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When the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced a press conference for a "Major Discovery" (capital letters in the original e-mail) involving an unspecified experiment, rumors began to fly immediately. By Friday afternoon, the rumors had coalesced around one particular observatory: the BICEP microwave telescope located at the South Pole. Over the weekend, the chatter focused on a specific issue: polarization in the Cosmic Microwave Background left over from the Big Bang. With the start of the press conference, it's now clear that we've detected the first direct evidence of the inflationary phase of the Big Bang, in which the Universe expanded rapidly in size.

BICEP, the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization experiment, was built specifically to measure the polarization of light left over from the early Universe. This light, known as the cosmic microwave background (CMB), encodes a lot of information about the physical state of the cosmos from its earliest moments. Most observatories (such as Planck and WMAP) have mapped temperature fluctuations in the CMB, which are essential for determining the contents of the Universe...

Detection of primordial gravitational waves announced (Updated) | Ars Technica

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