BICEP2 Telescope in Antarctica – Copyright (Steffen Richter / Harvard)
To stay innovative, it helps to stay curious about the trends in science and what may be on the horizon. Scientists from Harvard have just released evidence for gravitational waves, the first evidence directly supporting the theory of inflation after the Big Bang.
“Somebody is going to win a Nobel prize for this” is what people in the Physics community are saying about results soon to be published by a team from Harvard. Their experiments using the BICEP2 (“Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization.”) telescope in Antarctica have found the first direct evidence for the Big Bang, which created our universe approximately 13.8 billion years ago.
Specifically, the team has found evidence for gravitational waves in the polarisation of light in the Cosmic Background Rradiation, which is the remnant of the rapid expansion of the early universe. These gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein nearly 100 years ago when he formulated how gravity affects Space-time. Scientists have been searching for the existence of Gravitational Waves for years, since it is related to one specific aspect of the Big Bang Theory: the period right after the bang, when all matter expanded in size by many orders of magnitude in a tiny amount of time.
How fast exactly? Computer models indicate that the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in .0000000000000000000000000000000001 (10 to the minus-34) seconds after the Big Bang explosion
Importantly, the results appear to have an accuracy of greater than 5 sigma. In other words, the odds of seeing this signal by chance are less than 1 in 3.5 million. The team has even been looking over their data for more than three years, ruling out any other source of the signal such as experimental error.
“This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,” team co-leader Clem Pryke, with the University of Minnesota, said in a press release.
The biggest proponent of inflation theory so far has been Prof Andrei Linde of Stanford. See how he reacts when he’s surprised with the results of the experiment: