Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flex Your BICEP

... or in this case, BICEP2.

The recent BICEP2 results seem to have caught a lot of media attention. News coverage ranges from NY Times to CNN, etc. And let's face it, this isn't easy to understand even if the news media coverage glosses over the physics on why this is such an important discovery.

To add to the body of "explanation" given out there, here's MinutePhysics version of it.

With all the euphoria surrounding this, Neil Turok voice his caution to all the brouhaha surrounding this result.

"If...and it's a big if...this is true, it would be spectacular evidence for what happened at the Big Bang," Turok told While he agreed that at first glance, the BICEP2 observations are in keeping with inflation "as suggested over 30 years ago, wherein space–time would resonate with the aftershocks of inflation and would ring like a bell", a closer look at the discrepancy between the new results and previous data from the Planck and WMAP telescopes is what worries Turok. Indeed, the tensor-to-scalar ratio of 0.20 that BICEP2 measured is considered to be significantly larger than that expected from previous analyses of data. But the BICEP2 researchers said in their press conference yesterday that they believe certain tweaks could be made to an extension of the ΛCDM cosmological model that could make the two results agree. 

As with ALL experimental observations and discovery, there has to be reproducibility, and agreement with other types of experiments that point to one single, consistent picture. This is what makes science different than other areas of human endeavor. We NEVER confirm something with just one single experiment or with just one single type of experiment. Superconductivity is confirmed with resistivity measurement and magnetic susceptibility measurement.

So while this is certainly a major discovery, there's a lot of hard work left to be done to confirm this observation.


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