‘Possible’ Major discovery on the corner !

Well, tomorrow might be a BIG day for the Astrophysics community. The buzz going around the possible evidence for the detection of ‘Primordial Gravitational Waves’ is huge. If ‘Higgs’ discovery was a major breakthrough in Particle Physics, detecting Gravitational Waves (atleast directly, indirect detection came in 1974) will be crown jewel in the throne of Astrophysics. Implications are very big for Inflationary cosmology and understanding the ‘Early’ state of the universe. Now, it not just any other ‘tick’ in the checklist of confirmation of the theory of relativity, it will be THE most important box in that list.

All bets are on BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization)  experiment, which is designed to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Now, this experiment is claimed to have unprecedented level of precision as compared to the previous attempts. Check out the sensitivity comparison for various experiments :


CMB temperature fluctuations (BICEP data, 2008) are well represented in the following movie, check this out —

When ‘Higgs’ detection was confirmed, the list of people involved in the project at CERN took more space for the journal entry than the actual paper which came after title credits ! To go through the QFT and the possible variations of it to understand the data released at CERN takes a lot out of you as a student. It is quite an undertaking if you are majoring in something other than Particle Physics at this point of time. But, classically speaking, understanding Gravitation is where the real FUN begins if you ask me. It is very deterministic and quite fascinating even to visualize while studying abstract concepts like virtual time and so on. Best summary that I could find on this subject came from two sources :

1. Gravitation (Physics Series) Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne , John Archibald Wheeler.

2. Three Hundred Years of Gravitation – Stephen W. Hawking (Editor), Werner Israel.

These two books are very verbose but with great description of the matter which is considered the foundation of theory of Gravity. Big chunk of pages to cover in one sitting so I would say ‘One page at a time, Brother’ !

Now, if their claims are verified in upcoming years to come, It will be a quite a change in the way we approach the study of cosmology in mainstream. Many are going to be drawn to study inflationary way of describing the observations (all hail Guth!) back to the best known game in town ! Press release can be read here.

This is the REWARD you get from doing Physics. It is getting more and more exciting every year. Bring on the Pretty and Mighty detectors for us to play  ! Com’on !!

Satellite-based CMB observatories : 

1.COBE – Cosmic Background Explorer
2.WMAP – Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe
3. Planck*
4.Relikt Relikt-1
4.SPOrt Sky Polarization Observatory

Balloon and Ground-based CMB experiments: 

ACBAR Arcminute Cosmology Bolometer Array Receiver
ACME/HACME Advanced Cosmic Microwave Explorer/ HEMT+ ACME
ACT Atacama Cosmology Telescope
AMI Arcminute MicroKelvin Imager
AMiBA Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy
APACHE Antarctic Plateau Anisotropy CHasing Experiment
APEX-SZ Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment
ARCADE Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission
Archeops ARGO
ATCA Australia Telescope Compact Array
BAM Balloon- borne Anisotropy Measurement
BaR-SPOrt Balloon-borne Radiometers for Sky Polarisation Observations
BEAST Background Emission Anisotropy Scanning Telescope
—BICEP Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization*
BIMA Berkeley Illinois Maryland Associations
—BOOMERanG (B2K2) Balloon Observations Of Millimetric Extragalactic Radiation and Geophysics*
CAPMAP Cosmic Anisotropy Polarization MAPper
CAT Cosmic Anisotropy Telescope
CBI Cosmic Background Imager
CG Cosmological Gene
Clover N/A
COMPASS COsmic Microwave Polarization At Small Scales
DASI Degree Angular Scale Interfer-ometer
EBEX The E and B Experiment
FIRS Far Infra- Red Survey
KUPID KU-band Polarization IDentifier
MAT Mobile Anisotropy Telescope
MAXIMA Millimeter Anisotropy eXperiment Imaging Array
MBI-B Millimeter-Wave Bolometric Interferometer
MINT Millimeter INTerferometer
MSAM Medium Scale Anisotropy Measurement
PIQUE Princeton I, Q, and U Experiment
POLAR Polarization Observations of Large Angular Regions
POLARBeaR POLARization of Background microwave Radiation
Polatron N/A
Python N/A
QMASK QMAP and Saskatoon (SK) Data Combination
—QuaD- Quest (Q and U Extra-Galactic Sub-mm Telescope) at DASI (Degree Angular Scale Interferometer) *
QUIET QU Imaging ExperimenT
SK Saskatoon
SPT South Pole Telescope
SuZIE Sunyaev- Zeldovich Infrared Experiment
SZA Sunyaev-Zeldovich Array
VSA Very Small Array

Note : Keep an eye on these bad boys (*)

Source : Robinson Gravitational Wave Background TelescopeCMB Experiments


3 thoughts on “‘Possible’ Major discovery on the corner !

  1. Looks like lots of good information here, for those who can understand it. My knowledge of physics, astro and otherwise, comes mostly from years of reading Scientific American.

    I wish the researchers good luck with their quest.

    Every now and then someone publishes and article about being on the verge of (finally) discovering gravity waves.

    “Gravity waves” seem to be very elusive.

    Makes one wonder if, perhaps, gravity is not a wave phenomenon at all.


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