History of the Universe: Gravitational waves are hypothesized to arise from cosmic inflation, a faster-than-light expansion just after the Big Bang. Image/Wikimedia Commons
History of the Universe: Gravitational waves are hypothesized to arise from cosmic inflation, a faster-than-light expansion just after the Big Bang. Image/Wikimedia Commons

What does a scientist do after a theory he’s chased for 35 years is proven correct? Ask Alan Guth.

“The Big Bang theory says nothing about what banged, why it banged, or what happened before it banged.” This used to be Alan Guth’s standard line when explaining his theory about what happened in the first fraction of a second after the birth of the universe. The Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics can retire that line from his lectures now, following a discovery this past March confirming what Guth calls “cosmic inflation.”

Cosmic inflation, first proposed by Guth in 1979, posits that the universe expanded exponentially within its first fraction of a second. He and his colleagues believed inflation could be proved—all that was needed was a telescope powerful enough to detect the imprint of the oldest light in the universe, an imprint left behind by inflation. To Guth, it seemed improbable that such elusory evidence would be found during his lifetime.

In a recent interview with Boston Globe Magazine, Guth recounts his decades-long journey that began with a “spectacular realization” scribbled in his notebook, to a spring day this past March when he received word that his theory had been confirmed.

Full story at Boston Globe Magazine.

Previously on Continuum: “Giddy Scientists Toast Breakthrough”

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One comment

  1. Jay

    An article that provides a fascinating glimpse into almost the very first moments of the creation of the universe. What I would really like to know is what was the inflation horizon problem that had stymied Guth and how did Linde solve it? As a side note the signal that Kovac’s team found was 5 sigma (a 1 in 3.5 million chance that the signal was a coincidence) a pretty solid confirmation of the inflation theory.

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