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When a team of scientists gathered last Monday to announce they had detected primordial ripples in space-time that emanated from the Big Bang, what got lost in the news was the process. How did this team, led by four scientists scattered across the United States and using a small telescope at the South Pole, arrive at this stunning conclusion?
It isn’t like the universe just lays down its hand and shows its cards because the right kind of telescope has been built; a delicate measurement like this one requires persistence and skepticism and months of work to make sure it isn’t an artifact.
At the press conference, I asked the panel when and how they each grasped that they might actually be detecting the signal they were seeking. Here’s what “Aha!” really sounds like.