You want more on the discovery of gravity waves from the Big Bang? It’s beyond my pay grade, so you’ll have to mosey on over to SciAm for the plain English summary.
Physicists have found a long-predicted twist in light from the Big Bang that represents the first image of ripples in the universe called gravitational waves, researchers announced today. The finding is direct proof of the theory of inflation, the idea that the universe expanded extremely quickly in the first fraction of a second after it was born. What’s more, the signal is coming through much more strongly than expected, ruling out a large class of inflation models and potentially pointing the way toward new theories of physics, experts say.
And why should we care?
The timing of inflation, in turn, tells physicists about the energy scale of the universe when inflation was going on. BICEP2’s value of r suggests that this was the same energy scale at which all the forces of nature except for gravity (the electromagnetic, strong and weak forces) might have been unified into a single force—an idea called grand unified theory. The finding bolsters the idea of grand unification and rules out a number of inflation models that do not feature such an energy scale. “This really collapses the space of plausible inflationary models by a huge amount,” Kamionkowski says. “Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, we’ll be looking for a needle in a bucket of sand.” Grand unified theories suggest the existence of new fields that act similarly to the Higgs field associated with the Higgs boson particle discovered in 2012. These new fields, in turn, would indicate that other, heavier Higgs boson particles also exist, although with masses so high they would be impossible to create in any traditional particle accelerator. “This measurement is allowing us to use the early universe as a lab for new physics in energy ranges that are otherwise inaccessible to us,” Kamionkowski says.