At a presentation from the Harvard-Smithsonian the BICEP2 team have announced that they have the “first direct evidence of cosmic inflation”. As rimoured they have detected what they believe to be primordial gravitational waves with a ratio or tensor to scalar modes of r=0.2 (+0.07 -0.05) which is 5 sigma over the null hypothesis. This is a game-changing result for inflationary cosmology and possibly for quantum gravity research because the result indicates that the scale of the inflation is only about a factor of 100 below the Planck scale. These results and the future followups that will no doubt be carried out could be the experimental test-bed for the leading edge of theoretical physics including string-theory.
The papers are now online but everything is down at the monet due to heavy load. I just managed to get this snapshot of the abstract and a few pictures. More when I have it.
These images show the actual signal from a small patch of the sky (on left) compared to a simulation based on predictions from inflation and cold dark matter (on right)
The signal is stronger than many theories predicted so it will have an immediate effect on the direction of theoretical research in quantum gravity and the first moments of the universe
Full paper is at http://bicepkeck.org/b2_respap_arxiv_v1.pdf
This graph is the money plot showing where we now stand in observational inflationary cosmology. Blue is the new result using BICEP2 compared to previous results from Planck and other sources. Note that Planck should release more polarisation measurements soon.
Should have spotted this video yesterday, very moving.
The most interesting thing now is going to see how theorists react to these results. They will have implications for inflationary cosmology (obviously), galaxy formation and quantum gravity. To get the ball rolling theorist Liam McAllister has a guest post on Lubos Motl’s Blog with the quote “The tensor fluctuations write quantum gravity on the sky” exciting stuff!