The beginning of everything — when our universe expanded faster than the speed of light Astronomers announced Monday (March 17) that they have discovered a telltale signature of gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the light left over from the universe’s birth 13.8 billion years ago.

The new results suggest that space-time really did expand at many times the speed of light in the first few tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang, as predicted by the theory of cosmic inflation, researchers say.

That may seem impossible, since Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity holds that nothing can travel faster than light. That rule, however, applies only to matter and information moving through space, not to the expansion of space-time itself. [Continue reading…] The new research also lends credence to the idea of a multiverse. This theory posits that, when the universe grew exponentially in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, some parts of space-time expanded more quickly than others. This could have created “bubbles” of space-time that then developed into other universes. The known universe has its own laws of physics, while other universes could have different laws, according to the multiverse concept.

“It’s hard to build models of inflation that don’t lead to a multiverse,” Alan Guth, an MIT theoretical physicist unaffiliated with the new study, said during a news conference Monday. “It’s not impossible, so I think there’s still certainly research that needs to be done. But most models of inflation do lead to a multiverse, and evidence for inflation will be pushing us in the direction of taking [the idea of a] multiverse seriously.” [Continue reading…]

Click “Read more” link to see a “Cosmic Inflation” infographic.

Infographic: How the cosmic force of inflation enlarged the early universe.

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