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Scientists Detect Echoes of the Big Bang


Astronomers have found evidence that the Universe underwent a period of rapid inflation in the very first moments of its existence. If confirmed, the tell-tale signature of gravitational waves in the afterglow of the Big Bang will open a new chapter in astronomy, cosmology and physics.

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Astronomers using a radio telescope based at the South Pole have peered into the afterglow of the Big Bang and seen the tell-tale whirls of light (called B-modes) that are caused by ripples in space–time (indirect evidence for Einstein's final prediction, which is a big deal). These ripples (or gravitational waves) would normally be too small for us to detect, yet something has blown them up to the size of the entire Universe. That something is inflation, and this discovery is the first confirmation of this incredible, potential Nobel Prize-winning result.

The size and strength of the gravitational waves tells us that a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second (10-36 or so) after the Big Bang, the Universe was smaller than an atom and suddenly ballooned in size. We don't know how inflation caused this accelerated expansion (or even why it stopped), but it caused the Universe to increase in size 100 trillion trillion trillion trillion times larger, at least – a near-unbelievable amount were the effects of it not staring us in the face as we look at the gravitational waves that should be smaller than an atom now stretched across the sky.

Inflation brings together the two major theories on which our economies depend – general relativity, which ensures GPS positions stay accurate, and quantum mechanics, which governs how computers run. Combining...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.