Faint whispers of the early universe detected, bolsters the cosmic inflation theory, aka 'big bang'

“This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar…”

South Pole station where the scientists made the discovery

The 10-meter South Pole Telescope and the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) Telescope against the Milky Way. BICEP2 recently detected gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background, a discovery that supports the cosmic inflation theory of how the universe began. (Photo: Keith Vanderlinde, National Science Foundation)

From the Stanford Report, March 17, 2014 (h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard) video follows

New evidence from space supports Stanford physicist’s theory of how universe began

The detection of gravitational waves by the BICEP2 experiment at the South Pole supports the cosmic inflation theory of how the universe came to be. The discovery, made in part by Assistant Professor Chao-Lin Kuo, supports the theoretical work of Stanford’s Andrei Linde.

Almost 14 billion years ago, the universe we inhabit burst into existence in an extraordinary event that initiated the Big Bang. In the first fleeting fraction of a second, the universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the view of today’s best telescopes. All this, of course, has just been theory.

Researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration today announced the first direct evidence supporting this theory, known as “cosmic inflation.” Their data also represent the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the “first tremors of the Big Bang.” Finally, the data confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

“This is really exciting. We have made the first direct image of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time across the primordial sky, and verified a theory about the creation of the whole universe,” said Chao-Lin Kuo, an assistant professor of physics at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and a co-leader of the BICEP2 collaboration.

These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background – a faint glow left over from the Big Bang. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe. For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of the universe were denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and galactic clusters.

Because the cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it exhibits all the properties of light, including polarization. On Earth, sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere and becomes polarized, which is why polarized sunglasses help reduce glare. In space, the cosmic microwave background was scattered by atoms and electrons and became polarized too.

“Our team hunted for a special type of polarization called ‘B-modes,’ which represents a twisting or ‘curl’ pattern in the polarized orientations of the ancient light,” said BICEP2 co-leader Jamie Bock, a professor of physics at Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Gravitational waves squeeze space as they travel, and this squeezing produces a distinct pattern in the cosmic microwave background. Gravitational waves have a “handedness,” much like light waves, and can have left- and right-handed polarizations.

“The swirly B-mode pattern is a unique signature of gravitational waves because of their handedness,” Kuo said.

The team examined spatial scales on the sky spanning about 1 to 5 degrees (two to 10 times the width of the full moon). To do this, they set up an experiment at the South Pole to take advantage of its cold, dry, stable air, which allows for crisp detection of faint cosmic light.

“The South Pole is the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground,” said BICEP2 co-principal investigator John Kovac, an associate professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the deployment and science operation of the project. “It’s one of the driest and clearest locations on Earth, perfect for observing the faint microwaves from the Big Bang.”

The researchers were surprised to detect a B-mode polarization signal considerably stronger than many cosmologists expected. The team analyzed their data for more than three years in an effort to rule out any errors. They also considered whether dust in our galaxy could produce the observed pattern, but the data suggest this is highly unlikely.

“This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,” said co-leader Clem Pryke, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota.

Physicist Alan Guth formally proposed inflationary theory in 1980, when he was a postdoctoral scholar at SLAC, as a modification of conventional Big Bang theory. Instead of the universe beginning as a rapidly expanding fireball, Guth theorized that the universe inflated extremely rapidly from a tiny piece of space and became exponentially larger in a fraction of a second. This idea immediately attracted lots of attention because it could provide a unique solution to many difficult problems of the standard Big Bang theory.

However, as Guth, who is now a professor of physics at MIT, immediately realized, certain predictions in his scenario contradicted observational data. In the early 1980s, Russian physicist Andrei Linde modified the model into a concept called “new inflation” and again to “eternal chaotic inflation,” both of which generated predictions that closely matched actual observations of the sky.

Linde, now a professor of physics at Stanford, could not hide his excitement about the news. “These results are a smoking gun for inflation, because alternative theories do not predict such a signal,” he said. “This is something I have been hoping to see for 30 years.”

BICEP2’s measurements of inflationary gravitational waves are an impressive combination of theoretical reasoning and cutting-edge technology. Stanford’s contribution to the discovery extends beyond Kuo, who designed the polarization detectors. Kent Irwin, a professor of physics at Stanford and SLAC, also conducted pioneering work on superconducting sensors and readout systems used in the experiment. The research also involved several researchers, including Kuo, affiliated with the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), which is supported by Stanford, SLAC and the Kavli Foundation.

BICEP2 is the second stage of a coordinated program, the BICEP and Keck Array experiments, which has a co-principal investigator structure. The four PIs are Jamie Bock (Caltech/JPL,) John Kovac (Harvard), Chao-Lin Kuo (Stanford/SLAC) and Clem Pryke (UMN). All have worked together on the present result, along with talented teams of students and scientists. Other major collaborating institutions for BICEP2 include the University of California, San Diego; University of British Columbia; National Institute of Standards and Technology; University of Toronto; Cardiff University; and Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique.

BICEP2 is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF also runs the South Pole Station where BICEP2 and the other telescopes used in this work are located. The Keck Foundation also contributed major funding for the construction of the team’s telescopes. NASA, JPL and the Moore Foundation generously supported the development of the ultra-sensitive detector arrays that made these measurements possible.

Technical details and journal papers can be found on the BICEP2 release website: http://bicepkeck.org

Video by Kurt HickmanAssistant Professor Chao-Lin Kuo, right, delivers news of the discovery to Professor Andrei Linde.

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Les Johnson

This article has a good graphic of how the gravity waves affect the polarization of the CMB….
http://www.nbcnews.com/#/science/space/smoking-gun-reveals-how-inflationary-big-bang-happened-n54686

I read the article and found it fascinating. But while physicists are trying to prove the Big Bang Theory (or supply more evidence for it), I wonder where the big bang came from. Each time our knowledge is pushed forward (or backwards in this case), we go on to the next phase – where did the previous phase come from?

hswiseman

How was this theory confirmed. Not with a model or an algorithm. With a telescope. Through observation of nature. Using a scientific instrument in a new way or building a new instrument. Every important discovery or confirmation of theory that I can think of was done this way.

“In the first fleeting fraction of a second, the universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the view of today’s best telescopes”.
I’m confused. Doesn’t this imply that there is a mechanism in the known physical universe for FTL travel?

@grumpyoldmanuk – Great question! I have not read all responses to see if anyone can answer that, but that would tend to break at least part of Einsteins theory.

Frank K.

@philjourdan
That’s always been my proof for the existence of God. Where did that “tiny piece of space” that “inflated” to become the known universe come from???

ddpalmer

Congratulations to these scientists. Form a theory, predict what physical conditions result from this theory, conduct real world experiments to confirm the predictions and even when your results agree with your theory conduct extensive review of your data to ensure no other source for your results exists.
Good thing they got this exciting result when they did. What with Antarctica slated to become a moist tropical climate due to AGW, the conditions their telescoped needed won’t exist for much longer. [/sarc]

Les Johnson

Grumpy: Like most laws, there are plenty of loopholes in FTL travel….
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster_than_light#Universal_expansion

@les Johnson – thank you. However that does not really answer Grumpy’s (or my) question. Today we have “co-moving” objects (heading in the opposite direction) that when their speeds are combined, exceed the limit. However at the moment of the Big Bang, they are indicating that the objects were moving at FTL from the origin (which for the sake of argument, we assume to be stationary since there was nothing to reference motion to it beforehand).

Navy Bob

I love this part: “The team analyzed their data for more than three years in an effort to rule out any errors.” Can you imagine members of another too-familiar “discipline” doing that?

It’s funny how astronomers can be surprised at their findings, but still claim those findings support their theories. I thought theories were supposed to be predictive. I also like how their theories don’t bother to be internally consistent.
Here’s an alternative theory, internally consistent, with a track record of successful prediction.
http://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/2014/02/19/redshifts-and-microwaves-3/

John Boles

To philjoudan – you ask what came before the Big Bang, the answer is: (by definition) the Big Unbanged Banger. I just wonder if things go in cycles, Big Bang, Big Crunch, Big Bang, Big Crunch…

Kelvin vaughan

grumpyoldmanuk says:
March 17, 2014 at 10:40 am
I’m confused. Doesn’t this imply that there is a mechanism in the known physical universe for FTL travel?
It probably means light travelled a lot faster then.

Bill Parsons

“…detected gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background,”
So, not cosmic dust then?

TheLastDemocrat

If you ever denied the Big Bang theory, you were wrong. Plus, you were anti-science, bigoted, hateful, in-bred, and a knuckle-dragger. You were probably stingey, to boot. To suggest it be noted in the kiddies’ textbooks as a theory rather than fact made you equal to the Taliban.
That was, of course, until we figured out the Big Bang theory was wrong.

Janice Moore

“This is something I have been hoping to see for 30 years.”
Dr. Andrei Linde
Well, Dr. Linde managed to hold back his tears, but I could not. SO HAPPY FOR YOU, DR. LINDE! Wonderful news. Truth sets us free — from error and doubt… .
*****************************************************
“In the beginning, … God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light. … And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse … And it was so.'” Genesis 1:1-8.
**************************************************************
Oh, this is, indeed, GREAT cause for celebration!
So, (of course!) a song:
The Creation — Franz Josef Haydn

Rejoice!
Oh, REJOICE!

Tom In Indy

“In the first fleeting fraction of a second, the universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the view of today’s best telescopes”.
I think the larger question is “how/why did this happen?”
Beginning one trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the universe’s birth, the idea goes, space-time expanded incredibly rapidly, ballooning outward faster than the speed of light.

Greg Roane

Quick question:
Do scientists and Government types (any of y’all out there) begin with a nifty acronym and then force the jargon into it or does all of your work/project/equipment/Bill/treaty title jargon always naturally fall out to become an appropriate/cool/hip sounding acronyms?
Examples: START 1 and 2 Treaties, BICEP, BICEP2, WISE, SLAC, MACHO, GAAP, BATTeRS, FIRST, and MARVEL – just to name a few.
I have always just … wondered about this. ‘:-)~

Janice Moore

Thank you, Dr. Svalgaard (and An-th-ony), for bringing this to our delighted attention.
(somebody get that wonderful Dr. Kuo a new backpack… in tan or gray … (smile) — he has more important things to occupy his mind)

Janice Moore

Re: “I have always just … wondered … .” (Greg Roane at 11:14am)
Evidence of design is evidence for a Designer.
#(;))

JDN

I used to be in love with the big bang theory. However, the cosmology researchers I’ve spoken with are not open to other ideas, nor to the idea that they don’t know enough to propound on the subject. The key line in this chain of logic is the belief that this effect is unique to gravitational waves and not distribution of matter or some other issue. How does one prove uniqueness in the absence of omniscience? Everybody tries to pull this trick of “uniqueness” when they are less than certain.

Resourceguy

It’s nice to know there is still some real science out there and working.

Logan5

Grumpy:
My suspicion would be that since space/time was itself expanding, light traveling within that expanding universe would still be limited to 186,000 mi/sec. The speed of light would be relative to the contents of the universe, while the boundaries of the universe itself would be free to expand “faster”, though there would be no external frame of reference to measure that speed of expansion. It’s a mind-boggling concept.

Phrases and acronyms
Blend in a mixture
Each changes the other
For happier fit
Some BICEPs go SLAC though
There’s GAAPs in the fixture
Some names are such bother
They don’t give a SPIT
The cosmic beginnings
Have big implications
But none of us know
Just how all this occurred
Before the first innings
The game had equations
Is all this “uncaused”
Or has God sat and stirred?
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

wyn palmer

grumpyoldmanuk says:
March 17, 2014 at 10:40 am
I’m confused. Doesn’t this imply that there is a mechanism in the known physical universe for FTL travel?
No, it was space that expanded faster than light, and there’s no such restriction for that.

@Wyn Palmer – Ok, but then what is “space”?

Kelvin vaughan

If the universe is still expanding are we and everything else expanding with it?

@Kelvin vaughan

If the universe is still expanding are we and everything else expanding with it?

I do not know about you, but I have been expanding horizontally since middle age. 😉

nvw

@ Assistant Professor Chao-Lin Kuo – this is probably a good time to submit your application for tenure.

asybot

I think every-time I hear the words “it is settled” it goes to prove how ignorant we really are.
The remarkable thing with this finding that in this day and age i s the the fact they probed for three years and then said (although celebrating and deservingly so) adding!! “Let’s wait for the info coming from another project to either verify this or refute this” ( the story above is different than the one I followed on Fox news and BBC news that included that statement.

Rud Istvan

Real Science, and stupendously important. Guthrie had an insight about early inflation. Linde made it workably consistent with known astronomical observation. Now this team performs a delicate experiment with a triple whammy result to 5 sigma.. Not only confirms inflation, confirms Einstein’s 1916 prediction of gravity waves. And, since early inflation is a quantum phenomenon about space time itself, shows that gravity is also a quantum phenomenon even though we have no clue yet how to make the mathematical connection. And, an Independent European Space Experiment (Planck) coming by yearend to either confirm or disprove.
What an instructive compare/contrast to consensus climate science.
Thanks for posting. A great day for science.

Paul Westhaver

The big bang theory, denied by Fred Hoyle until his death, was invented by Father Georges Henri LeMaitre, PhD, a Belgian priest and physicist. in 1923. Yeah. He was pretty much mocked and dismissed for 40 years as a “creationist” until 1963 when Penzias and Wilson detected it at the Bell Labs radio telescope. They got the Nobel Prize for that.
http://space.about.com/cs/astronomerbios/a/lemaitrebio.htm
LeMaitre’s mind was not confined to the assumptions of contemporary science of 1920s. He was very open minded so when he read the General Theory by Einstein, and noted that everything must be moving, he concluded a singularity, or primeval egg was responsible. Furthermore he proposed, what is known as Hubble’s Law a few years before Hubble.
https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble%27s_law
Bigotry in science held back the theory for 40 years.

richard

at the end of the universe is a brick wall, but what is beyond the brick wall.

Janice Moore

@ Keith DeHavelle — Fun poem
Since you did not see this on another thread (from March 12 at 2:49pm)
Here ya go:
(edited to fit better here)
Was there ever a poster like Keith DeHavelle
Who posted in rhyme (and who did it quite well)?
Your wry phrases shine and I hope you can see
that your poems add zest at Watts Up — with esprit.

@*@*@*@*@*@*@*@*@*@*@*Janice Moore

Janice Moore

“… what is beyond the brick wall”?
Better yet, Who?

Greg Roane

A thought experiment, if you will:
If our observable universe is akin to the view from the center of a basketball (the basketball inside lining of the outer skin being the limits of the observable universe from our POV), what does the observable universe look like to a life form living on a planet around a star that is a part of the farthest galaxy that we can observe (on the inside skin of the basketball)?
Is it only just a view looking back to the center of the basketball with nothing – NOTHING – in the opposite direction (looking outside the skin of the basketball)? Or does (s)he(it) see another basketball-equivalent of observable universe with our little planet in a non-descript solar system in an average spiral galaxy located within a small galaxy cluster located on the edge of the observable universe?

asybot

I went back to see if I could verify the fact they would wait for another report supposedly to come from (NOT sure here) the Planck Satellite scientists about three months from now? To either confirm or deny this. That segment of the earlier report has dissipated and gone into cyberspace, I have looked through all the history on my computer cannot find it at all.

Paul Westhaver

If you assume that the universe is rationally intelligible, then you will be inspired to find the reasons, and the underlying rules for the mechanism of celestial mechanics. So far, it is rationally intelligible. The deeper you study cosmology, the more wonderful and clever the mathematics.

Orginal source of all global warming.
http://bicepkeck.org/

GeneB

“The researchers were surprised to detect a B-mode polarization signal considerably stronger than many cosmologists expected. The team analyzed their data for more than three years in an effort to rule out any errors. They also considered whether dust in our galaxy could produce the observed pattern, but the data suggest this is highly unlikely.”
Can someone please explain to me how B-mode polarization means “gravity waves”, and how THAT means inflation? I’m looking for a simple explanation — which the article doesn’t provide.
And… nothing else can explain this B-mode polarization??
What’s the difference between Gravity Waves and Gravity?

NZ Willy

This falls into the category of scientists trying so hard to prove their pet theory that an unquantified social element becomes part of the process & outcome. What can’t we “prove” with enough time, funding, and motivation? The Big Bang theory is a giant edifice built on feet of clay. An example of the feet of clay: spatial expansion means that the background temperature (currently 2.73K) was higher in earlier epochs when the universe was smaller so the energy density higher. So measurements have been made of this earlier temperature and, taa-daa, those measurements show the expected higher temperature, e.g., http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.5456. But in fact the scientists participating in those measurements are at loggerheads with eachother about the validity of what they’ve done, and if in fact any higher temperature is measured at all, e.g., http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.5625 (same target). Competing papers are submitted, but usually only the “confirming” papers pass peer review and get published. This is called “publication bias” by astronomers — sound familiar? So tempting as it is to sing Hosanna, I pass.

Theo Goodwin

This is an excellent example of a report on an important confirmation of the Big Bang Theory (and its extensions, as noted in the article). What a rush to read a clear and factual report about genuine science. In 75 years or so, we will have something like this in climate science.

asybot
jayhd

God or chance? My bet is on God.

higley7

Of course, looking for the whisper presupposes a Big Bang. But, what it it never happened, as supported but the a biogenic source of our oil and gas which indicates that the Earth’s core is from the core of an asymmetric supernova explosion. The Big Bang theory is fatally flawed such that quasars are not objects at great distance and the universe is a steady state. The whisper is not an indicator of anything but background noise in a large universe.

Kelvin vaughan says:
March 17, 2014 at 11:31 am
If the universe is still expanding are we and everything else expanding with it?
Looking at my waistline one would think so, but, no, we are not expanding. Gravity is strong enough to keep assemblies of particles up to sizes of galaxies from expanding. And, it is not that the matter in the universe is flying away from each other through space. The galaxies are essentially motionless in space. It is space itself that is expanding.

wyn palmer

GeneB says:
March 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm
Can someone please explain to me how B-mode polarization means “gravity waves”, and how THAT means inflation? I’m looking for a simple explanation — which the article doesn’t provide.
And… nothing else can explain this B-mode polarization??
What’s the difference between Gravity Waves and Gravity?
Try reading up on it at Lubos’ web site. Although inherently very technical he does his usual brilliant job of explaining things.
http://motls.blogspot.com/2014/03/bicep2-primordial-gravitational-waves.html#more

Paul Westhaver

Greg Roane says:
March 17, 2014 at 11:56 am
A thought experiment, if you will:
______________________________
I, indeed, have contemplated this. I have 3 thoughts on this:
1) The earth is at the center of the observable universe. Since that is where the IMAP satellite is located. Who is to say that what is observable is all that there was since distance = time. So kinda… Galileo was wrong sort of. The observer is at the center of the “Cosmos”.
2) In blast mechanics, like a grenade, there is a front of debris that propagates from the blast site outward in an ever-increasing shell. So too is our universe expanding with a wave front of cosmic condensate. Like an inflating balloon. If that is the case, then we exist within the membrane of the balloon at some point in an inconceivably huge blast shell. What we observe then is a small local section of the skin of the blast shell’s history. We can’t even see across the emptiness of the balloon to the other side of the balloon. The center of the universe is the outside our observable universe at some very remote point. This implies that the universe is much bigger but does not necessarily suggest that it is older. This is my opinion.
3) So in answer to your question, an observer at the boundary of our observable universe would see a cosmos very much like ours. He would be seeing a patch of balloon membrane expanding in his locality and it would be limited by microwave data ie 14.5 billion years, just as we are limited.
Greg, I would love for somebody to consider this or tell why I am wrong. If you think that my rendition of your thought experiment is wrong, do me a favor, and correct me?

clipe

Expect Michael Mann to claim a share to any of the forthcoming Nobel Prizes.

wyn palmer

lsvalgaard says:
March 17, 2014 at 12:11 pm
Kelvin vaughan says:
March 17, 2014 at 11:31 am
If the universe is still expanding are we and everything else expanding with it?
Looking at my waistline one would think so, but, no, we are not expanding. Gravity is strong enough to keep assemblies of particles up to sizes of galaxies from expanding. And, it is not that the matter in the universe is flying away from each other through space. The galaxies are essentially motionless in space. It is space itself that is expanding.
If the rate of expansion is increasing, as measurements suggest, then possible explanations include quintessence or phantom energy and eventually the big rip will occur so that everything, down to and including sub atomic particles will be ripped apart into nothingness…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quintessence_%28physics%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_energy

H.R.

@Kelvin vaughan says:
March 17, 2014 at 11:31 am
“If the universe is still expanding are we and everything else expanding with it?”
===================================================
Yes, and the trend line in my daily weigh-in, despite regular exercise, is beginning to resemble one infamous hockey stick. The rate at which I’m expanding is exponential and it’s alarming!
P.S. Haven’t you noticed that the walk down to the corner store seems to take a little longer? Need any more proof of an expanding universe?

Luther Bl't

“This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,” said co-leader Clem Pryke…
So their hypothesis was falsified by reality, but nonetheless…? Or does finding a crowbar rather than a needle make it by metaphorical logic a double plus good result?

If you were moving away from Al Gores bs at the speed of light, would that help at all?

The problem I have always had with the Theory of Cosmic Inflation is it is made up to fulfil a need without any supporting physics. Cosmologists require a way to freeze in Quantum irregularities to the macro universe to give the density / energy variation that gives the universe its structure we observe today.
The issue I have with this theroy in my view is their is no reason for the early universe to so inflate except we wish it was so. That seems more religion than science.