"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This phrase, popularized by the late Carl Sagan, kept going through my head on March 17, the day that researchers involved with BICEP2, a telescope in Antarctica, made a big announcement at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The researchers reported that BICEP2 detected gravitational waves from the first moments after the big bang, a feat, which if confirmed, would open up a new field of study and would surely be recognized in a future Nobel Prize. [Ed. note: Txchnologist reported on this news when it broke here.]
Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time. They’re created when any object with mass accelerates. However, they’re extremely weak, making them very hard to detect directly. Even for the most massive and cataclysmic events, such as the collision of two black holes, their effects, observed from Earth, are very hard to detect.