Home » Rigor and RelevanceSpring 2012

The Real Big Bang Theory

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Senior Justin Menestrina had more than a grade to worry about when he submitted his senior honors project in physics—he was also submitting his research as a paper to the very prestigious journal, Physical Review D.

“It is virtually unheard of for an undergraduate to be a co-author, let alone the lead author of a paper that will appear in Physical Review D,” says David Weintraub, professor of astronomy. Yet Menestrina’s “Dark Radiation from Particle Decays during Big Bang Nucleosynthesis,” co-authored by Professor of Physics Robert Scherrer, was published by the journal recently.

Menestrina studied the effect of particles decaying in the early universe on the production of elements during the first few minutes of the Big Bang. The physics major says that the ability of new technologies to make precise measurements of the radiation left over from the Big Bang has allowed established ideas about the universe to be experimentally tested. His paper attempted to reconcile some surprising discrepancies between what has long been believed about the universe and what the experiments have actually found.

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