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What happened in the first instants after the Big Bang?

16 Oct 2014, 13:11 UTC
What happened in the first instants after the Big Bang?
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One of the biggest science stories of 2014 came out of the BICEP2 cosmic microwave background polarization experiment. Last spring, the BICEP2 researchers announced they had measured something known as B-mode or tensor-mode polarization, a particular twisting of light that is the hallmark of primordial gravitational waves. Those waves in turn would be a strong […]

The BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole, designed to look for polarization of light that could be the sign of inflation. [Credit: Steffen Richter]One of the biggest science stories of 2014 came out of the BICEP2 cosmic microwave background polarization experiment. Last spring, the BICEP2 researchers announced they had measured something known as B-mode or tensor-mode polarization, a particular twisting of light that is the hallmark of primordial gravitational waves. Those waves in turn would be a strong piece of evidence for inflation: the proposed incredibly rapid expansion of the Universe in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
However, even from the start, there were reasons to doubt the BICEP2 results were exactly what they seemed. First, the size of their signal was much larger than the limits set by earlier observations; second, they had no decent data on cosmic ...

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