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New research provides clues on how the universe began


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, March 17, 2014, 5:10 PM -


The most popular theory of how the universe came to be is called the Big Bang, which states that our universe expanded from a few millimeters across into the cosmos we know inhabit, some 14 billion years ago.

While this is largely accepted within the scientific community the Big Bang has remained, by and large, simply a theory.

Until now.

On Monday, scientists from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced they have detected the first indication of 'cosmic inflation', or, ripples in space-time they're calling the "first tremors of the Big Bang." 

The data represents the first images of these gravitational waves.

"Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today. A lot of work by a lot of people has led up to this point," said John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in a statement.


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Scientists used a telescope called the BICEP2 to search for polarization left over from the birth of the universe.

"Our team hunted for a special type of polarization called 'B-modes,' which represents a twisting or 'curl' pattern in the polarized orientations of the ancient light," said co-leader Jamie Bock of Caltech/JPL.

The team traveled to the South Pole to conduct their research, citing the dry and clear locations as an ideal locale for searching for faint waves from the Big Bang.

Once there, researchers were startled when they detected a B-mode polarization signal that was "considerably stronger" that what they had expected.

The team then analyzed their data for more than three years to rule out any errors.

"This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar," said co-leader Clem Pryke of the University of Minnesota.

Researchers say the findings could provide new insight into how it all began and how we came to be.

An in-depth technical analysis can be found online at bicepkeck.org.

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