In the wake of “Signal detected for cosmic microwave background’s polarization ”:
One (out of very many) theories holds that the way the CMB can get polarized, is if gravity waves from the original BB are amplified by this idea of “inflation” that expanded the universe by a gazillion times right after it banged. So this observation is being touted as a double-header—the first observation of gravity waves, and the first observation of inflation. We could toss the Easter bunny in there too, at this point it looks like it’s the first observation of all sorts of invisible things.
FYI: Here’s a q&a on gravitational waves from New Scientist, fetchingly called “Einstein’s ripples”:
Albert Einstein compared the universe’s shape to a single fabric, hewn from space and time. According to his theory of general relativity, the force of gravity is the result of curvature in this space-time: gravitational waves are ripples in it. The ripples are produced by accelerating objects, just as an accelerating electric charge emits electromagnetic waves.
Colliding black holes and stars create modern-day gravitational waves. But cosmologists also believe the big bang itself produced primordial waves that still reverberate through space-time. It is these ripples, dating back to a fraction of a second after the birth of the universe, that the BICEP2 researchers have detected.
(Gravitational waves should not be confused with gravity waves, a term used in the study of fluids to refer to waves on a surface that propagate because of gravity.) More.
Cosmic microwave background, from a year ago:
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