Alt-week peels back the covers on some of the more curious sci-tech stories from the last seven days.

Alt-week 3.23.13: universal snapshots, cosmic world records and print your ride

If you are a fan of absolutes, then you are in the right place. We have a first, a fastest and a biggest in this week's round-up of all things sci-tech. We'll try to add one more to that -- a quickest. The quickest intro for this feature ever. Did we manage it? This is alt-week.

Ever play that game where you try to see how quickly you can start / stop a stopwatch? No? Just us? Either way, spare a thought for Planck -- the European Space Agency satellite. Its data has been used to create a map showing the universe just one trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the big bang. Planck has been observing cosmic background radiation originating 370,000 years after the universe came to be. Some of the findings have changed our understanding of the great "out there," including re-ageing the universe to 13.8-billion years old (100 million years older than previously thought), and revealing slightly more matter than previously thought. The image below shows that super-early snapshot of the universe, but with the contrast jacked right up to show regions that contained slightly more matter than others, which would ultimately start to attract more and more, before coalescing over vast periods of time into galaxies, and other celestial bodies. The data also adds weight to the theory of inflation, while not supporting others (such as cosmic strings, that string theory would predict).

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While this next one might not be the first trillionth of something, it's possibly the first whole 3D printed snowboard. We've marvelled at the creative output from Every Third Thursday before, and the Signal team are at it again. This time, they've taken another tech angle, printing one out in parts. The process is obviously somewhat different to that of a regular board, and the results reflect that. But, if you thought 3D printing was all figurines and bracelets, then this video might just change your mind. We'll stick to our regular steel edges for now, but in a couple of years, who knows?

We started with speed, before moving onto a first, now we're looking at the biggest. The biggest astronomy lesson in the world, that is. NASA, along with 526 space lovers set a Guiness World Record with the outdoor class. The students came together at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Texas as part of SXSW, and learned about the use of color and light as tools for understanding cosmic objects. It possibly wasn't just the skies causing the students to be starstruck, either, with a full-scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope no doubt stealing some attention, y'know, as it would. The previous record was held by 458 participants in Mexico back in 2011. To be fair, it sounds like a record we could have a pop at. Maybe at the next Expand? Who's in?

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Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

[Image credits: ESA and the Planck Collaboration, NASA / Chris Gunn ]

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Alt-week 3.23.13: Universal snapshots, cosmic world records and print your ride