Scientists have discovered evidence of the inflation of the universe during its earliest stages. A staggering discovery, one that many physicists were skeptical could even be measured, has scientists the world over dissecting the data collected by the collaboration known as BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization). Before I attempt to break this news down, let’s be clear, I am no scientist. Typically I’d assume the casual reader of scientific news here at Cinema Blend could ascertain this fact by my simplistic verbiage when it comes to science.
Wrapping your mind around even the idea of this news can cause a full on meltdown. So, it’s with that in mind that I’ve actually read the data released by BICEP2. I’ve tried my best to understand what’s going on here and have compiled this list of very easy to understand explanations of the discovery. I encourage you to seek out the knowledge of cosmologists and astrophysicists for a detailed, and weighty, examination of this discovery.
The Universe Expanded Fast And By A LotEarly on in the universe’s existence the size increased dramatically, going from infinitesimal to the size of a marble. At about 10^-32 seconds after the Big Bang the universe got hyper in its desire to get big. Now we notice a fairly steady expansion, that is actually pretty fast, but in terms of our perception is quite small. During this pivotal early moment the universe got tens of trillions times larger, and the expansion lasted for about 10^-32 seconds.
The Expansion Gave The Universe Its ShapeSo with all the matter and energy in the universe you’d assume there’d be pockets of empty space and pockets of dense matter. That’s not the case at all. The universe is disturbingly evenly shaped, and scientists think this early expansion is the cause. Think of the universe like an empty balloon. It’s just sitting there, all rumpled and on the floor. Then you pick it up and inflate the thing, and bang! you have yourself a smooth object. The problem is that while nothing contradicted this theory of an early mega inflating universe, there was no direct evidence either.
There Has To Be Evidence, If Inflationary Theory Is CorrectLike any scientific theory, there must be evidence for it to remain viable. That’s why theories on gravity and evolution are so iron clad, there’s lots of evidence. While tertiary evidence exists for an inflationary model, it’s thought that marks would have been left on the universe if inflation did happen as predicted. The issue has always been the ability to detect such a mark from the 10^-32 second timeframe in early inflation. That is exactly what BICEP2 shows us, direct evidence of gravitational waves from this pivotal moment. Ripples in the good old space time continuum, literal “wibbledy wobbledy” bits, have been discovered in the past. Now we have direct evidence of gravitational waves from the birth of our universe.
We Can Get Rid Of The Theories That Don’t WorkWe’re now at the crucial point in the meaning of the finding. After all this time the different theoretical models for inflation can be tested against the evidence until we come upon those that adhere to reality. Theories need to be tested, and so far the ones we’re talking about have only been not disproven. That’s about to change. It’s a huge jump in scientific knowledge. It’s the difference between living in a world of only Newtonian Physics and living in a world of the theory of relativity.
Of course we have to curb our enthusiasm just a bit, as scientists aren’t yet ready to claim the findings as direct evidence. Gravitational waves from the mega inflation period are fickle and the very act of looking for them causes detection problems. Right now we’re in the middle of the scientific frenzy, where everyone in the field is picking apart the data to confirm what we’re all hoping. That someone much smarter than we has been able to detect gravitational waves from the early moments of the universe. Personally I hope this somehow means I get to teleport soon, because that’s what science is all about.