The cosmic microwave background (CMB) serves as a "backlight" throughout the evolution of the universe, encoding details of physics at energies up to a trillion times higher than any accessible to particle accelerators. New instrumentation now offers the tantalizing possibility of detecting the "smoking gun" signature of primordial inflation through its imprint on the linear polarization of the microwave background. A positive detection would have profound consequences for both cosmology and high-energy physics. It would not only establish inflation as a physical reality, but would probe physics at energies approaching Grand Unification. I will present the scientific motivation behind measurements of the CMB polarization and discuss how recent experimental progress could lead to a detection in the not-very-distant future.
Location: Physics Bldg., Room 401