Everything you wanted to know about inflation, but were afraid to ask
Published October 27, 2014
Tags: BICEP2, CosmoAcademy, gravitational waves, inflation, quantum cosmology
Cosmology observatory at the South Pole, including the South Pole Telescope (SPT) on the left and BICEP2 on the right. [Credit: Stephen Hoover/University of Chicago]
Well, my upcoming class is unlikely to cover everything
. After all, there’s a lot we still don’t know about cosmic inflation, including whether it actually happened or not. According to some theories, the Universe expanded very rapidly right after the Big Bang, which would explain a lot of the odder features of the cosmos as we observe them today. However, direct evidence for inflation is inherently hard to come by, and nobody has worked out a complete model for how it works. As it stands today, cosmic inflation is the worst explanation for the early Universe, except for all the others.
Inflation made the news in a big way last spring when members of the BICEP2 collaboration announced they had measured a particular signature of inflation: the polarization of light due to turbulent gravitational disturbances from when the Universe was only a fraction of a second old. Last week, I led a session on BICEP2 at the National Association of Science Writers/Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (NASW/CASW) national meeting, featuring Johns Hopkins cosmologist Marc Kamionkowski and WIRED editor Betsy Mason. Video from the session will eventually be available, and no doubt people will cover the session for blogs and other outlets, so the conversation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, my newest CosmoAcademy class will do its best to cover our current knowledge about inflation, the evidence for it, and alternative ideas. The class starts tomorrow, and we still have a few spaces left — sign up today!