Inflation deflated? The big bang's toughest test

 作者:和扳噘     |      日期:2019-03-14 01:15:02
By Michael Brooks SOMETIMES cosmology talks can be exciting – riveting even. Take, for instance, the occasion when a young graduate student called Alan Guth heard all about the serious problems with the big bang theory. It was so provocative and stimulating it led Guth, now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to make one of the most audacious suggestions in science. Guth’s idea is called inflation and it suggested that the major problems in cosmology could be solved if the universe had blown up like a balloon, inflating faster than the speed of light in the moments after its birth. The lecture that inspired Guth was more than 25 years ago and the idea of inflation is still king in cosmology. How ironic, then, that the talk now threatening to dethrone inflation was such a snoozefest. “It was the most boring talk you’ve ever heard,” says Benjamin Wandelt, a cosmologist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. And Wandelt should know – he was doing the talking. Speaking at a conference on the first moments of the universe, held last December in Cambridge, UK, he described how satellite measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the echo of the big bang, seem to contradict the predictions of inflation. Wandelt claims his analysis puts inflation to its most precise test yet – and that the theory seems to have failed. Most physicists find this hard to swallow,