Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cosmology and Quantitative Biology

Went to an interesting seminar today about detecting traces of the reheat portion of the Hot Big Bang (the part that occurs after inflation), papers not yet out on arxiv (links posted here when they come out).

The interesting bits to relay back here are:

1. Any symmetry breaking (Higgs, for example) invariably generates gravity waves. Thus, it's possible for to use gravity waves to probe all the way back to inflation, 10E-35 seconds.

2. These gravity waves can be, in principle, detected by tabletop sized experiments! (There's a group trying to do that now). Unfortunately, there are issues of sensitivity that will make this rather difficult, but perhaps by, oh, 2020 we may detect relic gravity waves in the same way we've already detected the CMB.

3. Another cosmic relic is leftover magnetic fields, of which theory predicts their strength and scale should be equivalent to what we're seeing today as galactic and intragalactic magnetic fields.

4. Our guest seemed to expect to see copious production of strings and textures, which should be signified by their gravitational traces and provides further experimental tests of the stringscape.

And in some other news, here's a really fascinating article on bateriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) with some really nifty discussion points related to our nanotech thread. I won't spoil the article, it's well worth the read (it serves as a handy primer for nanotech issues), but an interesting result is the calculation of pressure inside the hard shell of a bateriophage, with experimental support, which shows that:

1. Bacteriophages have double-helix DNA to serve as a spring to provide packing energy

2. Bacteriophages rely upon this pressure to propagate, at least initially, into bateria.

3. Viruses are basically mechanical, inanimate objects. They don't do anything except replicate, and any inanimate matter assembled into the particular protein configuration of a virus will behave like that virus; on the flip side, viruses have the exact electrical properties of any other similar-sized particle in a colloidal suspension.

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