The BICEP telescope itself faces the Antarctic sunset and a very long, very cold winter. (credit: US Antarctic Program)
It was not so very long ago (2014) that the world was shocked and amazed by the announcement that primordial gravitational waves had been found. This would have been the first observation of gravitational waves, and the data seemed to confirm a long-held theory called inflation that explained the behavior of the early Universe.
Then, disaster. The data analysis had not adequately accounted for dust in the Milky Way. Not only were no gravitational waves detected, but inflation was still unconfirmed. Fast forward four years: gravitational waves have been detected using other methods that left inflation hanging in the wind. But BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) and the Keck array are back with more data and better analysis. Unfortunately, still no gravitational waves or inflation.
Inflate the Universe
The Universe presents a problem. It is, without a doubt, pretty uniform. Sure, there are stars and galaxies and even clusters of galaxies around the place. But, overall, it’s pretty uniform. This is also seen in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB). The CMB is light that has been traveling to us since the moment that the Universe became cool enough for the first atoms to form.