Dr. Kovac said the chance that the results were a fluke was only one in 10 million.
Eschewing email for fear of a leak, Dr. Kovac personally delivered drafts of his work to a select few, meeting with Dr. Guth, who is now a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in his office last week.
Rei Linde of Stanford, a prolific theorist who first described the most popular variant of inflation, known as chaotic inflation, in 1983, was about to go on vacation in the Caribbean last week when Chao-Lin Kuo, a Stanford colleague and a member of Dr. Kovac’s team, knocked on his door with a bottle of Champagne to tell him the news.
“The South Pole is the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground,” Dr. Kovac said.
A Special Time.The data traced the onset of inflation to a time that physicists like Dr. Guth, staying up late in his Palo Alto house 35 years ago, suspected was a special break point in the evolution of the universe.
“It’s often said that there is no such thing as a free lunch,” Dr. Guth likes to say, “But the universe might be the ultimate free lunch.”
Most of the hundred or so models resulting from Dr. Guth’s original vision suggest that inflation, once started, is eternal.