"Five sigma." When you're a physicist and founding father of a theory that has gone unproven over the course of thirty years, there are few words better to hear. And those are the words that greeted Stanford professor Andrei Linde—the first to describe the chaotic inflation theory—when he opened his door for Chao-Lin Kuo, a Stanford professor who had come to personally deliver the news that Linde had been correct about the universe's first moments all along.*
Kuo was part of the team who recently found evidence of the universe's rapid expansion immediately following the big bang, an event that Linde had long been sure had occurred. The findings of Kuo's team—which had been led by John M. Kovac—were enough to declare that Linde's theory had been proved correct with a confidence level of five sigma, the highest possible.
"If this is true, this is a moment of understanding of nature of such a magnitude that it just overwhelms," Linde said, after hearing the news from Kuo. "Thank you so much for doing it." You can watch the video of Linde's vindication above.
Elsewhere in Slate: Phil Plait breaks down the big science news.
Corrections, March 20, 2014: This post previously misspelled the name of Stanford University and misidentified Chao-Lin Kuo as an astronomer for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics—he is employed by Stanford.