Tuesday, June 03, 2014

BICEP2: Inflation's Bubble Has Burst

I have refrained from commenting on the BICEP2 hype in March. The investigators claimed to have detected a pattern of B-Mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background. They claimed that this pattern was from gravitational waves predicted by the old inflation idea. Immediately there was talk in the press of Nobel prizes for BICEP2 and the originators of inflation. From the start many of us who understand the CMB questioned this result.

The WMAP data release of 2003 was also claimed to "prove" inflation, but that hype fizzled away. Getting results from the CMB is extremely difficult, because the background noise is many times more powerful than the signal. The CMB is subject to many interpretations.

Polarization in the CMB is difficult to decipher because foreground dust and gravitational lensing also produce polarization, which will mask anything from the early universe. Even if polarization was detected, it is not necessarily from gravitational waves.

No experiment has ever detected gravitational waves. Some theorists doubt that they are detectable or even exist. Other phenomena could theoretically cause gravitational waves, not necessarily inflation.

In the past 3 weeks the bubble of inflation has burst. Rumours reached the web from a fellow blogger and physicist in Resonaances that the data was suspect. The backgrounds were not properly removed because the BICEP2 team did not have access to raw data from the PLANCK spacecraft. BICEP2 STOLE a slide that the PLANCK team had shown at a conference and placed on the web. They "scraped" data from the pdf slide and reconstructed data from that. They did not notice the note "Not CIB subtracted" indicating that the cosmic infrared background had not been removed from the slide. BICEP2 announced their results by press conference before a peer-reviewed paper was published, triggering a frenzy in the press. 2.5 months later the paper has still not appeared.

To their credit, the press has been quick to notice that they were taken for a ride:

Nature.com: No evidence for or against gravitational waves

Time.com:Cosmic Deflation: Doubts Raised Over Blockbuster Big Bang Study

The Independent: Big Bang 'echoes' that proved Einstein correct might just have been space dust, admit scientists

Science News: Dustup emerges over gravitational waves discovery

Inflation continues to erode the credibility of science. Since it would have occurred in the first 10^(-33) seconds of the Universe, inflation can never be proven. No conceivable experiment can approach the titanic densities and energies so close to the Big Bang. An idea that is not testable is not a theory and is not science.

GM=tc^3, a child could figure it out!


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