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This is huge. See New York Times article, which (I think) wasn't yet published in time for any of the other diaries: Detection of Waves in Space Buttresses Landmark Theory of Big Bang.

A ground-based Cosmic Microwave Background telescope in Antarctica is claiming a 5-sigma detection of a signature of gravity waves in the cosmic microwave background.

(In science-speak, what they’re seeing is a B-mode polarization signal in the CMB:  a  polarization field on the sky with a non-zero curl.   Gravity waves are the only physical mechanism* which tends to produce B-mode polarization in the CMB. This measurement confirms the Planck satellite, which saw hints of the same thing, but not nearly so unambiguously.)

* Currently thought of.   It’s easy to invent structures which would make B-mode polarized light, but they’re a little complicated, there’s no obvious reason why the hot gas of the early universe would tend to organize itself in such patterns.

Update: Another diary on the topic: "Smoking gun proof found of key Big Bang process" which has a video and link to last night's OND that also includes links to other news articles on the topic.

Human-speak below the fold...

Inflationary Big Bang Theory has predicted a spectrum of gravity waves since its beginning, but for a long time it seemed as if we would not have much chance of measuring them. Now we can, so in principle we have an entirely new primordial spectrum of radiation to observe. This is really cool, because

1. This is spectacularly consistent with inflation. It mitigates against all the current non-inflationary big bang theories. Those don't produce gravity waves.

2. This is a direct window into the first fraction of a second into the life of the universe.  The CMB light has been unchanging since the universe was about 380,000 years old, but the gravity waves have been unchanging since the universe was a tiny fraction of a second old. The NYT article -- and many experts on the topic -- put this time at 10-36s, but the fact is we don’t know the time precisely. It happens “when inflation ends”, which depends on the details of the theory. It is earlier than the time scale we can probe with particle accelerators, though.

3. It sets the stage for dramatically narrowing down the field of allowable inflationary theories, just as CMB anisotropy narrowed down the field of allowable cosmological theories.

Chewier diary written in human-speak upcoming. I want to cover why we think gravity waves exists, and why we think inflation is an important part of how our universe began. That will take more than a few minutes to write, though...

Originally posted to rb137 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 02:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by Science Matters.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cosmic inflation was strongly supported (12+ / 0-)

    by 2005 through more indirect measurements of the cosmic background radiation and several other measurements.  The latest B-mode measurements really nail things down.

    In 2005 I was talking to cosmologist Eric Linder at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and we were both amazed at how much support there suddenly was for the theory of Cosmic Inflation.

    At this time, as long as this measurement holds up, there is just about no wiggle room to doubt the Big Bang theory with Cosmic Inflation.

    This measurement just may be the biggest thing in the physical sciences in decades!

    "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

    by LookingUp on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 03:00:49 PM PDT

    •  Yes it is. (8+ / 0-)

      WMAP really narrowed the field of cosmological theories, but this is spectacular confirmation of support for the earlier measurements.

      Planck did see a signature, but this looks like a big, big deal.

      Perhaps you have more to say about it?  ;)

      "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

      by rb137 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 03:05:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's a good article at Sky & Telescope (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify, rb137, leeleedee, dewtx

        that explains things well.

        Key Signature

        The first polarization found in the cosmic background radiation was in 2002, but it was the more symmetric E-mode and wasn't nearly as important as this radiation polarization.  There was recently another B-mode polarization that had more implications about the later universe, including dark energy.

        This latest B-mode measurement is relatively off the charts in importance.

        "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

        by LookingUp on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 04:31:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's okay. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I was interested in your perspective. It sounds to me like you're well versed on the topic.

          I want to write a diary that's more accessible to people who aren't scientists -- and that was my offhand way of asking if you had something like that in mind.

          "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

          by rb137 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 04:42:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There are others at kos who (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            likely know more about cosmology than I do.  I am not a cosmologist but personally know some world class cosmologists and particle physicists.  My main job was teaching physics in high school before my recent retirement.

            By luck I was elected VP of the Cosmology Division of the Contemporary Physics Education Project and got to work with real cosmologists on educational activities.  Basically I develop teaching activities that simulate things in cosmology.  I'm currently working on activities to simulate dark matter seeding of the early formation of galaxies plus gravitational lensing with the old stretched sheet model.  The weights that depress the sheet are hidden underneath.

            I usually don't get into the more complex things about cosmology, but there are some cool things that i can mention.

            One is that both from a theoretical and a measurement point of view the total energy of the observable universe seems to be precisely zero!

            This can happen because gravitation fields contain negative energy.  Alan Guth has a good explanation of this in the appendix of his book, Inflationary Universe.

            This means that the universe didn't need any energy to get started.  Positives and negatives formed together.  This also means that the mass of the observable universe has not been constant from the beginning.  Mass can turn into energy and energy can become particles with mass.  Really big changes have happened both ways, especially during and just after the inflationary era.

            There are really two different types of variation in the cosmic background radiation.  They are both very small.  The first is the slight variations in temperature of the radiation.  This was first discovered by the probe known as COBE.  Improved data came from WMAP.  Now we have the even better Planck probe.  These temperature variations are due to sound wave interference in the early dense medium of our universe.  Analysis of the pattern of these variation within current theory is how we know that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

            The more recent polarization variations are due to gravity waves acting on charged matter to change the way that it interacts with radiation.  Basically, the variations produced by gravity waves polarize light waves.  It's like the charged particles make it possible for us to "see" the invisible gravity waves.

            This is probably the best I can do on short notice.

            "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

            by LookingUp on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 05:22:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am a physicst, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              LookingUp, Otteray Scribe

              and have more than a fair background on this topic. I was just wondering what your take on it was, and if you were planning to post a diary on it. I always like to read other people's way of explaining this stuff.

              Here are two I wrote in the past:

              WMAP wins Gruber Award (I regret the title change, but it happened...)

              Overview ov WMAP results

              "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

              by rb137 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 07:17:50 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  One thing... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Otteray Scribe

              I sometimes avoid writing about physics here, because in trying to make the concepts accessible, I'm forced to use imprecise language. Then, a team of science people show up and start correcting my imprecise language. Then, I spend all of my energy arguing with them.

              In one of the diaries I posted, I said the universe began from a single point, but we won't talk about that now. Then, several people showed up to criticize the fact that I hadn't called it a singularity. Well, if you don't have a background in physics, you probably won't appreciate the difference.

              So, writing about physics here is frustrating for me sometimes. That's why I don't do it often.

              "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

              by rb137 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 07:29:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  By the way... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Otteray Scribe

                This comment is based on the fact that your profile says that you're a retired physics teacher. Maybe you have some relevant talent in the above regard.  :)

                "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

                by rb137 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 07:50:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Thank You - N/T (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, belinda ridgewood

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 03:16:44 PM PDT

  •  Asdf (6+ / 0-)

    A magnificent day in Science!

    I sense multiple Nobel Prizes in. Few years for all involved once this confirmed and replicated.

    The best way to tell a Democrat from a Republican is to present someone requiring food and shelter. The Democrat will want them housed and fed, even if they be faking need. The Republican will gladly see them starve until all doubt is removed.

    by GayIthacan on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 03:20:22 PM PDT

  •  A Cosmic Scientific Advance (7+ / 0-)

    In addition to the direct implications for inflation and gravitational waves, the results also touch on gravitons (they may demonstrate that gravity is quantized) and grand unification (the energy scale they've identified for inflation is that of the energy of unification of the non-gravitational forces, suggesting breaking of unification may have triggered inflation). This is heady stuff.

    BICEP2 press release here

    BICEP2 project page here

    Excellent Quanta article here

    Matt Strassler's post here

    Sean Carroll's post here

    Unfortunately I didn't get to watch the press conference but the reactions from Carroll and Strassler are informative. I've particularly found Strassler's site helpful (as always) in trying to understand this stuff.

    It's a beautiful day in the universe!

    La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues, et de voler du pain.

    by dconrad on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 03:36:01 PM PDT

  •  so while you were out... (4+ / 0-)

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" — Upton Sinclair

    by Greg Dworkin on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 04:01:42 PM PDT

  •  Big Deal. Darth Vader Just Got His Sword. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are challenging the conventional wisdom about light, and they didn’t need to go to a galaxy far, far away to do it.

    Working with colleagues at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, a group led by Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic managed to coax photons into binding together to form molecules — a state of matter that until recently had been purely theoretical. The work is described in a Sept. 25 paper in Nature.

    The discovery, Lukin said, runs contrary to decades of accepted wisdom about the nature of light.  Photons have long been described as massless particles that don’t interact with each other. Shine two laser beams at each other, he said, and they simply pass through one another.

    There was no intention here to top the magnificent news of the possible detection.  What could?  But energy molecules.....

    Scientific advancements pile one on top of another with science fiction left in the dust.

     And here we are stuck with science and math ignoramuses running the country.

    Gawdalmighty, how we could use some light in D.C.

    Best,  Terry

  •  I luv u, rb. but jus don't get/it. 's ok. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, Otteray Scribe

    decent wages don't eliminate jobs. Republicans eliminate jobs; and workers, and prospects, and then excuse it all and call for more austerity. there is no end to their ignorant, arrogant avarice. only political dinosaurs support their treachery.

    by renzo capetti on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 07:14:14 PM PDT

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