Implications of recent revelations about universe`s first light revealed
Scientists last month announced first hard evidence for cosmic inflation, the process by which the infant universe swelled from microscopic to cosmic size in an instant.
Washington: Scientists last month announced first hard evidence for cosmic inflation, the process by which the infant universe swelled from microscopic to cosmic size in an instant.
Late last week, two members of the discovery team discussed the finding and its implications with two of the field`s preeminent thought leaders.
Walter Ogburn is a postdoctoral researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University, and a member of the discovery team. For him, the exciting thing "is not just confirming that inflation happened- many of us already had a pretty good idea that was likely to be the case-but having a chance to figure out exactly how it happened, what it was that drove it, whether there are new particles and new fields that participated in it, and which of the many models could be correct."
"The theoretical community is abuzz," says theorist Michael S. Turner, Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) and the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. Turner, who was not involved in the experiment, continues: "We got the signal we were looking for-that`s good-but we shouldn`t have gotten one according to the highbrow theorists because they said it should be too small. So we also got a surprise. And often in science, that`s the case. We like to the experimenters to find what we predict, but we also like surprises."
This surprise is still so new that additional implications keep coming to light each week. It`s already clear that the result rules out many theoretical models of inflation-most of them, in fact-because they predict a signal much weaker than the one detected. In addition, the discovery also seems to disprove a theory that says that the universe expands, collapses and expands again in an ongoing cycle.
More than that, the result could very well be what Turner calls a "crack in the cosmic egg," offering clues that even the most accepted theoretical assumptions contain inaccuracies.