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Strange stuff, but it might fit."
"A separated space-time?"
"Look, suppose we think back to one second after the Big Bang.
To make it, you'd need about 1089 of the basics--protons, electrons, neutrons,
photons, neutrinos. A lot. But now think about an earlier time, before the
universe inflated, before it really took off. All you need there is a region
of false vacuum."
She knew all this, the standard early universe scenario from grad school,
furniture supplied by particle physicists to the field of cosmology decades
before. It had become as conventional as the story of w rock 'n' roll evolved
from American pop to British invasion to psychedelic and then into slow
decline. A minute region begins--never mind why:excited to a higher energy
state. The Grand Unified
Theories of a generation before demanded only a speck of false vacuum
10-2s centimeters across with a mere gram of mass packed into it. Close to
nothing, in other words. But that matter was compressed to a density 10stimes
that of water. Beyond the range of any conceivable techno-trick.
"--so if a false vacuum can form," Max was saying, "it should neck off from
ours in an instant."
"Uh, 'neck'?" Her lips puckered skeptically.
She could just barely keep up with his terminology, a frequent problem she had
with theorists. He had already generated some com
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sketches and printed them out with hand-lettered labels. She tried to follow
the way the false vacuum formed a "bubble wall"
within ordinary space, which was the "true vacuum" where everybody lived.
"Yeah, a neck is an indentation in our space-timelwhich is the
'true' vacuum. This dent represents a false vacuum, a dip which deepens very
fast. This drawing tells the geometric truth, too. Once the bubble of false
vacuum"he shaded in the bulb at the base of the space-time fuell"has room to
move, it can grow wihoutaking up volume in our space-time."
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GREGORY BENFORD
The best way to follow a theory, she knew from long experience, was to break
it into pieces and worry each until she got some physical feel for it. "So the
false vacuum makes a new space as it expands."
"Right, new. Very important. It doesn't have to expand at our expense."
"That cord connecting us to the bubble, you mean it's--"
"One end of it is a sphere, in our space-time. A class of wormhole nobody
really analyzed before."
"Why is it solid?" Back to the earlier questions.
"Because the special compressed space-time that makes this cord, it's like an
inconceivably hard substance. Light goes through it, nothing else."
"You said something like that before." To Brad, she thought, then deflected
her mind away from the memory with "Why should I believe that now?"
"Because it's the only explanation for how we can have a stable sphere sitting
over there and not a tiny black hole."
"I don't get it. This separated space-time, it's necking down and should get
farther away, right?"
"But it's also expanding. How those effects counterbalance, I don't know. ' '
"What do these old papers say?" She riffled through the photopies skeptically,
catching titles that made no sense.
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Max fidgeted with his chalk, a sure sign of uncertainty. "Well, the simple
analysis shows that it should choke off rather fast, in about
10 37 seconds."
Rather than laugh in his face, she looked at her watch.
"You need to be somewhere?" Max asked.
"No, just checking to see if 10-37 seconds had passed."
He laughed explosively and she saw that he was uneasy about this theory,
wanted her to approve. That was oddly touching in itself, but she kept to the
physics. "What would it look like in that time, which you say is 10 37
seconds, before it was gone?"
He still shuffled his feet and fidgeted his chalk. "The standard calculation
says it should look like an infinitesimal black hole. It would
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