A team of researchers have found hard evidence of cosmic inflation right after the Big Bang. The discovery, which could be up for a Nobel prize pending further scrutinization, supports the Big Bang Theory for the origin of the Universe; researchers say they've spotted a signal left in space that suggests a super-rapid expansion occurred just after everything came into being. With Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos show currently captivating audiences, the timing of the find is particularly noteworthy, and will surely grab plenty of media attention. Maybe the Big Bang really was the beginning of it all.
The exact discovery specifically deals with a "twist" of light, or Primordial B-mode polarization, which is the oldest light detectable by telescopes. Here, researchers looked for an "inflation" marker where gravitational waves are present, suggesting there was an incredible growth spurt at that exact moment—"its first trillionth, or a trillionth of a trillionth of a second," BBC wrote. If true, the universe as we know it may have grown from something not even discernible to the human eye, to about something the size of a marble. In the 14 billion years since, the universe has continued to expand.
The first suggestion of Inflation came back in the 80s by a Harvard scientist. Via The New York Times:
A potential hitch in the presumed course of cosmic evolution could have infused space itself with a special energy that exerted a repulsive force, causing the universe to swell faster than the speed of light for a prodigiously violent instant.
If true, the rapid engorgement would solve paradoxes like why the heavens look uniform from pole to pole and not like a jagged, warped mess. The enormous ballooning would iron out all the wrinkles and irregularities. Those particles were not missing, but would be diluted beyond detection, like spot in the ocean.
The find is being considered a "smoking-gun" of evidence that Inflation is correct, and that scientists know the exact spot where the Big Bang took place. The universe is already mysterious as it is, with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, but the confirmation of Inflation has the potential to make space even more unknown, something beyond our wildest imaginations. If scientists do confirm Inflation, it would mean the universe our technology is capable of seeing is merely a spec in a larger cosmos; like a grain of sand on a beach. And there's always new universes being born, too.
The data will now be up for peer review, but if confirmed, the finding will be a landmark in science. "This is spectacular," said Marc Kaminionkowski, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins University, via BBC. "I've seen the research the arguments are persuasive, and the scientists involved are among the most careful and conservative people I know."