It’s was all over the news: proof that the inflationary model is true. This revelation is based on the observation of (B-mode) polarized light patterns in the cosmic microwave background.
This polarization pattern is supposedly caused by gravitational waves – and not just any gravitational waves: waves from the Big Bang event itself. And not only that, based on the pattern of the polarization, scientists say that this is proof of an inflationary model, that at approximately
“0.000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds after the Big Bang, it suddenly went through an accelerated expansion that drove it to become one thousand quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion times bigger than it previously was” (wired)
This is much faster than the speed of light, by the way. Yes, we all know, nothing can go faster than the speed of light, neither light nor matter, nor even information, except of course, the universe itself. For some reason, this does not count…
I guess I don’t sound very convinced – what I am not convinced of is that there is really no other reasonable explanation for the polarized CMB pattern. Does it really, explicitly proof both gravity waves and also inflation? What exactly is the logic that leads one from to this conclusion? Based on Wayne Hu, an expert in the field, it sounds like there are many possible foreground causes for this polarization, including scattering on dust, radio point sources, Bremsstrahlung and galactic synchrotron emissions – all of which have to be excluded. And of course, there is gravitational lensing, which is also a cause for B-modes. And is this really a complete list? Do we truly know all possible causes?
(Add-on: in the meantime, there is more and more doubt about this result, see for instance: Backlash to Big Bang Discovery Gathers Steam, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/backlash-to-big-bang-discovery-gathers-steam/)
I have actually been one of those fierce defenders of the Big Bang Theory most of my life, and was convinced that scientists new it all down to a fraction of a second, and even wondered that some people wouldn’t “believe” this – after all this is science, and not religion, right?
Well, that was before the addition of dark matter, dark energy, and super luminal expansion. It just got too much to take at some point, and I started to ask questions, which led to more questions, which never got properly answered. In this “Puzzle” I discuss some of those questions.
Links on CMB polarization
- Circular Polarization: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_polarization
- Foreground causes for CMB polarization: http://background.uchicago.edu/~whu/polar/webversion/node21.html
- Backlash to Big Bang Discovery Gathers Steam