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On 17 March, John Kovac announced to the world that he and his team of radio astronomers had found the imprint of gravitational waves from the Big Bang. They did so by looking at the cosmic microwave background (CMB), sometimes called the 'afterglow' of the Big Bang, using BICEP2, a telescope experiment based at the South Pole. This signal of gravitational waves was seen in the polarization of the CMB — similar to the kind of polarization that certain sunglasses block — over a small patch of sky.

This polarization map, which is reminiscent of the way iron filings arrange themselves on a surface under the effects of a magnetic field, was found to have particular vortex-like, or curly, patterns known as B modes. The presence of B modes is a tell-tale sign of the passage of gravitational waves generated during inflation, a brief period during which the Universe underwent an exponential expansion, right after its birth. If the findings stand up, they will put the current preferred picture of cosmology on solid foundations, and could have significant implications on fundamental physics as well.

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