New Scientist: Big bang breakthrough: Who is the father of inflation?

25 March, 2014

I have a new story published by New Scientist today. For me, it was a particular thrill to swap detailed emails with physicist Alexei Starobinsky, who predicted the gravitational waves way back in 1979. His extraordinary theoretical insight has been vindicated by this new discovery. I so wanted to call this article 'Who's the daddy?'

 

"The first clear glimpse of ripples in space-time, known as gravitational waves, is being widely hailed as validation for inflation, the notion that the baby universe ballooned in size mind-bendingly fast just after the big bang. Reported last week, the discovery may earn some scientists a Nobel prize if confirmed by further experiments. But who are the founders of inflation?

 

Like the Higgs boson, which was hypothesised in various forms by several groups around the same time, it turns out that inflation has many fathers. That's partly because it draws on many disparate ideas in physics and cosmology. ..."

 

You can read the full story here.


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ESA: Choosing the ExoMars 2018 Landing Site

25 March, 2014

I have a new article published on the ESA website:

 

"The surface area of Mars is approximately 145 million square kilometres, almost the same area as the Earth's land masses. Imagine having to choose just one spot to land on and call home. Selecting the right place could mean the difference between achieving your scientific goals and failure. That's one of the tasks facing ESA and Roscosmos with their 2018 ExoMars mission.

 

Fortunately, planetary scientists have now spent decades studying Mars. They have used an array of increasingly sophisticated orbiters and rovers, and accumulated a vast library of images and information. Sifting through these data will help them guide the mission to a scientifically interesting place on the planet. ..."

 

You can read the full article here.


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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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