Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Learn more about the birth of the universe

The afterglow of the Big Bang is being studied in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the birth of the universe. File photo / NZ Herald
The afterglow of the Big Bang is being studied in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the birth of the universe. File photo / NZ Herald

People curious about the universe will be able to hear directly from one of the scientists claiming to have discovered lingering evidence from its birth 13.7 billion years ago.

The University of Auckland will this Saturday live-stream an event from the World Science Festival in New York, where leading cosmologists are gathering to discuss a recently announced development in ongoing research to understand the moment our universe was created.

In New York, Harvard University's Professor John Kovac, Amber Miller from Columbia University, Alan Guth from MIT, Andrei Linde from Stanford University and Paul Steinhardt from Princeton will speak about the newly claimed discovery of "gravitational waves".

Professor Kovac is one of the leaders of team of scientists that built BICEP2, a dedicated telescope at the South Pole which scans the sky in microwave frequencies, studying the "afterglow" of the Big Bang.

Recently, the BICEP2 team announced it had found evidence that the universe was bathed in gravitational waves, ripples in space itself, generated moments after the Big Bang.

This claim is proving to be controversial but, if true, it would prove the Big Bang was followed by a phase of ultra-rapid growth known as inflation.

"If the BICEP2 claims hold up, we will have to write a new chapter in textbooks about the Big Bang," said Auckland University's head of physics, Professor Richard Easther.

"It's hard to over-state how big the stakes are for Kovac and his team -- they are really asking how the universe began," he said.

"If theories of inflation are proved, then this has huge implications for our understanding of both the origin of the universe and fundamental particle physics."

Following the panel discussion, Professor Easther will host a question and answer session.

The World Science Festival produced some of the world's most exciting programmes that connect the general public with science, so it was exciting for the university to be able to partner with them to live-stream the event, he said.

"It's great to be able to bring this to Auckland."

The Auckland event is open to the public and will be held at the university's Fisher and Paykel Auditorium at the Owen G Glenn Business School at 5 Grafton Rd from noon.

Refreshments will be available from the Business School's Excel cafe both before and after the event.

People keen to attend can register now at wsf2014.eventbrite.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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