Physicists Go To The South Pole - "Hear" Echos Of The Big Bang
As if scientist needed more proof that our universe began with a big bang, a recent discovery seems to put the icing on the proverbial cake. That the big bang was the beginning of what would become our universal home is now widely accepted, but there is more to the story than the streamlined version most people are familiar with. In particular, physicists have claimed for the better part of a decade that soon after the proto-universe banged, it underwent an incredible period of inflation in which it went from baby universe to teen universe in just a fraction of a second.
Using the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2 (BICEP2) telescope in the South Pole, scientists were able to study the minute details of so-called gravitational waves - waves which were first postulated by Albert Einstein. These waves were hypothesized to be the result of the period of inflation the early universe underwent. These waves had never been witnessed before, until the BICEP 2 team reported the observation, seemingly confirming inflation theory.
So, why exactly does the discovery have the physics community in such a tizzy? It’s because without confirmation of inflation, physicists would have to toss the entire big bang theory. So confirming the inflation theory was key to the entire framework upon which modern physics rests. The BICEP 2 team was able to confirm inflation by looking at cosmic background radiation, which is the echo of the big bang. In it they found the signature of the cosmic gravitational waves Einstein proposed. The signature, a particular kind of light polarization, can be thought of as being represented by squiggly lines -as seen in the video below. Though it may not seem like much to the layperson, to scientists it is proof positive that the early universe underwent inflation almost immediately after the big bang occurred.
Of course, this most recent discovery is already the subject of much scientific skepticism, and will undergo intense scrutiny as physicists all over the world look to confirm the finding. In fact, there are already other research programs, such as Caltech's Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), which are also hot on the trail of additional evidence which would confirm inflation theory.