It's a wonderful moment in any scientist's career when they are informed that their bedrock theory is proven (or, at least, when they are told of strong observational evidence that supports their theory). So when Stanford University's Chao-Lin Kuo, a collaborator with the South Pole BICEP2 experiment, made a recent house call, the moment was priceless.
ANALYSIS: Big Bang, Inflation, Gravitational Waves: What It Means
In this case, when Kuo met with Andrei Linde, Stanford professor and one of the key authors of the famous inflationary universe theory, a historic moment was captured on camera.
"So I have a surprise for you," Kuo said to a confused Linde and his wife Renata Kallosh, also a theoretical physics professor at Stanford, on their doorstep. "It's five sigma."
"Discovery?" an emotional Kallosh asked as she hugged Kuo.
"What?!" said an equally emotional and shocked Linde. Kuo then repeated the result that BICEP2 had made a 5σ discovery of gravitational waves that supports Linde's theory of inflation.
As announced today, the first observational evidence for the existence of gravitational waves has been acquired by BICEP2. But this isn't a preliminary finding, this is a bona fide discovery to a probability of 5σ - considered to be the "gold standard" of certainty. The discovery means that BICEP2 has observed gravitational waves that were first created in the first "billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a millionth of a second after the Big Bang," said Linde. He went on to explain that this is evidence of quantum gravity during the period of rapid inflation after the Big Bang spawned the Universe.
Thank you Stanford for releasing this video, it's a very privileged and special look into the emotion and excitement behind physics and the people who are working at the very edge of our modern understanding of the Universe.
Read more Discovery News coverage about this historic discovery:
Big Bang's Smoking Gun Found Big Bang, Inflation, Gravitational Waves: What It Means