Big Bang Waves Discovery Is Breakthrough for Scientists

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 08:44 AM

By Michael Mullins

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The discovery of the Big Bang's waves of gravity is being hailed as a breakthrough by scientists, providing a better understanding as to how the universe came to be nearly 14 billion years ago.

Scientists claim the recent detection of ripples within the universe is similar to those that occurred immediately after the Big Bang and is definitive evidence that in its earliest infancy, our universe underwent an extremely fast and massive growth spurt, USA Today reported.

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"It teaches us something crucial about how our universe began," Sean Carroll, a physicist at California Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study, told CNN. "It's an amazing achievement that we humans, doing science systematically for just a few hundred years, can extend our understanding that far."

On Monday, American scientists announced the discovery of what was once primordial gravitational waves. Over the past 13.8 billion years, those waves left an imprint in the form of a faint glowing "curl" in the orientation of celestial microwaves. While invisible to the naked eye, the microwaves can be viewed through a telescope.

Scientists reportedly used a telescope in Antarctica that magnified the glowing imprints of the universe's primordial gravitational waves.

"Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today. A lot of work by a lot of people has led up to this point," John Kovac, leader of the BICEP2 collaboration at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement.

As to why the team chose the South Pole for the telescope's location, Kovac said, it's "the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground. It's one of the driest and clearest locations on Earth, perfect for observing the faint microwaves from the Big Bang."

"This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack," the University of Minnesota's Clem Pryke, a co-leader of the BICEP team, added. "But instead we found a crowbar."

Alan Guth, the theoretical physicist who in 1980 proposed the idea of inflation, said that the discovery is "definitely worthy of a Nobel Prize."

"This is a totally new, independent piece of cosmological evidence that the inflationary picture fits together," Guth, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in the science journal Nature.

The discovery provides a long-awaited answer to the last untested element of Albert Einstein's nearly century-old theory of general relativity.

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