Alan Guth, the MIT physicist who scrawled the words “spectacular realization” in his notebook more than three decades ago after working out some of the details of the first split-seconds of the universe, has been awarded the prestigious Kavli Prize in Astrophysics.
The $1 million prize is being awarded for Guth’s work on the theory of inflation, which explains the “bang” of the Big Bang. That theory was recently thought by many to be confirmed by an experiment at the South Pole that detected a particular swirly polarization pattern in the early light of the universe.
Recently, however, scientists have raised questions about whether there might be other explanations for the polarization pattern the team detected. New evidence suggests that what appeared to be the smoking gun for inflation might be explained by something simpler and more mundane — dust.
Guth told the journal Nature that new results raise questions about how to interpret the results from the South Pole experiment, called BICEP-2.
“I had thought that the result was very secure,” Guth told Nature. “Now the situation has changed.”
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