A few days ago, on March 17th, 2014, astrophysicists announced that they may have found the signal left in the sky by cosmic inflation, the super-rapid expansion that occurred shortly after the Big Bang. Inflation depends on a specific prediction: That it would be associated with waves of gravitational energy. Ultimately, these tiny waves, or ripples in the fabric of space, would have left their mark on the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). And it’s these tiny waves that the scientists recently observed, tiny fluctuations in the CMB afterglow.
The findings were made by the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole, utilizing data of the CMB. In 1983, Stanford physics professor Andrei Linde was the first to describe the “chaotic inflation” theory. In this video, Chao-Lin Kuo, a member of the BICEP team, tells Linde about the teams findings—legitimizing his life's work.
At the beginning of the video, Kuo says, “five sigma,” several times. This may sound like nonsense to us, but the phrase is of great importance. Ultimately, it is a statement used to reflect how confident scientists are that their results are reliable and accurate. A 5 sigma confidence level indicates is the gold standard of significance.
For more information on the discovery, see this article, or watch the video below.