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Of Particular Significance

Getting Ready for the Cosmic News

17 Mar 2014, 03:44 UTC
Getting Ready for the Cosmic News
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As many of you know already, we’re expecting some very significant news Monday, presumably from the BICEP2 experiment. The rumors seem to concern a possible observation of “B-mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background radiation”, which, to the person on the street, could mean:

strong evidence that inflation occurred in the early universe,
strong evidence against certain alternatives to inflation,
a rough measurement of how much dark energy was present during inflation and
consequently a rough measurement of how hot the universe became when inflation ended.

It would also be cool for at least one other reason: it would be yet another indirect detection of gravitational waves, which are predicted in Einstein’s theory of gravity (but not Newton’s), just as electromagnetic waves were predicted by Maxwell’s theory of electricity and magnetism. Note, however, it would not be the first such indirect detection; that honor belongs to this Nobel-Prize-winning measurement of the behavior of a pair of neutron stars which orbit each other, one of which is a pulsar. (Attempts at direct detection are underway at LIGO.)
Of course, it’s possible the rumors aren’t correct, and that the implications will be completely different from what people currently expect. But the press ...

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