Scientists have long awaited direct evidence for cosmic inflation, and as of this week, they might just have it. The theory of cosmic inflation is the idea that the universe rapidly expanded a comically small fraction of a second after the Big Bang. This is only one of the most mind bending concepts in the history of science, so don’t feel bad if none of that makes sense. The video below from Nature breaks it down pretty well for those of us who aren’t practicing cosmologists.
There you have it. Evidence that one 10^-34 of a second after the Big Bang, the universe violently expanded at a speed faster than the speed of light. But wait a minute – how can something be faster than the speed of light? Doesn’t Einstein’s theory of special relativity permit nothing to travel through space faster than the speed of light? Worry not, Einstein faithfuls. The whole “faster than the speed of light” thing doesn’t actually conflict with special relativity, since it was cosmic inflation that was creating space to begin with. Very tricky, cosmic inflation.
Andrei Linde of Stanford University is one of the most well known authors on inflationary universe theory. Below is a video of Assistant Professor of Physics Chao Lin Kuo giving the news to Linde and popping a bottle full of bub with him to celebrate.
“This detection is cosmology’s missing link,” Johns Hopkins physicist Marc Kamionkowski told reporters Monday. “It’s something that we thought should be there, but we weren’t really sure. It has been eagerly sought now for close to two decades.”