Using radio telescopes at the South Pole scientists from Harvard, the University of Minnesota, California Institute of Technology and Stanford are supposed to have looked far enough back in time to determine that there was in fact a big bang as we understand it. Supposedly they were able to make this determination by actually detecting (previously only theorized) gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background of the universe as it existed at the dawn of time. (This would constitute smoking gun evidence of a big bang as we understand it because the existence of such waves would imply an historical inflation of the universe consistent with the Big Bang theory.) Other scientists are saying that, if valid, the work would represent one of the most significant and meaningful accomplishments of science. Per the article:
.... Radio astronomers reported that they had seen the beginning of the Big Bang, and that his (Dr. Guth's)hypothesis, known undramatically as inflation, looked right....If corroborated, Dr. Kovac’s work will stand as a landmark in science comparable to the recent discovery of dark energy pushing the universe apart, or of the Big Bang itself. It would open vast realms of time and space and energy to science and speculation....Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University, an early-universe expert who was not part of the team, said, “This is huge, as big as it gets.” He continued, “This is a signal from the very earliest universe, sending a telegram encoded in gravitational waves....Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at M.I.T., wrote in an email, “I think that if this stays true, it will go down as one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science.” ....”Dr. Kovac said the chance that the results were a fluke was only one in 10 million. Dr. Guth, now 67, pronounced himself “bowled over,” saying he had not expected such a definite confirmation in his lifetime....
There is, however, reason to exercise caution about the findings. Per the article:
Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona State and others also emphasized the need for confirmation, noting that the new results exceeded earlier estimates based on temperature maps of the cosmic background by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite and other assumptions about the universe. “So we will need to wait and see before we jump up and down,” Dr. Krauss said.
Update: Several scientists are now saying that there is an alternative explanation for the gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background of the universe. They are saying that instead of proving the big bang it is possible that the gravitational waves were created from an event that took place slightly after the beginning of the inflationary period of the universe. Per the article:
....Although this critical point phase change across the entire Universe was of a lower energy than the inflationary period that came before it, Dent and co. theorize that it would have created a violent ripple that could have spawned the gravitational waves that BICEP2 is now observing in the CMB.
Good point! a description of one's own death and burial is a fabrication and holds as much water as a sieve.
Although I have a description of my death as being not waking up one morning and my kids having a big celebration of my life. They will tell all their stories about things I did, when I embarrassed them, how they determined I was senile and that I am watching over them at the molecular level and whispering in their ears about how to make informed decisions. They will laugh a lot, cry a little, and realize I am with them always.
I look forward to sharing all these science-focused programs possible so that people can see an opposing view from the religious myths and think critically for themselves. They are fun to watch and fun to share.
My science education was barely enough to get me a courtesy "D" in high school physics, but subsequent reading, and watching NOVA and "Cosmos" has awakened my mind...somewhat. Discoveries like this are so effing exciting that I want to jump up and down and cheer Open the champagne, and have a BLAST!
I'm jumping with you, Felaine, and so glad that people have another opportunity to wake up to the beauty of science. That is my great passion. Too bad teachers often find it impossible to teach it with passion. I was lucky, my highschool teachers were passionate about their subjects and so I worked to get some of the hard stuff. Not enough to make me a hard scientist, however. I do have degrees in behavior science and am very pleased about that.
Here's a video from Nature explaining gravitational waves a bit.
Cosmos, research results, exploration for evidence of the beginning of the universe all converge at a time when our young people need a vision, a mission, an ambition to answer some of the unknowns and begin to focus more on science than on football.
I can imagine a gathering as large as Friday night highschool football games and their attendant rallies gathered in a large auditorium with hundreds of high school students showing off their experiments, both failures and successes. Kids with ideas, imagination, initiative, ambition, intelligence, curiosity, and a willingness to put in the effort to search for answers for centuries old questions.
Gravitational waves (via general Relativity) clearly show the twisting of spacetime in the polarity of the cosmic microwave background radiation, proving the inflationary model and thus the 'Big Bang'. The space between quarks is filled with tiny particles that give mass to nothing at all, perhaps indicating the universe's spontaneous creation out of 'nothing'. The verification of the Higgs boson. The 2nd law of thermodynamics probably indicates life arising all by itself.
This is a most exciting time to be alive. I hope we will soon expel all these ridiculous 'gods' and champion reason. Math and science are fantastic.
Good news but still a long way to go. If gravitational waves do exist, then we must be able to set units to measure them and build instruments to measure them.
That beautiful little girl in your lap comes of age at a very important time in the events of human beings. We are on a cutting edge of new discoveries, equal to the exploration and finding the Americas. Within her generation may come an awareness of the human condition that will pull us out of mythology into the reality of nature and all it implies.