Monday, March 17, 2014

Experimental Confirmation of the Inflationary Big Bang Theory of the Universe

 
The BICEP-2 Telescope at the South Pole

My daughter was off school today, so we decided to head to the California Academy of Sciences.  We had to catch the latest planetarium show on The Dark Universe.  What a strange coincidence.  The scientist introducing the show announces that a cornerstone of the Big Bang theory, the inflationary model, has been experimentally confirmed by scientists at the South Pole BICEP-2 telescope.  As a quick explanation of the significance of this discovery, the inflationary model seeks to explain the apparent uniformity in the cosmic microwave background radiation which was first discovered by Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson at Bell Labs in 1964.  Microwave background radiation has cosmological significance, but also practical significance for radio communication. 

One of the puzzles of this discovery was why the microwave background would be uniform.  Everywhere you look in the sky, you see the same level of background radiation.  To explain this, Alan Guth in 1979 proposed the inflationary model to try to explain it.  He argued that if the universe had expanded very quickly in its first instant, that would account for the uniformity.

It appears that scientists at the BICEP-2 Telescope today have found evidence of this very rapid expansion.  The announcement was made this morning.

Here are a few articles I think do a good job of presenting the discovery:

Key Signature of the Big Bang's Origin Discovered
Sky and Telescope
Alan MacRobert

Detection of Waves in Space Buttresses Landmark Theory of Big Bang
NY Times
Dennis Overbye

MEMO: POLARBEAR scientists available for comment on cosmic microwave background & inflation
UK Berkeley News Center
Robert Sanders

Telescope captures view of gravitational waves
Nature Breaking News
Ron Cowan

New evidence from space supports Stanford physicist's theory of how universe began
Stanford News Service
Bjorn Carey

Backing the Big Bang
Harvard Gazette
Alvin Powell

Evidence of young universe's growth spurt is discovered
Los Angeles Times
Amina Khan

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