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To a sound wave, the cosmos has the consistency of chocolate syrup.

That’s one discovery that scientists investigating the Big Bang have made using a new approach that treats the matter in the universe as a peculiar kind of fluid. They have calculated properties that characterize the universe’s behavior and evolution, including its viscosity, or resistance to deformation by sound waves and other disturbances.

“Twenty pascal-seconds is the viscosity of the universe,” said Leonardo Senatore, an assistant professor of physics at Stanford University — just as it is for the ice cream topping.

The viscosity calculation could help cosmologists sleuth out the details of the Big Bang, and possibly someday identify its trigger, by enabling them to track the fluidlike flow of the cosmos back 13.8 billion years to its initial state.

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