Cosmic Inflation

19 March 2014

This story is still on the boil and is bound to develop further. At … and various other science sites on the Internet as well as news outlets such as the BBC, which seems to suggest a well orchestrated press release, with everyone falling into line with the announcement. It was announced, it would seem, with a great fanfare – and a bevvy of hosannas, the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through the infant universe during an explosive period of growth known as the Big Bang and inflation. The general public, and schoolboys around the world, might have been excused for thinking this was a well known fact. Apparently not – it was an unproven hypothesis. Mainstream now has evidence to support the theory (something more substantial than red shift).

The research involved NASA equipment such as the detector technology at the BICEP 2 space telescope in the Antarctic – in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (of the USA). Presumably, this is why there was such a lot a hand clapping – the scientists need to justify all those tax dollars.

The Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago and moments later, space ripped itself apart – which is a bit confusing as it is space that is supposed to be expanding. We next learn that researchers, in support of the hypothesis, had long been looking for confirmation that inflation is actually occurring. Gravitational waves are said to squeeze and stretch space, an interesting concept. These gravitational waves have a characteristic swirling pattern in polarised light – known as 'B-mode polarisation' in the jargon. In the case of the cosmic microwave background, light scattered off electrons become slightly polarised. BICEP 2 was set up to detect B-mode polarisation and they claim they have found such a signal – which strongly suggests cosmic inflation as a reality. The caveat here is that it is not definitely proof – but something that seems to indicate inflation is taking place. The key to the discovery was the use of super conductors – which allow 'electric current' to flow freely. Has EU become mainstream without anyone noticing?

BICEP 2 used 512 detectors in order to speed up observation of the cosmic microwave background – by ten times. The next experiment will use 2560 detectors, and they hope this will replicate the findings.

The same story is given lots of fresh air at… … and is largely impressed with how the experiment was conducted. There are a few uncharitable voices in the long list of commenters, which may indicate a bit of American pride is involved. However, dissent will eventually find a voice in the wilderness, I suppose, but for now all is enthusiasm and respect.

Although the press release claims the Big Bang and Expansion theory go back to Alan Guth in 1980, updated by Russian physicist Andrei Linde a few years later, the idea was actually originally the brainchild of Father Georges Henri LeMaitre, PhD, a Belgian priest (and physicist) as early as 1923. As such, he was mocked on the basis he was a Creationist and he had invented the idea to justify the point in history when God set the universe in motion (so to speak). The theory was not taken seriously for another 40 years or so – but well I never. The Big Bang was invented by a Creationist – no wonder they don't mention him.

In 1963 the US pair of Wilson and Penzias detected evidence of expansion at the Bell Labs radio telescope and the mocking stopped – see … which appears to indicate mainstream held back science for those 40 years on the basis they did not like LeMaitre (another example of new discoveries being suppressed by consensus politics). What I thought was interesting was the fact that Lemaitre, after reading Einstein's General Theory noted that everything must be moving and reached the conclusion that a regularity, a sort of primeval egg, must have been responsible. Hubble also comes into the equation – see for example and

At… .. we have the same story and several pages of comment, some of which raise some interesting points (and others are wishy washy or off topic). For example, the direction of Big Bang and the expansion thereafter. One might assume it is expanding at a point roughly in the centre of the universe but it is unlikely the Earth is in the centre of all things in space. Why then is it measured at 13.8 billion years ago from every direction from Earth? Another commenter suggests visiting

At… … is another way of looking at it, from a confirmed Big Bang sceptic. He wonders why it is that microwave radiation from space is said to measure expansion – why not electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves, visible light. X-rays or gamma rays. He adds that polarisation in what is the electric field of light is mainly due to density fluctuations and these gave rise to galaxies. The theory predicts some of it comes from primordial gravitational waves and these waves are ripples in space time. According to the theory the universe expanded very quickly in the first fractions of a second – filling the cosmos with gravitational ripples. At … we are told that if the Big Bang was fractionally more powerful the cosmos would have blow outward too fast to allow stars to form – which might be a load of cobblers. At … which has the title, 'Why Exponential Inflation is Impossible@ – so there. Better still, go to… or

Over at Lubos Motl's place at… … there is an excellent guest post by Laim McAllister of Cornell University. This is a case of saving the best for last as he asks – how should we interpret the result of BICEP 2. If it is really a detection of primordial gravitational waves the finding is staggering. He then adds a few contrary thoughts, and goes on to describe them as polarised photons. The article is long but lucid and ends by saying 'it all seems too good to be true' – and perhaps it is.

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