BICEP, the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, is an experiment that used almost 100 detectors to scan the sky at microwave frequencies ( 100 GHz and 150 GHz, angular resolutions of 1.0° and 0.7°) in order to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
From their location (near competing experiments) at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station they have been working toward what sounds like a simple goal - to try and get firm evidence of the cosmic microwave background at the moment after the Big Bang. The hypothesis of an inflationary epoch - where the size of the universe underwent exponential expansion during its first 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 (10 -38) second - and recent observations suggesting just that, mean the hunt has been on to find evidence of ancient gravitational waves Einstein predicted.
An upcoming press conference means we might be close to getting some confirmation, which would bring us a step closer to ruling out other models of the early universe.
It's not as easy as it sounds. Finding a gravity wave background (GWB) in all that data, and factoring in the effects of gravitational lensing (matter - energy density - can curve spacetime and that can deflect the path of a ray of light) in how it is polarized after all this time, is daunting. The ability of gravitational lensing to create a false GWB signal, along with galactic dust and synchrotron polarized emissions, mean that the results will undergo heavy scrutiny, including by competing researchers who are searching for the exact same thing.
Comparison of estimated polarized foregrounds from synchrotron (magenta), vibrational dust (red), rotational dust (blue), and point source emission (green) from the "middle of the road" Tegmark et al. (1999) model. The shaded regions indicate where the foregrounds contribute more than 0.8 µK. Credit and link: Caltech
At 9 AM Pacific Time on Monday, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is going to make an announcement and what they might reveal is just speculation and rumor. University College London astronomer Hiranya Peiris gave Stuart Clark at The Guardian a great quote: "But if they do have a robust detection … Jesus, wow! I'll be taking next week off."
There's a lot that can go wrong, of course, supraluminal (faster than light) neutrionos taught the lesson quite recently that nature is not going down without a fight, but it could be exciting stuff.
BICEP - Caltech Observational Cosmology Group
H/T Real Clear Science
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- New Tractor Beam Can Repel And Attract
- Home, Workplace, Tomb – Fury And The Reality Of The World War II Tank
- Researchers Created A Laser Bullet To See What It Would Look Like - And Here It Is
- Erupting Bardarbunga Volcano In Iceland Sits On A Massive Magma Hot Spot
- Blood Vessel Transplant From Own Stem Cells - Now In A Week
- Climate Change Caused By The Ocean
- Germany’s Green Energy Gamble Could Really Use Some Vorsprung Durch Technik
- "Well stated dersu. I add that the big problem is we still don't have a working model of the brain..."
- "Underage drinking is declining in the US - has been for about a decade. Don't easily available..."
- "A lower range of likely values for climate sensitivity, a larger role from the oceans, if..."
- "But do you understand that these futuristic machines may also be used to study the property of..."
- "Both in this article and the press release from ASU Biodesign are carefully worded allusion to..."
- How to sell a toxic pesticide the smart way–call it organic
- Leftist dystopia? Anti-technology fever animates opposition to GMOs and other ‘disruptive’ technologies
- CDC faced a nearly impossible balancing act with Ebola, and failed
- Why Chobani reversed course, making yoghurt only from milk from cows not fed GMO grain
- Monterey, California, hotbed of anti-GMO activism, home to new GMO corn farm
- Evolution is sometimes messy or even outright ridiculous