Big news in Cosmology today of a landmark discovery.
“Physicists have found a long-predicted twist in light from the Big Bang that represents the first image of ripples in the universe called gravitational waves, researchers announced today. The finding is direct proof of the theory of inflation, the idea that the universe expanded extremely quickly in the first fraction of a second after it was born. What’s more, the signal is coming through much more strongly than expected, ruling out a large class of inflation models and potentially pointing the way toward new theories of physics, experts say. “
In layman terms, this is robust evidence of an “echo” from the big bang which brought the Universe into existence 14bn years ago, and it allows scientists to witness how the Universe came into existence. In other words, it is the very encouraging physical evidence for the theory of inflation. Think of it as ripples spreading outwards in water or waves crossing an ocean. These primordial gravitational waves will tell us about the first, infinitesimal moment of the universe’s history and its obvious expansion. Of course, these waves are not exclusive to the Big Bang, but are ripples in the curvature of spacetime which exist throughout space emanating from different sources (e.g. black holes, cosmic explosions).
Needless to say this is fascinating stuff that promises to expand our understanding and reverence of the cosmos in brand new ways. Old questions will be answered, and new ones will be born. Old technologies will be improved, and new ones will be dreamt of. Einstein predicted all this way back in 1916 in his Theory of General Relativity and remained its sole untested prediction. It took scientists only 98 years to prove it. What a bunch of slackers!
Here is the beautiful moment Andrei Linde, one of the authors of inflationary theory and who in 1983 first described chaotic inflation, is told that his theory was correct 🙂