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.
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...