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Last Week's Announcement About Gravitational Waves and Inflation May Be Wrong

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the not-so-fast dept.

Space 194

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "If you've been living under a stone, you might not have heard last week's announcement that astrophysicists from the BICEP2 experiment have found the first evidence of two extraordinary things. The first is primordial gravitational waves--ripples in spacetime from the very first moments after the Big Bang. The second is that these waves are evidence of inflation, the theory that the universe expanded rapidly, by twenty orders of magnitude in the blink of an eye after the Big Bang. But that can only be possible if the gravitational waves formed before inflation occurred. Now critics have begun to mutter that the waves might have formed later and so provide no evidence of inflation. The new thinking is that as the universe cooled down after inflation, various phase changes occurred in the Universe which generated the laws of physics we see today. These phase changes would have been violent events that generated their own ripples in space time, which would look very much like the primordial gravitational waves that the BICEP2 team claims to have found. So the BICEP2 team must rule out this possibility before they can claim evidence of inflation. But the critics say the data does not yet allow this to be done. That doesn't mean inflation didn't occur. Indeed, the critics say this is still the most likely explanation. But until the phase change possibility is ruled out, the result must be considered ambiguous. So put the champagne back in the fridge."

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Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563003)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (2)

Langalf (557561) | about 7 months ago | (#46563673)

My question is, do these ACs PURPOSEFULLY misquote this song? By now, everyone should know that the last word in the first stanza is "confidant"; enough people have pointed it out. Or, is this just a 'bot with a fixed text file that is never updated?

Re:Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 7 months ago | (#46563863)

This is Slashdot - if the last word of the song was confidant then it wouldnt be on topic.

Its like "Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard"

or
California Dreaming, I've got your Womans Day

Re:Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (1)

Langalf (557561) | about 7 months ago | (#46564019)

Oh, those are great. Thank you for making a bright spot in my Monday morning. :)

Re:Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (1)

gmagill (105538) | about 7 months ago | (#46564265)

There's a bathroom on the right.

Re:Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (2)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 7 months ago | (#46565199)

Another one: "'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy."

This is known as a Mondegreen. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563909)

It's typed in manually each time. There are other golden girls posts with misspellings. Oh and please don't feed the trolls.

Are you fucking stupid? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46565049)

Derp. Your UID is as low as mine was before I killed the account. I made that god damn account back in the mid-nineties. Are you meta-trolling or something? Because you got me.

No confirmation (5, Insightful)

cciechad (602504) | about 7 months ago | (#46563007)

Um also this is one experiment with no confirmation yet. No one else has repeated the results as of yet so how about putting the champagne away until another group of experimenters confirms?

Re:No confirmation (5, Funny)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 7 months ago | (#46563057)

Look at what that champagne (& other stuff) cost you last week compared to a few years ago; that's proof of inflation right there...

Re:No confirmation (5, Funny)

bigpat (158134) | about 7 months ago | (#46563133)

We are just going to have to recreate another big bang and then see what happens and therefore settle this debate once and for all.

Re:No confirmation (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563323)

Never been a problem with the Climate "Scientists"

Re:No confirmation (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46563363)

Oh yeah, because controlled experiments haven't established any of the laws being applied, right?

Are you a moron who'd say "we don't know what gravity on Jupiter is like because we haven't experimented there"?

No? Then why are you a moron who says "Carbon dioxide doesn't retain heat on a planetary scale because our experiments that clearly establish that mechanism have only been on a small scale"?

Observational evidence is evidence, and controlled experiments are only necessary for the process of establishing and challenging the laws that we use to assess the real world.

Re:No confirmation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563437)

Wow, someone is butthurt. Need some crem for that?

You're the moron (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563541)

Gravity has been tested millions of times in environments that any sane person would say are reasonable. This is a one time affair at data analysis. If you're so afraid that these results are going to be questioned then you must think the premise of this experiment is weak. Otherwise you'd just shrug it off.
 
You bad mouth others but you're really an ass yourself.

Please do not feed the trolls. (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564095)

It makes them reliant upon human feeding to survive.

Re:No confirmation (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564687)

I am amused by AGW Apparatchiks. Because that's what AGW is, a political movement, not science and not religion.

It seeks to control what people drive, where they drive, when they drive, where they live, what they use to fuel the vehicles, heat their homes, cool their homes, etc. etc. etc. Using these controls, they want to move on to wealth distribution because they can argue that wealthier people produce more C02 (But they ignore Algore and China because they are politically correct)

And it has the stink of totalitarianism to it. Some what to send "deniers" to jail [hotair.com]

The very fact they use "denier" stinks of political condemnation by the Global Warming Nazis.

Major newspapers censors dissenting opinions [foxnews.com]

Carbon taxes seek to punish industries that have broken no laws and has put people out of work.

And the science of it is laughable. Computer models drive all the predictions of doom and gloom. Funny thing is, they can't predict the past and they certainly haven't predicted the future...at least the last 17 years. So they move the goal posts. First, it was 5 years doesn't show no warming, that takes 10 years. Then after ten years, it was 15. After 15, It's now...what? Who knows? If they were smart, they'd go for 100, just to be safe.

Global Warming is to Science what Piers Anthony is to Journalism; a side show of freaks and grant seekers.

 

Re:No confirmation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46565089)

Don't know who AGW are - don't really care. I'm not a US citizen so the 'totalitarianism' and promotion of FOX as a news organisation I don't get. I will agree that jailing anyone for their opinion is wrong but so is calling anyone a Nazi who isn't.

Cars, industry and what not spew pollution into the air. That pollution is not healthy to human beings. So lets try and make the world less polluted - we are living here after all. Stop focusing on proving other people wrong in favor of providing solutions of your own.

Re:No confirmation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564985)

Because a box in a lab is just like the earth's atmosphere in its entirety.

Do you really think a lab experiment scales up by factors of millions and magically included the millions of variables that the earth's atmosphere encounters?

Delusional.

Re:No confirmation (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#46563435)

That's not really true. There are multiple, competing models and they use multiple data sets to determine historical conditions. While it is true that climate science can never be as rigorously instrumented as theoretical physics, it does not mean that they cannot follow the scientific method.

The worst science I've seen in the climate area have been people throwing out simple correlations. Everyone who bothers to build a more complicated model seems to trend toward consensus.

Re:No confirmation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564325)

No problem. Do you have a spare proto-universe that we can inflate for the confirmation experiment?

Re:No confirmation (4, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 7 months ago | (#46564407)

It sounds like this is actually sort of the confirmation.

Last year, another telescope in Antarctica — the South Pole Telescope (SPT) — became the first observatory to detect a B-mode polarization in the CMB (see Nature http://doi.org/rwt [doi.org] ; 2013). That signal, however, was over angular scales of less than one degree (about twice the apparent size of the Moon in the sky), and was attributed to how galaxies in the foreground curve the space through which the CMB travels (D. Hanson et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 141301; 2013). But the signal from primordial gravitational waves is expected to peak at angular scales between one and five degrees...

Furthermore, data taken with a newer, more sensitive polarization experiment, the Keck array, which the team finished installing at the South Pole in 2012 and will continue operating for two more years, showed the same characteristics. “To see this same signal emerge from two other, different telescopes was for us very convincing,” says Kovac.

Nature [nature.com]

So it's not just one experiment, there are multiple other readings that support it, though I guess a complete experiment duplication is not yet complete. That nature article mentions that the SPT is a competitor to BICEP2, which published the findings, and they were literally a few meters away at the south pole. So I'd assume that SPT and maybe some other competitor is most of the way to confirming the findings, enough that they were confident in publishing.

That said, I'm totally not a physicist. It just sounds like this isn't a single experiment.

Re:No confirmation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46565053)

the original experiment used 3 different types of detectors using very different techniques and got the same results.

another team of people should still replicate the results of course but to dismiss this is a just 'one experiment' isn't justified.

Phase changes (5, Insightful)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 7 months ago | (#46563031)

I think phase changes on a universal scale is an amazing thing to ponder.

Re:Phase changes (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#46563117)

Absolutely. Regardless of whether the results confirm or are consistent with the theory of Inflation, the every existence of coherant structure the scale of the universe itself is an amazing result. By default, there is no reason to expect any structure whatsoever at the highest cosmic sale. (I would argue that up to now this, there was essentially no struture to the CMB)

Yet here we have "waves" of polarisation over a gigantic region of the night sky. The Universe has uniform strutures at the most enormous scales. It's a deep and awesome result that must be addressed, by inflation or whatever other theory we can propose for it.

Re:Phase changes (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#46563537)

Now imagine phase changes on a multiversal scale. All those infinite chaotic dimensions then BLAM a few align such that their properties harmonize and propagate in a brilliant momentary flash before returning to chaos time and again like fireworks and then the energy density becomes low enough that the explosions stop among some dimensions and yet occur among others, and one of those final big bangs was this universe wherein at the smallest levels of reality we see the infinitely differentiable quantum uncertain foam from which chaotic energy crystallizes into matter momentarily and is destroyed in tiny little flashes, like fireworks, before returning to the chaos.

Now imagine phase changes on a gigaversal scale... For this experiment beings aware of less than 12 dimensions will need a visual aid. You'll need to wrap your cognitive locus in tin-foil and have access to an old microwave oven. A turn table is optional -- it's the lamp and timer's "Ding" that's most important.

Re:Phase changes (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 7 months ago | (#46564277)

Who let Vortex have sugar, people?

Re:Phase changes (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about 7 months ago | (#46563913)

I think phase changes on a universal scale is an amazing thing to ponder.

When we're talking about the moments after the Big Bang, a "universal scale" is actually quite tiny ;)

Re:Phase changes (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 7 months ago | (#46564327)

Nope, those phase changes must be after Inflation, when the Universe was already quite big.

What a crock of shit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563049)

This is un-provable and wild and rampant speculation. Keep twisting the evidence to support your beliefs, meanwhile I will worship God and be granted life Everlasting. You, on the other hand, will burn in the Pit.

Re:What a crock of shit. (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 7 months ago | (#46563151)

You, on the other hand, will burn in the Pit.

At least I'll be warm compared to the frozen wasteland your God has created on Earth.

Re:What a crock of shit. (3, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#46563225)

This is un-provable and wild and rampant speculation. Keep twisting the evidence to support your beliefs, meanwhile I will worship God and be granted life Everlasting. You, on the other hand, will burn in the Pit.

Have you heard the bitchin' news?! I reject your god because I don't need some elitist hipster cloud club. I've had my fill of standing in lines and getting judged at the door in this life, screw doing it again in the next. So, I bought my front-row ticket to the hottest show in Earth because all the good bands and fun people will be there.

You may be interested in my pamphlet, "So, you've decided to go to Hell."

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563243)

Successful troll is successful.

Re:What a crock of shit. (1)

celticryan (887773) | about 7 months ago | (#46563367)

Have you heard the bitchin' news?! I reject your god because I don't need some elitist hipster cloud club. I've had my fill of standing in lines and getting judged at the door in this life, screw doing it again in the next. So, I bought my front-row ticket to the hottest show in Earth because all the good bands and fun people will be there.

You may be interested in my pamphlet, "So, you've decided to go to Hell."

This made me so very happy! Well done!

Re:What a crock of shit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564079)

I bought my front-row ticket to the hottest show in Earth because all the good bands and fun people will be there.

So after standing in the majesty of God's glorious presence for judgement, you will be happy when He, your true Father, grants your fervent desire to be separated from Him for eternity? Sure, the first thousand years might be a great party, but without the eternal wellspring of creativity that is God, eternity separated from Him will become brutal as lost souls and demons look for new experiences, and debasement and torture will be the way it happens eventually. Then maybe infinite boredom once every possible experience has been had with the limited resources available. Contrast this with being with the omnipotent and omniscient Creator. Heaven won't be sitting around playing a harp all day, it will be an eternal adventure of exploration into God's creative will.

An illusion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563067)

Or perhaps our universe is still expanding at the same rate along with relative time? In other words, perhaps when you look back far enough, what is being seen is something of a mirage. Basically, the universe is infinite.

Re:An illusion (1)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | about 7 months ago | (#46564085)

I've often wondered something similar myself (but I was too lazy to become a physicist). What if the universe is infinite and inflation is simply the result of a 'local' (e.g. at least a 15 billion light year radius) eddy in the flow of infinite space/time.

If you want to know bring some marijuana.

Re:An illusion (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564141)

Thank you.

Equally valid - when we see "evidence" of accelerating expansion at the "edge" of the Universe - when did that expansion actually take place?. For bonus points - how far apart were those distant points in space back when they emitted the light we're observing now?

Re:An illusion (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 7 months ago | (#46565267)

The dominant model of cosmology holds that the universe is infinite. The observable universe is finite, because the universe apparently has a finite age (and the speed of light, of course, is also finite).

only organized criminals and Government have guns. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563071)

The Government should only allow organized criminals and the Government to have guns. Everything else is simply too dangerous. Too Undemocratic.

Joseph Goebbels is alive and well! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563077)

Scientist need to stick with their phony promotion of global warming. You have uttered Joseph Goebbels' lie so much that you are getting foolish people to believe it.

Creationisticism (5, Insightful)

dingleberrie (545813) | about 7 months ago | (#46563087)

This aspect of the story is great as an example of science.
It seems stubborn to hold onto a single interpretation of evidence during pursuit a theory, including the origin of the universe.
Science is the willingness to relegate that evidence to be less significant than what some people want it to be.
When you won't relegate the evidence, then you are practicing faith (in the evidence) instead of science.

Re:Creationisticism (1)

magsol (1406749) | about 7 months ago | (#46563201)

No, science is the willingness to relegate interpretations of evidence to be less significant than what some people want it to be. The evidence itself is pretty clear; what the scientists potentially got wrong is the interpretation. Suiting evidence to specific theories (as opposed to the other way around) is when you start practicing faith instead of science.

Re:Creationisticism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563247)

"The evidence itself is pretty clear..."

Is it? It sounds like this is based off only one line of evidence analyzed by a single group. I may be wrong about that, but if not I think it is premature to call the evidence "clear".

Re:Creationisticism (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 months ago | (#46563353)

I'm not sure you're criticism is valid. He said, "Science is the willingness to relegate that evidence to be less significant than what some people want it to be."

I don't think he was saying that valid evidence would be dismissed because it didn't fit the theory, but that it would be admitted to be less significant if it's found to insufficient to support the theory.

Re:Creationisticism (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563359)

It seems stubborn to hold onto a single interpretation of evidence during pursuit a theory

Unless you are a Climate Scientist.

Science is the willingness to relegate that evidence to be less significant than what some people want it to be.

Unless that "evidence" consists of output from computer models.

When you won't relegate the evidence, then you are practicing faith (Climate Science) instead of science.

Re:Creationisticism (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46563671)

Ridiculous. The creationists, anti-vaccination advocates, anti-global warming people, bigfoot hunters and investigators of Atlantis all tell me that scientists totes agree with each other on everything and never succeed by competing and challenging each other's ideas. That many quacks can't possibly be wrong about everything.

Re:Creationisticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564067)

"the science is settled"

Most people do not practice 'science' they practice faith. It is just a matter of who they place their faith in. Even you. You have even dismissed their ideas as 'quacks' just because it does not fit your faith.

As a computer scientist I play games with my fellow programmers. We challenge each other to write bad code. Something like write a binary sort using gotos only and DOS batch script. Why on earth would you do such a stupid thing? To recognize things that are wrong you need to know how to do them. If I out of hand dismiss the challenge, I learn nothing and put my faith in myself that I am better than that. Sometimes you even find better ways to do things.

Dont be so narrow minded you squish out your brain.

Re:Creationisticism (1)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | about 7 months ago | (#46564121)

Yip. If you want to know the truth you have to do the research yourself (so I've been told). http://www.davidicke.com/ [davidicke.com] is apparently the place to start.

Re:Creationisticism (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564187)

Faith - the evidence of things unseen.

Science - evidence and knowledge of the unseen supported by understanding what is seen.

I notice that faith talks about things unseen, but doesn't mention how they know about these unseen things (heaven, hell, G*d, etc.). Science also talks about things unseen all the time - but only in the context of what we know. Faith quite handily skips that inconvenient reliance on facts.

Physics vs Medical/Social Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563123)

It is interesting how different the fields are just due to the presence of theories making exact predictions. In this case they seem to be ruling out what is predicted by each theory as people think them up. In the other fields it is not yet possible to make exact predictions like that, so the researchers disprove hypotheses that no one really believes "two groups are the same". Mathematically the statistics are the same, but the latter provides evidence that is so weak in comparison due to the presence of obvious alternative explanations for a difference between two groups. Essentially if anything goes wrong with the experiment it is going to yield results consistent with a theory predicting group differences, while in the physics case if anything goes wrong the theory is not supported.

I think last week's announcement was correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563147)

Of course there was massive inflation immediately after the big bang. The universe printed way too much money.

Re:I think last week's announcement was correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563329)

Of course there was massive inflation immediately after the big bang. The universe printed way too much money.

How else was it going to pay for Obamaphones and "free" health care.

Jumping the gun (0)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 7 months ago | (#46563177)

Over the last... long while now scientists have developed a bad habit of getting really excited and presenting findings as concrete, only to get shot down. Besides, doesn't an experiment have to be repeated for the results to be confirmed? Regardless, if the alternate interpretation proves true, I find it no less significant.

Re:Jumping the gun (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#46563309)

The media hyped this up. The BICEP2 team did nothing wrong.

Re:Jumping the gun (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 7 months ago | (#46563347)

Your'e right.

Re:Jumping the gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46565067)

This guy was on Science Friday and while he did state that it will need to be confirmed, they were all talking fairly confidently about these results.. e.g. ""Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today. A lot of work by a lot of people has led up to this point," said John Kovac (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), leader of the BICEP2 collaboration."

"This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky," said co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo (Stanford/SLAC)."

"This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar," said co-leader Clem Pryke (University of Minnesota)."

Please tell us again how it is not the leaders of the BICEP2 team that caused media excitement.

Re:Jumping the gun (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563365)

These experiments are very expensive. The results have to be presented with lots of hype.
What was observed was a peculiar pattern in the polarization of the electromagnetic waves of the cosmic background radiation. From the media summary it sounds that gravitational waves were observed, but that is not correct. The best but certainly not unique explanation is that the pattern is a consequence of the gravitational waves from the inflation period. It is circumstantial evidence, not proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Doubt, reassessment of evidence, new interpretations is the way science works. Hype is detrimental to science as a whole, but benificial to the group promoting themselves. In my opinion opinion, hyped presentation of results is dishonest.

Re:Jumping the gun (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 7 months ago | (#46563399)

Over the last... long while now scientists have developed a bad habit of getting really excited and presenting findings as concrete, only to get shot down. Besides, doesn't an experiment have to be repeated for the results to be confirmed? Regardless, if the alternate interpretation proves true, I find it no less significant.

It's customary in science to present your findings exactly as they are, with the statistical certainty associated with the findings. They never said their results were confirmed or "concrete", they said their findings confirmed several other theories and that they were highly certain of the results given the known sources of error and the model they were using. You can always come up with other theories that would also fit the observational data: heck, half the point of publishing your data is so the scientific community can look at it and see if you did something wrong, or if there are other interpretations that fit the data better.

Re:Jumping the gun (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 7 months ago | (#46563417)

Over the last... long while now scientists have developed a bad habit of getting really excited and presenting findings as concrete, only to get shot down.

I don't recall anyone saying those results were "concrete". I think that a lot of the science skeptics are simply not capable of thinking as a scientist. If you take the political and faith based systems as an example, the person makes up their mind, such as "All liberals are evil" or "The Bible says the entire world was covered with water, so it was, and I'll accept no evidence to the contrary." It is people like that who have difficulty understanding the way the scientist thinks.

The scientist is ready to move onto a new paradigm if the old one quits working. Scientists are human, and therefore subject to the same foibles as everyone else, But in general, the scientist is prepared to change their mind. In other words, scientists have no problem getting excited about something, then saying "Oops - We made a mistake!"

Besides, doesn't an experiment have to be repeated for the results to be confirmed?

When possible. But that doesn't mean that things we cannot reproduce cannot be studied. We really don't want to return to inflationary times in order to reproduce them. That's why we have theories (let us not confuse them with hypotheses)

So in the realm of cosmology, we have theories. We have hypotheses. Does what we predict pan out? Does the formula make a useful prediction.What is the math? Do I have an interesting idea?.

Note that I ran that series backwards, just as we have to do in matters of cosmology.

Re:Jumping the gun (3, Informative)

photonic (584757) | about 7 months ago | (#46563467)

Scientist are still analyzing the data of ESA's Planck satellite [wikipedia.org] , with first results expected in October this year. This instrument is supposedly sensitive enough to confirm or reject BICEP's results. I guess Planck's team must feel pretty depressed that the potential big discovery of their 700 MEuro instrument is scooped by the relatively small-scale BICEP experiment.

Back in the fridge? (2)

MiniMike (234881) | about 7 months ago | (#46563179)

the result must be considered ambiguous. So put the champagne back in the fridge.

Already drank the champagne... Um, my fridge is, er, full, can we use yours?

I think more people would be interested... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 7 months ago | (#46563205)

... in what caused or happened before the big bang. Even so someone interested in cosmology like myself, I can only take so much more "and at 1 second after the big bang this happened and 1 min after this". Yeah ok , thats all good fun for particle physics types, but its not actually that interesting compared to the Big Question of why is there something rather than nothing? Which frankly I get the impression not many cosmologists appear to be too interested in finding out, being more content to leaving it to hand waving theorists.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#46563321)

At the moment, that question is not answerable, and in fact may never be answerable.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

AkkarAnadyr (164341) | about 7 months ago | (#46564431)

We have trouble answering such questions because of the poor ways we pose them.

The semanticists have a rule I find useful here:

The verb 'to be' carries no information. It functions as an empty vessel into which we pour our assumptions.

When we reword the questions to make our assumptions explicit, they also become specific and (usually) falsifiable, lending themselves to rational inquiry to a much greater degree.

Also, the question 'why' admits an infinite recursion into the line of questioning.

The question "Why is there X ..." has both of these big problems. I call it unanswerable based on its structure, without needing to resort to its content.

Here, as in software projects, we produce the best results when we get the specs right at the beginning.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#46565105)

No, we have a hard time answering these questions because they point to events that are incredibly difficult to probe. Even if and when we demonstrate that inflation happened (it is the most favored theory at the moment, but by no means a near-absolute certainty yet), that gives virtually no information on the condition of the universe prior to inflation. There are some theories that may give some answers, but currently they are pretty much untestable and thus remain little more than educated conjecture.

I'm afraid there's no semantics game you can play to get past the problem that going to earlier epochs than inflation are hidden from us, and that the veil, if it can be lifted at all, will be a long time in the coming.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

oneandoneis2 (777721) | about 7 months ago | (#46563511)

Imagine you set up a ridiculously-powerful computer to simulate a universe - literally a particle-by-particle perfect simulation. (You might need this to be a fairly small universe, of course)

The simulation begins with everything in one tiny place and then it explodes outwards, cools down, matter starts to coagulate, etc. etc.

Within the simulation, there was no time before that universe's Big Bang. You could pause and even rewind the simulation and this could never be noticed from inside. The simulation only has 'knowledge' of what happens within the simulation.

Imagine your tiny universe evolves life, and it becomes intelligent. Can you imagine any way, any way at all, that that intelligent life could look at the simulated universe, and from it work out that it's a simulation? Can you think of a way they could find out what kind of computer it's running in? Can you imagine a way they could work out what the universe the computer exists in is like? Can you imagine any way, at all, in which the inhabitants of that universe could ever come to be aware of you yourself, unless you intervened and told them about yourself directly?

The difficulty that that simulated universe would have in working out how the computer works and what the rules of OUR universe are, are AT LEAST as great as the difficulties that we face in working out what, if anything, gave rise to our own universe. Questions like "What was before the Big Bang?" and "What's outside the Universe?" are at best almost impossibly difficult to answer, and at worst as meaningless as "Where's the end of a circle?"

That's why nobody's busy trying to find out. Now because nobody's interested, but because we don't even understand our own universe yet, so how the hell do we stand any chance of working out what's beyond it?

"Computer - end program." (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564233)

Still here. *Whew*

Actually you could in a way (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 7 months ago | (#46564709)

Try measuring smaller and smaller lengths until you hit the limit of the computers precision. Then you either can't subdivide any further or things start to get all fuzzy as rounding errors creep in.

Hold on, where have I heard of something like that in physics already....

Re:I think more people would be interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563587)

More people are interested in getting their name recognized with junk science than are interested in real science. Junk science can get you grant money. Real science doesn't pay well. So junk science it is for the vast majority and when it comes down to getting paid, and when not finding anything.... make up results.

Wasn't there a Slashdot article not too long ago that said 40% of papers are faked??? Now just imagine how much scientific theory is based on that 40% of faked papers. You get the scientific atmosphere we have today. As soon as you question any of it, nobody in the scientific community will ever talk to you again.

Try it for yourself. Question why Iron is magnetic and a conductor and why copper is a conductor an not magnetic. See how far you get.

I've even questioned many articles posted here and have been modded down every time, even after several months a new article comes out and proves my line of questioning correct.

I used to come here for the most intelligent people discussing the articles. They got overrun with the onslaught of the average college student thinking they knew everything by reading something in a book and modded all the intellectual members to -1. So discuss only what is believed to be common knowledge and don't rock the boat.

That happens in the scientific community as well. Discuss something outside of common knowledge of the masters and lose your job. Who would want to do that? So more junk science it is. Keep those grant dollars pouring in.

So for real science to happen, someone would have to prove that the big bang happened in the first place. Nobody can, and nobody wants to put their job on the line to really figure out which theory is most plausible, because maybe they would find something that went against the accepted theory and be excommunicated.

I've heard a bunch of bizarre theories about the first seconds of the universe, some even as plausible as the big bang, over the last 10 to 15 years. How many do you hear about today?

Re:I think more people would be interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564091)

Wasn't there a Slashdot article not too long ago that said 40% of papers are faked???

Reading comprehension is kind of a prerequisite to commenting on the state of science... considering such news isn't that papers have been faked but that their results, especially within specific fields, are irreproducible which is a much broader, vaguer category of issues.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564231)

Nobody can, and nobody wants to put their job on the line to really figure out which theory is most plausible, because maybe they would find something that went against the accepted theory and be excommunicated.

Just like the scientists in the news here that are being banished for challenging data that matched mainstream theories.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about 7 months ago | (#46563957)

... in what caused or happened before the big bang.

I still can't believe we haven't sent an expedition to see what's North of the North Pole!

(This is the analogy Stephen Hawking uses when asked about "before the Big Bang")

Re:I think more people would be interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564189)

Of course we know what was going on before the Big Bang: Our whole universe was in a hot dense state, and nearly 14 billion years ago expansion started. Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper himself told me about it!

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

Gavrielkay (1819320) | about 7 months ago | (#46564315)

There's a good YouTube video of Lawrence Krauss talking about getting "something from nothing" in which he explains that the current thinking is that nothing is very unstable (which is observed on the subatomic scale) and thus, in the time before time existed particles and energy popped in and out of existence so fast that they didn't violate any laws of physics. Until, the so rare as to possibly be unique event happened that what popped into existence exploded (big bang fashion) before it had a chance to disappear again. His talk gives background on why this sort of thing could be possible and current science that supports it. I'm a scientist by education but not in physics so I'm not qualified to point out any holes in his discussion.

His talk attempts to explain in semi-layman's terms where certain people are looking for answers and evidence to support their theory on that universe-starting event. So, there are people looking into this area, you just have to look.

Re:I think more people would be interested... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 7 months ago | (#46564399)

Well, take a deep look at Inflation teories. You'll be surprized.

The kind of questions cosmologists are asking nowadays is simply amazing.

But it's still inflation? (1)

Christianson (1036710) | about 7 months ago | (#46563211)

Having read the original paper to the best of my ability (which is not perhaps very good), as far as I can see, the "critics" are arguing that the gravitational ripples might not have been caused by inflation directly, but by another process which happens to be a by-product of inflation. So unless I'm missing something, even if the critics are right, BICEP2 has still provided proof of inflation.

Re:But it's still inflation? (1)

grub (11606) | about 7 months ago | (#46563675)

I think the skeptics are saying that the gravity waves have been confirmed, the question is were they created by the Big Bang or sometime later as things cooled down.

Re:But it's still inflation? (3, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#46564409)

I urge anyone interested in these questions to go to Professor Matt Strassler's blog: http://profmattstrassler.com/ [profmattstrassler.com] . In particular he goes to some length to describe what BICEP2's data might mean.

Re:But it's still inflation? (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564269)

...the gravitational ripples might not have been caused by inflation directly, but by another process which happens to be a by-product of inflation...

I got the impression that it was a by product of expansion (which occurred after inflation) not inflation itself (which, while cosmoligists appear to have reached a concensus is still itself a theory, not a fact).

What really happened. (2, Informative)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#46563337)

What really happened was that Wolowitz and Koothrappali rigged the electric can opener to create false postitive results for Sheldon's test equipment. He shouldn't have announced his findings so soon.

Won't be settled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563415)

Until a poll of all physicists are taken and/or when the published papers supporting the idea are in the majority by a substantial margin. Also, the name Primordial Gravitational Waves will be changed to Premier Gravitational Waves.

Well, yeah... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 7 months ago | (#46563647)

Some guy puts up a NOAA weather map and tells us this is how the universe began?? And what with this "briefly faster than light" BS? The law is the law.

Possible exception to the "law"... (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564307)

If the Higgs boson is the particle which gives matter "mass" . . . and if the Higgs boson formed (like all other particles) some time after the Big Bang . . . then the universe was filled with what were then massless particles. I don't think old uncle Al would object to me accelerating a massless particle past c, would he?

Re:Possible exception to the "law"... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 7 months ago | (#46564443)

if the Higgs boson formed (like all other particles) some time after the Big Bang . . . then the universe was filled with what were then massless particles.

You do see the flaw there, don't you? Which came first? The Higgs boson, or the particles? And "massless particles"? Sounds like that requires no small degree of faith..

Re:Possible exception to the "law"... (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46564887)

If it were faith, I wouldn't have used the word "if".

(oi vey)

Well, then. Just run the experiment again, eh? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 7 months ago | (#46563667)

It's the only way to be sure. Don't forget those safety glasses!

Is it NPR or PRI, I don't unnerstand (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#46563705)

What now, Ira Flatow? I trusted you and Science Friday. I TRUSTED YOU!!!

Don't you just hate ... (1)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about 7 months ago | (#46563819)

... regurgitated champagne?

Re:Don't you just hate ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564923)

... regurgitated champagne?

Hate it? I love it. I pay people to drink it and throw up so I can lap it up. Yum.

Nothing refuted here, just more precision. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46563899)

If a phase change happened very soon after inflation caused the signal, then this is still proof of inflation. The article may have a quibble with which type of inflation was detected, but if there model still only admits situations where a massive violent expansion of space happened early this is proof of an inflationary model which sounds a bit different than the lede. If so, the earlier announcement is _not_ wrong, but rather there is more awesome and exciting analysis to come from this dataset.

Inflation (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 7 months ago | (#46563933)

If you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they wouldn't reach a consensus.

Re:Inflation (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 7 months ago | (#46564425)

You do realise that this is an article about physics, right?

Also, I don't think researchers in any area would reach a consensus if you get they all toguether.

Great assumed premise, guys, really. (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 7 months ago | (#46564509)

Great assumed premise, guys, really.

We've jumped way past the point of claiming that polarized background cosmic radiation = gravitational waves detected (right now, the polarization is just consistent with a theory that, IF there are gravitational waves, AND a particular inflation theory requiring gravitational waves to be possible is correct, THEN the observed polarization is consistent with fossil pre-inflation gravitational waves.

We are now to the point of "alternate explanations for the gravitational waves 'observed' by BICEP2".

It's like seeing a headline that says "Aliens meet with Jimmy Carter!" in a supermarket tabloid, and then arguing about whether or not they met with Jimmy Carter, instead of arguing about whether or not aliens landed on Earth... or arguing about whether or not they landed on Earth, rather than whether aliens exist in the first place.

Re: Great assumed premise, guys, really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46565283)

Pretty much theoretical physics defined.

the "laws" of physics (2)

iMadeGhostzilla (1851560) | about 7 months ago | (#46564775)

...as someone said once are human-centered idea, that there are laws obeyed by nature that we can grasp with our minds and that those laws must be unchanging. This is the unspoken assumption, that the models that would explain the physical processes never changed in the course of the evolution of the Universe. I'm beginning to think that such assumption is no different from Newton's "mind of God" that he wanted to know -- we just call it slightly differently.

And how is this claim relevant? If those "laws" have not been unchanging, we may be wasting enormous time and money trying to find out how it all began in a way we imagine has to have happened, ie. producing theories that have no consequence other than to satisfy philosophical questions that we insist must be posed only in a certain way -- and they can't even do that. I hope at least some consequential discoveries and tools will be made along the road.

Just a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46564941)

Just think: all that matter moving orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light... so much for Einstein...

Re:Just a thought... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#46565123)

Except, of course, inflation doesn't violate Special Relativity.

Pesky science... (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 7 months ago | (#46565177)

... with all of that skeptical insistence on the consideration of confounding explanations that might also be compatible with the data.

Or is the term "skeptical" politically incorrect at this point, since everybody knows that no real scientist would disagree with the consensus view that he or she is told all of the other scientists have?

To be honest, the really cool thing isn't (yet) the origin of the gravitational waves observed, it is the observation of gravitational waves at all. So far, that has eluded researchers working equally hard on directly measuring them. Regardless of their cause, I'm sure we'll learn some useful stuff when issues like this are worked out, and kudos still go to the scientists involved. All of the rest of us (politically correct or not) tend to be at least marginally skeptical of transluminal neutrinos and direct evidence for the big bang until the assertions stand the test of time, even as we agree that (if correct) they are awesome achievements.

rgb

Essence of science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46565251)

Every right-minded scientist knows knowledge has its limits. Whether inflation occurred can never, will never, be proven.

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