Inflation epoch hopes dashed again!

In March 2014 a team of astrophysicists announced to the world, through a public press release, that they had made the biggest discovery of the 21st century. Using the BICEP2, a telescope located at the South Pole they claimed that they had discovered evidence of the early inflation epoch of the big-bang universe. In several articles I mentioned that not only I but also other physicists doubted that this would bear out. Some suggested it was dust emission from within our galaxy that caused the particular B-mode polarization of the photons in the CMB, which was their claimed signature of the putative epoch of inflation.

Map showing the tiny variations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) observed by Europe's Planck satellite.  Credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

Map showing the tiny variations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) observed by Europe’s Planck satellite.
Credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

Then it was revealed that the authors of the claimed biggest astrophysics discovery of the century admit they may have been wrong. On  June 20th, 2014, the BICEP2 Collaboration published a paper published in Physical Review Letters,1 making their claim. It was 25 pages long but with a half-page disclaimer saying they might be wrong and they would have to wait the outcome of the data analysis of the Planck satellite team looking at the same region of the sky and the same frequencies.

Well, that has now been published, and it’s not good news for the BICEP2 team.

Unfortunately, according to our analysis, the effect of contaminants and in particular of gases present in our galaxy cannot be ruled out,” said co-author Carlo Baccigalupi of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy.2

Though it must be stated the new analysis does not rule out the possibility that BICEP2 team did detect the signature of primordial gravitational waves.  The Planck scientific team is working with the BICEP2 team to see if they can rescue their result.

Regardless of what is eventually claimed cosmology, by its very nature, cannot provide some unique proof for what they seek.

Cosmology is not even astrophysics: all the principal assumptions in this field are unverified (or unverifiable) in the laboratory … . Hence the promise of using the Universe as a laboratory from which new incorruptible physical laws may be established without the support of laboratory experiments is preposterous … .” 3

(Thanks Sean)

References

  1. Ade, P. A. R., et al. (BICEP2 Collaboration), Detection of B-Mode Polarization at Degree Angular Scales by BICEP2, Phys. Rev. Lett., 112: 241101 (2014)
  2. Wall, M., Epic Big Bang Discovery Might Just Be Space Dust, 23 September 2014
  3. Lieu, R., LCDM cosmology: how much suppression of credible evidence, and does the model really lead its competitors, using all evidence? 17 May 2007; preprint available at arxiv.org/pdf/0705.2462v1

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