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Big Bang's Smoking Gun Found 269

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
astroengine writes "For the first time, scientists have found direct evidence of the expansion of the universe, a previously theoretical event that took place a fraction of a second after the Big Bang explosion nearly 14 billion years ago. The clue is encoded in the primordial cosmic microwave background radiation that continues to spread through space to this day. Scientists found and measured a key polarization, or orientation, of the microwaves caused by gravitational waves, which are miniature ripples in the fabric of space. Gravitational waves, proposed by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity nearly 100 years ago but never before proven, are believed to have originated in the Big Bang explosion and then been amplified by the universe's inflation. 'Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today,' lead researcher John Kovac, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement."
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Big Bang's Smoking Gun Found

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  • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:12PM (#46507701)
    Pretty damn cool.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Pretty damn cool."

      Yes, Antarctica!

      I like the quote from project co-leader Clem Pryke (University of Minnesota) "This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,"

      The even better news is that more teams are working on studying the cosmic microwave background polarisations!

      • We just had a guest speaker discuss his role in the Ice Cube neutrino detector. He also commented on this, since they were also working at the South Pole at the time.
        • This is no more proof of Big Bang, than it is an indicator of "living" in a computer simulation. [discovery.com]

          In fact, this is EXACTLY the kind of "evidence" they'd hide in such a model, to create a consistency and verisimilitude. :-)

          • by lucm (889690)

            Thank you for posting that link. This is fascinating but they left out the most important question: does the Lattice run on ESX or Hyper-V? We already know it can't be VMware workstation because the product won't let one install an hypervisor inside a VM (I tried).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:14PM (#46507725)
    My hat's off too all the hard-working, dedicated cosmetologists that made this possible.
  • by SeanDS (1039000) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:16PM (#46507763) Homepage
    A direct detection of a gravitational wave moving the mirrors of a large scale interferometer is up next. In the next few years, Advanced LIGO (US), Advanced Virgo (Italy) and KAGRA (Japan) will come online with the hope of directly detecting gravitational waves from sources such as supernovae and coalescing binary star systems. With this kind of network, it will then be possible to coordinate both electromagnetic and gravitational searches of our sky. This is useful for many reasons, one of which is that it lets us listen to the sound of black holes colliding where no light escapes.

    Exciting times!
    • by Tumbleweed (3706)

      A direct detection of a gravitational wave moving the mirrors of a large scale interferometer is up next. In the next few years, Advanced LIGO (US), Advanced Virgo (Italy) and KAGRA (Japan) will come online with the hope of directly detecting gravitational waves from sources such as supernovae and coalescing binary star systems. With this kind of network, it will then be possible to coordinate both electromagnetic and gravitational searches of our sky. This is useful for many reasons, one of which is that it lets us listen to the sound of black holes colliding where no light escapes.

      Exciting times!

      Plus we'll finally be able properly calibrate that DHD we found...

  • If they thought finding gravitational waves was hard, just wait until they try to locate a drooling autotroph.
    • by Livius (318358)

      If they thought finding gravitational waves was hard, just wait until they try to locate a drooling autotroph.

      I think there's a few in my kitchen.

  • 100 years later (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lucas123 (935744) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:19PM (#46507813) Homepage
    Einstein's theories continue to astound.
  • Summary wrong (sigh) (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:22PM (#46507855)

    We already have plenty of direct evidence for the expansion of the universe. See redshifting of galaxies etc.

    This announcement is about inflation - a particular period of rapid expansion immediately after the big bang.

    • by stjobe (78285)

      inflation - a particular period of rapid expansion immediately after the big bang.

      "Rapid" doesn't really do it justice; if I've understood the theories (or rather, the analogies of the theories) correctly the expansion was equivalent to an object the size of a proton swelling to 10^19 light years across, in just 10^-33 seconds.

      Also, and yet again I may be misunderstanding the analogies of the theories (I'm very far from being a cosmologist), the size of the observable universe was roughly 3 metres at that point; the whole universe was about 10^23 metres across - so it grew a fair bit in

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yes, it was faster, and is expending faster then the speed of light as I type this.
        Wait, it gets even better:
        There are galaxies moving away fro us faster the SoL, and we will never see them.

        http://curious.astro.cornell.e... [cornell.edu]

        • by stjobe (78285)

          Thank you, that was a very informative link.

          I guess the answer really is twofold; for one, everything is moving apart from everything else, so two objects moving apart on directly opposed vectors could do so at very, very close to the speed of light and the combined speed of separation for an external observer would be almost twice the speed of light, and secondly that the speed of light "limit" is for things travelling through the universe, not the fabric of the universe itself.

          Thank you again :)

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:29PM (#46507941) Homepage Journal
    There are three problems in cosmology that inflation solves: flatness: the universe is very close to its critical density, the horizon problem: the universe looks like it is in thermal equilibrium for no good reason, and absence of magnetic monopoles.
  • by photonic (584757) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:31PM (#46507967)
    Note that this the second indirect evidence for the existence of gravitational waves, the first one was the orbital decay of a binary system that included a pulsar, discovered by Hulse and Taylor [wikipedia.org] (Nobel Prize 1993 [nobelprize.org]). Today's result, if confirmed, seems pretty spectacular, and might be rewarded with a second Nobel Prize. For a first direct detection of gravitational waves, we have to wait for first detections by LIGO [ligo.org], Virgo [virgo.infn.it] and eLISA [elisascience.org].
  • by mghiggins (61851) on Monday March 17, 2014 @01:34PM (#46508029) Homepage

    Some interesting perspective [profmattstrassler.com] from Matt Strassler, who's a particle physicist at Harvard.

    He points out that this is still an *indirect* observation of gravitational waves (and not the first one) and that the results look sensibly in line with some predictions from inflation. And that while this is a tremendous experiment, it's not any kind of "smoking gun", and we really need to wait for replication to get properly excited.

  • Incorrect. Or, rather, been shown to be false by the evidence. And it was such a damn elegant model, too. Bravo to the team of researchers who've been working a decade on this satellite and these observations. I believe Neil and another scientist had a small bet about this, so he's also out of pocket a few dollars. Now we just have to hypothesise new ideas that will eliminate the many kludgy math bits out of Big Bang model. This news, and 120 more BlackBerry jobs lost today, means a sad day here in Waterl
    • "And it was such a damn elegant model, too."

      You evidently have a different definition of "elegant" to me. My definition of "elegant" does not include "theories containing hand-crafted and unjustified potentials of a strikingly bizarre form inserted purely phenomenologically into a theory that is a phenomenological attempt to see what might happen if some facets of M theory are put onto large scales". That's not to defend inflation too much but the potentials of inflatons are typically quadratic or quartic,

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Man does belief things he doesn't understand, spout meaningless statement to show everyone how ignorant he is: news at 11.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Monday March 17, 2014 @03:00PM (#46509023) Homepage

    Did you hear that? That was the sound of millions of religious zealots pressing their palms harder against their ears and screaming LA LA LA even louder.

    • by Zordak (123132) on Monday March 17, 2014 @05:56PM (#46511073) Homepage Journal

      Did you hear that? That was the sound of millions of religious zealots pressing their palms harder against their ears and screaming LA LA LA even louder.

      I'll bite. I'm sure you'd consider me a "religious zealot." I believe in God. I believe in the Bible for what it is---a religious text that has suffered at the hands of multiple translations, compilations, and shenanigans, but that still has managed to retain the essential doctrines of man's relationship to God. It is not, and was never intended to be, a scientific text. The account in Genesis merely says that in six "days" (the original Hebrew word means "time periods") God instructed that the earth should be created, and that this creation was carried out through some unspecified agency. I don't believe God has thrown in CMB and dinosaur bones to deceive us, because I believe that he is a God of truth. My faith certainly doesn't drive me to deny science, because science is (or at least should be) ultimately a search for truth, and all truth brings us closer to the God of truth. The Bible is an excellent spiritual resource that has enhanced my relationship with God, but it tells me very little about physics, engineering, and biology.

      So please tell me how your faith---which I assume dictates that the universe is a convenient sequence of coincidences, each individually of staggering improbability, and all of them taken together forming something at least as incomprehensible as the most convoluted beliefs about God---is inherently more reasonable than my faith, which is that there is a creative genius operating in all the majesty of creation.

  • First of all, how is it that all stars moving apart from each other rapidly is not "first direct evidence" of the universe's expansion? And secondly, how could the expansion of the universe amplify gravitational waves? Space stretching would thin out the waves because they would be expressed over a wider area. Also, you don't create more gravity without adding mass or energy. Neither is occurring due to universe expansion, and of course the fact that mass and energy can't be "created" under any circumsta
    • "First of all, how is it that all stars moving apart from each other rapidly is not "first direct evidence" of the universe's expansion?"

      Because it isn't. The first direct evidence of the universe's expansion is typically accredited to Hubble in the 1920s and was very firmly established a good couple of generations back. Don't believe all you read in /. summaries...

      "And secondly, how could the expansion of the universe amplify gravitational waves? Space stretching would thin out the waves because they would

  • by quax (19371) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @02:36AM (#46513889)

    This is the first direct evidence for gravity waves, but another very clever indirect one earned a Nobel Price in 1993. [wavewatching.net]

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