Cosmologists like big ideas. After all, their chosen subject is nothing less than the universe itself – how did it start, what is it made of and how will it end? Some of these big ideas have catchy names, such as the big bang, but others are more prosaic. However, these names can be misleading. Cosmic inflation, for example, might sound dull, but it is actually one of the boldest ideas in the history of physics and astronomy.
In a nutshell, inflation is the term used to describe an extremely short period of turbocharged expansion that happened immediately after the big bang. Moreover, after years of trying, astrophysicists have just reported the first experimental evidence that inflation actually happened. Charles Bennett of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and co-workers made the breakthrough after a painstaking analysis of three years of data from the WMAP satellite.
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