Scientists have found the first direct evidence that the universe expanded incredibly quickly in the microseconds after the Big Bang.
This is ground-breaking and Nobel-Prize-worthy research, if it is confirmed by other researchers.
For a good explanation of why this is so important, try the video from Nature News, which we’ve posted below along with several highlights.
Most physicists believe the Universe was created with a big bang, when all of matter and energy around us expanded violently from a tiny pinprick of matter in the first microseconds of the universe
It has been theorized that gravitational waves created by this rapid expansion would first compress and then expand the matter of the universe as they moved through it, like in this GIF from the video:
This compression of matter by gravitational waves would leave marks in the background radiation of the universe, which the video compares to the impressions left in the sand as ocean waves roll by:
“Imagine a beach, the waves roll in and as they do they churn up the sand, mixing and distorting it. The waves recede with the tide but they leave behind an imprint: Ripples in the sand.”
In the universe as we know it, the matter would be the moving water and the sand would be the cosmic microwave background radiation — the afterglow of the big bang.
The gravitational waves moving through the universe leave ripples in the radiation that researchers thought they may be able to see as a change in how the radiation is polarised, or spun. The researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics searched for these ripples.
It took more than nine years of observations to gather enough data through the BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) project. These swirls are the patterns of polarization of the radiation they found, which fit the inflation theory:
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