Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Gravity wave "smoking gun" fizzles, according to Case Western Reserve University physics researchers

But gravitational waves may be more sensitive probe of early universe physics than previously thought

A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University has found that gravitational radiation—widely expected to provide "smoking gun" proof for a theory of the early universe known as "inflation"—can be produced by another mechanism.

According to physics scholars, inflation theory proposes that the universe underwent a period of exponential expansion right after the big bang. A key prediction of inflation theory is the presence of a particular spectrum of "gravitational radiation"—ripples in the fabric of space-time that are notoriously difficult to detect but believed to exist nonetheless.

"If we see a primordial gravitational wave background, we can no longer say for sure it is due to inflation," said Lawrence Krauss, the Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve.

At the same time the researchers find that gravitational waves are a far more sensitive probe of new physics near the highest energy scale of interest to particle physicists than previously envisaged. Thus their work provides strong motivation for the ongoing quest to detect primordial gravitational radiation.

Krauss, along with Case Western Reserve colleagues Katherine Jones-Smith, a graduate student, and Harsh Mathur, associate professor of physics, present these findings in an article "Nearly Scale Invariant Spectrum of Gravitational Radiation from Global Phase Transitions" published in Physical Review Letters this month.

Inflation theory arose in the 1980s as a means to explain some features of the universe that had previously baffled astronomers such as why the universe is so close to being flat and why it is so uniform. Today, inflation remains the best way to theoretically understand many aspects of the early universe, but most of its predictions are sufficiently malleable that consistency with observation cannot be considered unambiguous confirmation.

Enter gravitational radiation—the key prediction of inflation theory is the presence of a particular spectrum of gravitational radiation. Detection of this spectrum was regarded among physicists as "smoking gun" evidence that inflation did in fact occur, billions of years ago.

In 1992 Krauss, then at Yale, argued that another mechanism besides inflation could give rise to precisely the same spectrum of gravitational radiation as is predicted by inflation. The argument given by Krauss in 1992 provided a rough estimate of the spectrum.

Last year Krauss teamed up with Case Western Reserve colleagues, Jones-Smith, a graduate student in physics, and Mathur, associate professor of physics, to do a more complete calculation. They found that the exact calculation predicts the signal to be much stronger than the rough estimate.

Describing their results, Krauss said, "It is shocking and surprising when you find the answer is 10,000 times bigger than the rough estimate and could possibly produce a signal that mimics the kind produced by inflation."

Gravitational radiation is a prediction of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. According to the theory, whenever large amounts of mass or energy are shifting around, it disrupts the surrounding space-time and ripples emanate from the region where the mass/energy shift.

These space-time ripples, known as gravitational radiation, are imperceptible on the human scale, but highly sensitive experiments (such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, La.) are designed precisely to look for such radiation and are the only hope for detecting them directly.

However, gravitational radiation from the early universe can also be detected indirectly through its effect on the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation (relic radiation from the Big Bang which permeates all space). The radiation from the CMB would become polarized in the presence of gravitational radiation. Detecting such polarized light is the mission of a satellite based experiment (Planck) set to launch in 2009.

The gravitational radiation produced by either inflation or the mechanism proposed by Jones-Smith, Krauss and Mathur would imprint itself on the CMB and be detected as polarization. Until now it was widely believed that a detection of polarized light from the CMB was a "smoking gun" for inflation theory. But with the publication of their recent paper in Physical Review Letters, Krauss and co-workers have raised the issue of whether that polarized light can be unambiguously tied to inflation.

The mechanism proposed by Krauss and coworkers invokes a phenomenon called "symmetry breaking" that is a central part of all theories of fundamental particle physics, including the so-called standard model describing the three non-gravitational forces known to exist. Here, a "scalar field" (similar to an electric or magnetic field) becomes aligned as the universe expands. But as the universe expands each region over which the field is aligned comes into contact with other regions where the field has a different alignment. When that happens the field relaxes into a state where it is aligned over the entire region and in the process of relaxing it emits gravitational radiation.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Susan Griffith | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>