Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Confirmation of Cosmic Inflation

In the late 1970's Alan Guth made a proposal: early in the history of the universe, shortly after the big bang, the universe went through a rapid and dramatic expansion. This expansion was so rapid it might be described as an "explosion" or a second big bang, though neither term is quite right. Instead this expansion was given the understated name "inflation."

Inflation caused the universe to expand faster than the speed of light. You might think this violates special relativity. But special relativity does not say that "nothing can travel faster than light" only that ordinary material objects cannot do so. It does not prevent space itself from expanding faster than the speed of light.

Up until recently inflation was purely a theoretical concept, there was no direct experiment evidence to support it. There was indirect evidence. There are observations which were not explained by the standard big bang theory. And these observations are neatly explained by inflation, but do not prove that inflation is true.

Observations made from telescopes near the south pole recently provided more direct evidence for inflation. By detecting gravitational waves from the early universe, scientists have direct evidence for the first time. See this article by Dennis Overbye in the New York Times...

1 comment:

  1. There is an update to this post, see the post for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.