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In the eventful early moments of the Big Bang, the emerging universe expanded and cooled rapidly. Was this great phase transition perfectly smooth? There are indications that it cannot have been--that topological defects must have formed, just as ice on a freezing pond forms plates with zig-zag boundaries between them. The leading theory holds that these defects would have been cosmic strings, curiously microscopic and massive at the same time. The theory has the rare advantage that its processes can be simulated in the laboratory; also, as astronomical measurements are refined, its predictions can be tested by observation. Alejandro Gangui describes the huge hypothetical strings and recent work that indicates that they may conduct great amounts of electrical current.
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