The Power of Curiosity

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Science  02 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6183, pp. 449
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255182

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In March of 2014, 47 scientists from 15 institutions (including my own) announced that a South Pole–based microwave telescope had taken us back to a time when the universe was 10−38 seconds old—when everything that we can see today occupied a space much smaller than that occupied by a proton, and when the energy level of the universe was a trillion times greater than that produced by the world's most powerful accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Assuming that this amazing discovery by the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2) collaboration is confirmed, this cosmic remnant beats the previous record holder for earliest fossil of our cosmic birth (the helium and deuterium made when the universe was seconds old) by 38 orders of magnitude. Rarely has science advanced by such a giant leap, and it will take us years if not decades to fully comprehend all the implications of this incredible moment in science. Although we are used to cosmology stunning us with beautiful images and mind-stretching discoveries such as dark energy and dark matter, even this cosmologist with almost 40 years of experience was awed and shocked by this big, big find.