraph and has a link to "ANALYSIS: The Universe is Precisely 13.75 Billion Years Old". Both say "precise", and a careless person might shove them together with a badly written sentence and a typo (13.5 instead of 13.75) to get the last half of th

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday April 09, 2012 @08:28PM (#39625609)

    Thought this was going to be about a Stones concert tour.

    Never mind.

  • Why do we use years as time measurement for events that happen in the universe? Years are an Earth measurement that have no bearing on anything else in the universe.
    • by quenda (644621)

      Why do we use years as time measurement for events that happen in the universe? Years are an Earth measurement that have no bearing on anything else in the universe.

      For the same reason you asked that question in English instead of a dialect from Flartibartfast IV.

  • by Boronx (228853)

    Worst summary ever.

  • The press releases linked to from the /. summary are pretty thin. The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] is a lot better. Here are the two papers: [1] [arxiv.org], [2] [arxiv.org].

  • It's pretty obvious, just people aren't thinking about it from the right mindset:

    It has to do with the expansion of outer shell of the edge the remnants of the original big bang explosion; It's really a type of a 'less resistance' problem, like as if something like air resistance gets less as the perimeter of the expanding explosion moves out, yet the mass of the universe remains the same. [Although that explanation ignores the fact that there's not a whole lot of air in space, but bear with me.]

    Although it

    • by KlomDark (6370)

      I see I didn't make myself clear enough, and was being distracted while I wrote that.

      The point I was trying to make was simply the fact that the universe is expanding constantly, but the amount of the mass in the universe stays the same. I spent too much time on creating the balloon analogy and not enough on the the thing I was trying to focus on: everything's moving outwards from a center point; the mass remains the same yet the volume continues to increase. (Nothing to do with a secondary collision in the

  • About something that was 8 orders of magnitude longer in the past than my own life expectancy. Well, I do not begrudge these people their intellectual exercise, I just hope they did not spend a lot of money on this irrelevant result.

  • "We've made precision measurements of the large-scale structure of the universe five to seven billion years ago"...

    And they're just now getting around to telling us about it?

  • "We've made precision measurements of the large-scale structure of the universe five to seven billion years ago" - Sure took you long enough to get the news out.
  • Was the primordial sound aum? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om [wikipedia.org]

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