The Guardian: Gravitational waves give Nobel prize committee another headache

21 March, 2014

I have a new article published by The Guardian:


"At least half a dozen scientists are in the frame for a Nobel if the discovery of primordial gravitational waves is confirmed – but only three can get it


If confirmed, the detection by physicists of primordial gravitational waves created in the first moments after the big bang, reported on Monday, will go down in the annals of science as a fundamental breakthrough in our understanding of how the universe began.


A team of American astronomers announced that they had detected the tell-tale signature of "cosmic inflation" using an experiment called Bicep2 – a telescope located under the clear skies of the south pole.


For more than 45 years, inflation has been just a theorist's dream. It is a hypothetical idea used to explain certain characteristics of the universe, in particular why space appears to have more or less the same density of matter everywhere.


The theory postulates that the universe underwent rapid expansion early in its history, doubling its size more than 60 times in the space of less than a second. It is akin to unfolding a crumpled piece of paper. All the wrinkles and defects are smoothed out into a more or less featureless continuum.


If Monday's result proves to be correct then the Nobel committee will almost certainly start reaching for its gongs. So who is in the frame? ..."


You can read the full article here.

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ESA: The Experiment that came in from the Cold

21 March, 2014

I have a new article published by ESA:


"A lost student experiment has been found in the arctic circle by Swedish reindeer hunters. The return of Suaineadh, which tested a deployable structure in space, means that thousands of images and reams of data thought lost can now be analysed to show the experiment’s performance. ..."


You can read the full article here.

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Tags: Satellite

The Day Without Yesterday paperback coming soon

17 March, 2014

The paperback of The Day Without Yesterday will be released on 3 April 2014.


"Europe is marching blindly into the First World War and Berlin is in a storm of nationalist marches and army recruitment. Albert Einstein anticipates the carnage to come when his university colleagues begin work on poison gas to 'shorten the war'. He is also struggling with the collapse of his marriage in the wake of an illicit affair. Increasingly isolated, Einstein finds his academic work sidelined with few people entertaining his outlandish new way of understanding the universe.


Meanwhile, in the trenches of the western front, a devoutly religious young Belgian Georges Lemaître vows to become both a physicist and a Catholic priest if he survives. When the war ends, Einstein does make his breakthrough and is thrust into the international limelight. Lemaître confronts him with a startling concept: that buried in the maths of the theory of relativity is a beginning of space and time, a moment when the universe came into existence - a day without yesterday.


But can the priest be trusted? Or is he simply trying to foist a version of Biblical Genesis onto Einstein's now world famous theory."


If you can't wait for the paperback, you can buy the hardback or the ebook immediately.

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The Guardian: Primordial gravitational wave discovery heralds 'whole new era' in physics

17 March, 2014

I have a new story posted by the Guardian. This is the confirmation of the story I published last Friday that we were on the brink of a major cosmological announcement.


"Scientists have heralded a "whole new era" in physics with the detection of "primordial gravitational waves" – the first tremors of the big bang.


The minuscule ripples in space-time are the last prediction of Albert Einstein's 1916 general theory of relativity to be verified. Until now, there has only been circumstantial evidence of their existence. The discovery also provides a deep connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics, another central pillar of physics.


"This is a genuine breakthrough," says Andrew Pontzen, a cosmologist from University College London who was not involved in the work. "It represents a whole new era in cosmology and physics as well." If the discovery is confirmed, it will almost certainly lead to a Nobel Prize. ..."


Underlining the importance of the story, The Guardian ran this as a front page story on Tuesday 21st's print version of the newspaper.


You can read the full story here.

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The Guardian: What Are Gravitational Waves?

17 March, 2014

I have a new article posted by the Guardian. It is a Q&A designed to help make sense today's astounding cosmological announcement.


"What does the apparent discovery of gravitational waves by the Bicep telescope say about inflation and the big bang?


What are gravitational waves?


Gravitational waves are ripples that carry energy across the universe. They were predicted to exist by Albert Einstein in 1916 as a consequence of his General Theory of Relativity. Although there is strong circumstantial evidence for their existence, gravitational waves have not been directly detected before. This is because they are minuscule – a million times smaller than an atom. They are like tiny waves on a lake – from far away, the lake's surface looks glassy smooth; only up very close can the details of the surface be seen.


Particularly exciting are "primordial" gravitational waves, which were generated in the first moments of the universe's birth. These carry vital information about how the universe began. ..."


You can read the full article here.

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The Guardian: Gravitational waves: have US scientists heard echoes of the big bang?

14 March, 2014

I have an exciting new story posted on The Guardian.


"Discovery of gravitational waves by Bicep telescope at south pole could give scientists insights into how universe was born.


There is intense speculation among cosmologists that a US team is on the verge of confirming they have detected "primordial gravitational waves" – an echo of the big bang in which the universe came into existence 14bn years ago.

Rumours have been rife in the physics community about an announcement due on Monday from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. If there is evidence for gravitational waves, it would be a landmark discovery that would change the face of cosmology and particle physics. ..."


You can read the full story here.

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