Vid Returning soldiers with children running into their arms. The look of shock during a birth or marriage proposal. Thanks to the ubiquity of phones, cameras and social networks, you're never far from a reaction shot online. And occasionally these snaps swerve around Facebook walls and into the history books.
The BICEP2 team spent three years checking its facts before yesterday announcing the sighting of the first gravitational waves generated the moment after the universe as we know it blinked into existence 13.8bn years ago – a breakthrough that supports the inflationary theory of the Big Bang. When the decision was made to publish, the BICEP2 boffins told the scientist who developed the cosmic inflation theory, and caught the moment on tape.
Assistant Professor Chao-Lin Kuo turned up unexpectedly at the house of Andrei Linde, who Kuo described as “the founding father of inflation." (That's pushing it a bit as Alan Guth has arguably more claim to that title.)
The observations revealed by the BICEP2 boffins throw a huge amount of weight behind Linde's 1980s papers on inflation, which explain how the universe came into being in the first trillionths of a second of creation. The team reported a 5 sigma proof, meaning the odds of getting this kind of result, even if the theory was wrong, are just one in 3.5 million.
Here's the reaction:
Linde, and his wife Renata Kallosh, who is professor of physics at Stanford, took the news well – Mrs Kallosh hugged Kuo as Linde asked for repeated confirmation before breaking open a bottle of bubbly.
"If this is true it's a moment of understanding of nature of such a magnitude that it overwhelms," Linde said. "Let's just hope that it's not a trick." ®