Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
University of Chicago

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Music of Inflation

Key Concepts

We think that fluctuations may have originated from a period of rapid expansion called inflation. Whether or not this actually happened can be "heard" in the microwave background. The fundamental tone of a musical system is related to its physical size - here the horizon size at last scattering.

There is also a pattern of overtones at integer multiples of the fundamental frequency.

In music, the pattern of overtones helps us distinguish one instrument from another: it is a kind of signature of the instrument that makes the sound. In the same way, the pattern of overtones in the sound spectrum of the microwave background ripples acts as a signature of inflation. Inflation's signatures are that the overtones follow a pure harmonic series with frequency ratios of 1:2:3...