The horizon problem
is a cosmological
question that remained unanswered until the theory of cosmological inflation
was put forward.
The problem is as follows: the cosmic background radiation
is the same temperature
to one part in 10,000, over the whole of the observable universe
, which implies the widely separated regions must have been in contact at one time, to reach thermal equilibrium
. You might think "According to the big bang
theory, everything began at a single point, as it expanded, equilibrium must have been possible, as the universe was so small..."
The 'classic' big bang theory was modeled using general relativity
, the speed of light
sets a limit on how far away two points can be to be able to communicate
way. If you want to bring two opposed points in the universe to 186,000 miles apart, you would have to roll back time to less
than one second after the big bang. But light, needs the whole
second to travel between the two points, and so the universe cannot equilibrate. You can carry on rolling back time
, but light never has enough time to span the whole of the universe....
If you've followed the inflation
node, the rest should now make sense.. Playing the film
of the universe backwards, when you get to the period of inflation, you get an exponential contraction
, so fast it get's around the barrier imposed by the speed of light...Calculations
that the universe now has plenty of time to reach equilibrium, even though this period was infinitessemal
compared to the rest of the evolution
of the universe.