Cosmologists Finally Capture an Elusive Signal From the Beginning of Time
A team of scientists may have detected a twist in light from the early universe that could help explain how the universe began. Such a finding has been compared in significance to the detection of the Higgs boson at the LHC in 2012.
What they detected is known as primordial B-mode polarization and is important for at least two reasons. It would be the first detection of gravitational waves, which are predicted to exist under Einstein’s theory of relativity but have never before been seen. But the thing that has scientists really excited is that it could provide the first direct evidence for a theorized event called inflation that caused the universe to exponentially grow just a fraction of a fraction of a second after it was born.
“Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today,” astronomer John Kovacof Harvard, who led the team announcing the discovery today, in a press release.
Though the team’s work will still need to be confirmed by other experiments, it is already generating a huge amount of interest. It would give physicists a look at the hot and violent early universe, when temperatures were 13 orders of magnitude greater than what can be achieved at the LHC. And it could help solve some lingering problems with our models of the Big Bang and the origins of the universe.
“This is literally a window back to almost the beginning of time itself,” said physicist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University, who was not involved with the work but who has studied inflation. […]
Even in the midst of excitedly celebrating, most scientists are urging caution until the results are confirmed by an independent team. “We should be skeptical,” said Krauss. “Alone this finding is tantalizing, but not definitive.”
Read more (via wired.com)