Big Bust: “Evidence” for Big Bang recanted
In March 2014, a team of scientists from more than a hundred universities around the world announced during a press conference that they had detected gravitational waves believed to have been created by inflation during the very earliest moments after the Big Bang. By January 2015, the claim was recanted because of “no conclusive evidence of primordial gravitational waves.” In fact, it was found the signal detected corresponded mostly to galactic dust.
- In March 2014, a team of scientists from more than a hundred universities around the world collaborating through the BICEP2 project announced to the world a monumental discovery: They had observed primordial gravitational waves they believed originated instants after the universe had originated through a big bang. (Cowen 2014) (P. A. R. Ade 2014)
- The discovery was hailed as of one of the biggest in science history. News of the conclusions were highly publicized in mainstream media and scientific sites/magazines with headlines such as “Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun” by the New York Times.
- In January 2015, the European Space Agency (ESA) reported: “Despite earlier reports of a possible detection, a joint analysis of data from ESA’s Planck satellite and the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments has found no conclusive evidence of primordial gravitational waves.” (www.esa.int 2015)
- It is clear now that most of the signal reported initially as gravitational waves was in reality, intergalactic dust. (www.esa.int 2015)
- Problems in the methodology and conclusions made by BICEP2 had been pointed out by voices in the scientific community. Dr. Paul Steinhardt, professor of Physics at Princeton University stated in December 2014: “by the standard rules of scientific methodology, there can be no claim by BICEP2 of detecting primordial gravitational waves” (Horgan 2014)
- Dr. Steinhardt goes one step further and points to a more fundamental problem when considering the theory of inflation as a whole: “...the inflationary paradigm is fundamentally untestable, and hence scientifically meaningless.” (Steinhardt 2014)
In spite of initial claims of evidence of Big bang’s inflation through the detection of primordial gravitational waves, it has been confirmed that the signal detected by the scientists corresponds mostly to intergalactic dust among other effects. Even though inflation is the prevailing accepted theory among physicists today, evidence for it is yet to be found [see post on theory of Inflation].
Submitted by Johnny R. Maury-Evertsz, M.Sc.
Ade et al. (BICEP2 Collaboration) (2014). Detection of B-Mode Polarization at Degree Angular Scales by BICEP2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 241101 (June 19, 2014). Cowen, R. Telescope captures view of gravitational waves. Nature 507, 281–283 (March 20, 2014) Overbye, D. Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun. New York Times (March 17, 2014).
Horgan, J. Physicist Paul Steinhardt Slams Inflation, Cosmic Theory He Helped Conceive. ScientificAmerican.com (December 1st, 2014).
Steinhardt, P. Big Bang blunder bursts the multiverse bubble. Nature, (June 3, 2014)
www.esa.int (2015) Planck: gravitational waves remain elusive. Article in European Space Agency website, January 30th, 2015.