News / Science & Technology

Scientists Hear Earliest Echoes of Big Bang

  • The sun sets behind BICEP2 (in the foreground) and the South Pole Telescope (in the background).
  • The BICEP2 telescope's focal plane consists of 512 superconducting microwave detectors, developed and produced at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • The tiny temperature fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background (shown here as color) trace primordial density fluctuations in the early universe that seed the later growth of galaxies.
  • Gravitational waves from inflation generate a faint but distinctive twisting pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, known as a 'curl' or B-mode pattern.
  • Graduate student Justus Brevik tests the BICEP2 readout electronics.
Scientists Hear Earliest Echoes of Big Bang
Scientists say they have discovered evidence of the “dynamite” that caused the Big Bang.
If confirmed, experts say it will be one of the most important fundamental discoveries in the history of science.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics led the group, working at a radio telescope at the South Pole, where the air is dry and there is little human interference.

They examined the background radiation of the universe, the last traces of energy from the Big Bang.

The new research by provides the first solid evidence that the universe went through an extraordinary growth spurt in its first brief moments of being, a period called inflation.
This unfathomably rapid rate of growth left ripples in the fabric of space -- gravitational waves that Albert Einstein predicted, but that have never been detected until now.
The force driving that exponential expansion is unknown, but experts say this new evidence that it exists offers a long-sought link between gravity, which acts on everything we can see, and quantum mechanics, which governs the subatomic realm.
‘Greatest discoveries’
“I think this is going to go down, if it stands the test of time, as one of the greatest discoveries in the entire history of science,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Max Tegmark, who was not involved in the research, “and I really don’t say that lightly.”
The researchers found extremely subtle irregularities in the universe’s background radiation. The variations followed a curling, twisting pattern that they say marks the passage of gravitational waves.
“Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today,” team leader John Kovac at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a statement.
Although much of current astrophysics rests on the assumption that inflation happened, the evidence has been lacking.
And it wasn’t clear that the signal would be detectable nearly 14 billion years after the fact, added University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner. “Looking for the gravity waves from inflation was called, by many, folly or chasing a wild goose,” he said.
Turner was not a member of the research team. He said the discovery of gravity waves means scientists can study the force behind inflation, which, he said, “might well have been the dynamite behind the Big Bang.”
‘New physics’
“One of the reasons why this discovery is exciting is because inflation does require that there’s some new fundamental physics beyond the four forces we know about,” said Johns Hopkins University astronomer Marc Kamionkowski, who was also not involved with the research.
He said the new findings fit nicely with theories that unify all of the forces.
The new evidence has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Experts who have seen the research said it was compelling, but that other scientists will need to confirm it.
Kamionkowski said that if it does stand up to scrutiny, it opens up an exciting new area of research.
“It’s as if someone was around at the time of inflation and sent us a telegram encoded in gravitational waves, which then got transcribed on the sky,” he said. “In the forthcoming years, what I’m hoping will happen is, we’ll actually be able to read what this telegram is telling us.”

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Cranksy from: USA
March 18, 2014 1:24 PM
What are the four forces we know about?
In Response

by: Max Tegmark from: Cambridge, MA
March 18, 2014 8:18 PM
The electromagnetic, weak, strong and gravitational forces.
The first one prevents you from falling through the floor when the last one pulls you down. The strong force holds quarks together inside of your protons and neutrons.

by: Donald from: burnaby
March 18, 2014 1:18 AM
God couldn't create the whole universe without making alot of noise, of course there would be an echo.

by: John Browne from: Windsor, Ontario
March 18, 2014 12:50 AM
Yeah right, will be almost as unproveable as the theory of evolution...This article should be posted in a comic book

by: BMG
March 18, 2014 12:13 AM
We already have the telegram, aka Torah or Bible.

by: peter ngunyi from: narok,kenya
March 17, 2014 11:42 PM
Thats how God created the universe!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs