According to the inflationary Big Bang theory, our universe was born 13.8 billion years ago when the entire space emerged from an extraordinarily small patch and then expanded exponentially – in the smallest fraction of a second – to achieve macroscopic size. In March 2014, researchers announced their historic discovery that they had finally spotted the long-sought-after ‘smoking gun’, suggesting inflation was following closely behind the Big Bang. The Big Bang plus inflation model is a bold and common-sense-defying theory that suggests that the extremely dense and hot neonatal universe started out smaller than an elementary particle. According to inflation theory, the universe experienced such a massive burst of wild growth during the first fraction of a second of its existence that everything we know and everything we are came out of it. Using a radio telescope at Earth’s South Pole, the U.S.-led team of scientists discovered the first evidence of primordial gravitational waves, the ripples in space believed to have generated inflation nearly 14 billion years ago when the universe was in front of it. first with its expansion started at the beginning of time.
As Dr. Robert P. Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts put it, “Strange things can be true things.”
The telescope used for this discovery captured an image of the gravitational waves as they continued to wave through the cosmos about 380,000 years after the birth of the Big Bang. Stars did not yet exist to illuminate the original universe with their sparkling fires – and matter itself was still chaotically dispersed throughout space in the form of a wild plasma soup. The snapshot showed the Cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation – which is the afterglow of the Big Bang itself – that radiated from unimaginably sweltering white-hot plasma, and then billions and billions of years later, cooled to ice-cold microwave energies, as a result of the expansion of the Universe.
The scientists involved in this “smoking weapon” from a historical discovery are among the BICEP2 experiment. About 10 teams of scientists around the world have searched for this signal to indicate that inflation has actually taken place. This signal is called primal B modesare a specific polarization pattern. As a wavelength of polarized light roams through space, it vibrates at an angle to the direction of motion. If inflation had really occurred, it would have emitted gravitational waves rippling through space and time – and these waves would B mode polarization pattern on the CMB.
According to the inflationary Big Bang theory, our universe started out as a tiny patch smaller than a proton – then a runaway inflation in the smallest fraction of a second. That little little patch, way too small for a human to see, was so extremely small that it was almost, but not exactly, nothing. In fact, that little Patch was so hot and dense that everything we know came out of it. Space and time were born together in the insanely growing fireball of the inflationary big bang. The neonatal universe was full and danced with extremely energetic radiation; a blistering, turbulent sea of dazzling particles of light (photons). The entire newborn Cosmos shone with a dazzling brilliance of beautiful light. What we observe nearly 14 billion years later is the vastly expanded and expanding, blurring aftermath of that primal burst of neonatal brilliance. And now we watch helplessly from our obscure little rocky blue world, as the flames of Universal formation fade and cool, and our Cosmos spreads dark into Eternity – like the creepy grin of the Cheshire Cat in a Wonderland nightmare.
Almost 14 billion years ago, the whole of Spacetime was created from a tiny primordial soup of tightly packed, burning particles. Spacetime has been continuously expanding from this initial beautiful state ever since and is cooling down. All galaxies rush away from each other and away from our own large barred spiral galaxy, the star-beamed Milky Way. But it is a mistake to imagine that our universe has a center. Everything travels away from everything else, carried by the now accelerating Spacetime expansion. The expansion of the universe is often compared to a rising loaf of sourdough raisin bread. The expanding dough rises and carries the raisins for the ride. Due to the expanding dough, the raisins are increasingly separated from each other.
On the largest scale, the cosmos appears to be the same everywhere we perceive it. The Big Bang plus inflation model has been the strongest theory explaining this strange observation for decades, suggesting that in the earliest times of our universe’s history everything was in contact with everything else. This provocatively suggests that the original universe must indeed have been very small.
The Big Bang theory alone explains some of the observed features of the universe. The main suggestions of the Big Bang model – the incredibly dense and red-hot state of the primeval cosmos, the birth of galactic structures, the formation of helium and the expansion of Spacetime itself – are all derived from a myriad of observations independent of any cosmological fashion model.
As the distance between galaxy clusters is increasing today, the Big Bang model suggests that in the distant past, everything was significantly closer together. This idea was diligently developed into ancient times when the universe was extremely hot, dense and possibly even smaller than a proton!
However, Despite the many successes, the Big Bang model is missing on its own. A theory like Inflation is desperately needed for two very good reasons. The first is called the horizon problem – the strange observation that the universe looks the same on either side of the sky (opposite horizon). This very disturbing mystery exists because, since the birth of our cosmos almost 14 billion years ago, there has not been enough time for light or any other signal to make the long journey all the way through the universe and back again. So how can the opposite sides of the horizon be possible know how look identical? That is the question. The second problem with the Big Bang theory is the flatness problem – the perception that our Cosmos remains dangerously balanced on the exact dividing line between eternal expansion and ultimate collapse back to its original small, hot, dense state.
Dr. Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts first proposed the inflation model in 1980. Dr. Guth commented on the new sightings on March 17, 2014 Nature News, and said, “This is a totally new, independent piece of cosmological evidence that the inflationary picture fits together.”
In short, the idea of Dr. Guth suggests that the universe expanded several tens of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of seconds after the Big Bang – expanding as a balloon or bubble from subatomic to football size. Inflation solves a number of long-confusing cosmic problems, such as the horizon problem and the flatness problem.
Although the theory of inflation has been consistent with all cosmological data collected so far, convincing evidence was lacking.
The “Smoking Gun”
“This isn’t just a home run, it’s a grand slam. It’s the smoking weapon of inflation,” said Dr. Mark Kamionkowski against the press on March 17, 2014. Dr. Kamionkowski is a physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Scientific cosmologists knew that inflation would leave a distinctive fingerprint – that this very brief but violent episode of exponential expansion would have generated gravitational waves, stretching space in one direction and compressing it in another. While these very ancient waves, or ripples, would still propagate through the Cosmos, they would now be far too weak to observe directly. However, they would have left their signature little talk on the CMB because they would have polarized the old radiation in a vortex-like, curly pattern – the B mode, also called the Cosmic curl.
In 2013, another telescope came to Antarctica – the Antarctic telescope (SPT), was the first observatory to have a Cosmic curl in the CMB radiation from so long ago and far away. However, that cosmic fingerprint was larger than angles of less than one degree – about twice the size of Earth’s moon in the sky. It was therefore attributed to the way in which foreground galaxies traverse space, causing the CMB makes his long and treacherous journey. But the signal from the gravitational waves is supposed to peak at angular scales somewhere between one and five degrees.
That’s exactly where Dr. John Kovac likes CfA and his team have detected – using the BICEP2 instrument a few meters away from its competitor, the SPT.
To detect the elusive – and very smallB mode, the CMB must be measured with a precision of ten millionth Kelvin to separate that primal effect from other possible sources such as galactic dust.
“The key question is whether there could be a foreground posing as this signal,” said Dr. Daniel Eisenstein in the March 17, 2014 Nature News. Dr. Eisenstein is an astrophysicist with the CfA. However, the team of scientists has almost completely ruled out that possibility, I added. First, astrophysicists were very careful to aim BICEP2 at what is called the Southern hole, a piece of air known to carry only small amounts of such emissions. BICEP2 is a series of 512 superconducting microwave detectors. The team of scientists also compared their data with data from the previous experiment, BICEP1and showed that a dust-generated signal would have a different spectrum and color than what they found.
In addition, data was taken with a more sensitive and newer polarization experiment, the so-called Keck array, revealed the same identical features. The team has finished installing the Keck array at the South Pole in 2012 and will continue for two more years.
“To see that the same signal comes from two others, several telescopes were very convincing to us,” said Dr. Kovac the press on March 17, 2014.
Until now, astronomers had only a single line of evidence to investigate whether inflation actually occurred – the CMBs pattern of temperature variations that actually support this version of the inflation theory.
But with the B modes available takes this research to a whole new level.
“The details need to be worked out, but as far as I know, it is very likely that this is what we have been waiting for. This is the discovery of inflationary gravitational waves,” said Dr. John Carlstrom on March 17, 2014 Nature News. Dr. Carlstrom is an astronomer at the University of Chicago, Illinois who is the principal investigator on the SPT.
The Inflation occurred in the world of quantum physics, and observing gravitational waves emanating from that distant and strange era is the “very first experimental evidence for quantum gravity,” Dr. Max Tegmark in the same issue of Nature News. Dr. Tegmark is a cosmologist at MIT. In other words, it shows that gravity is at the core of the strange world of quantum – just like the other three known forces of nature: the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force and electromagnetism.
Physicists rely on two separate theories to explain the cosmos. The first is from Einstein General relativity, which applies to large macroscopic objects such as galaxies and stars. The second is quantum mechanics which explains things very well at the subatomic level.
Together, the two models cover the four known powers–General relativity explains gravity quantum mechanics deals with the other three. Unfortunately, the two theories are inherently incompatible and fall into extreme domains such as those found in the closed hearts of black holes or in the moments just after the Big Bang. Therefore, physicists are looking for a single framework that can encompass all four known fundamental forces and operate at all levels in all domains. Physicists call this comprehensive theory The Theory of Everything (TOE).
Dr. Abraham (Avi) Loeb from CfA listed on March 21, 2014 Space.com that the new discovery “will provide additional motivation and additional constraints on models of inflation and, perhaps, one Theory of everything. But of course it will take time. Dr. Loeb was not part of the discovery team.
The discovery team reported their findings at a news conference on March 17, 2014 CfA–held after describing their results to other scientists in a more technical discussion.
The new results do not explain the reason Inflation–only that it happened! The new results also fail to address the terrifying question of whether inflation is eternal and sets in motion an endless sea of big bangs and the eternal formation of pocket universes. This cosmological landscape usually becomes it Multiverse. However, it is difficult to tune Inflation so that an endless sea of pocket universes does not come to life, Dr. Guth against the press on March 17, 2014.
“This discovery explores new physics, which is why it is so fundamental, both to physics and cosmology. Since we can’t really do the experiments in the lab, we can better rely on the universe to give us some clues about what is happening on these energy scales, “Dr. Loeb told the press.