NASA announced today that scientists have discovered the strongest confirmation yet of the cosmic inflation theory, which posits that after the Big Bang the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in a fraction of a second.
Using the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole, scientists were searching for more direct evidence for inflation than had previously existed in the form of gravitational waves, which “squeeze and stretch space” and produce a characteristic swirly pattern in polarized light, called “B-mode” polarization.
The team of scientists from institutions across the country was led by Jamie Bock of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Anthony Turner who developed the novel novel superconducting detectors used in the experiement at JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory.
According to the NASA press release the BICEP2 experiment used 512 detectors, speeding up observations of the cosmic microwave background by 10 times over the team’s previous measurements. Their new experiment is already making further observations and uses 2,560 detectors.”
Speculation is already arising as to who should earn the Nobel prize for the theory of cosmic inflation, fueled by the presence of scientists Alan Guth and Andrei Linde at today’s announcement. Higgs and Englert were similarly present at the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012, and were later awarded the Nobel prize.
The BICEP2 papers can be found here.