More Theoretical Nonsense

From March 17, 2006, Associated Press and Washington Post

My Comments in Italics

By the faint cosmic glow of the oldest known light, physicists say they have found evidence that the universe grew to astounding proportions in less than the blink of an eye.

Researchers found this long-sought "smoking gun" evidence by looking at the cosmic microwave background, he oldest light in the universe: The light was produced when the universe was about 300,000 years old - a long time ago, but still hundreds of millennia after inflation had done its work. "It's giving us our first clues about how inflation took place," said Michael Turner, assistant director for mathematics and physical sciences at the National Science Foundation. "This is absolutely amazing."

Earlier studies of WMAP data have determined that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few hundred thousand years. The new analysis was able to characterize variations in the microwave background over smaller patches of sky -- only billions of light-years across compared to hundreds of billions. Due to some weird aspects of quantum physics, those smaller lumps popped into existence during the middle and end of the inflationary process as tiny subatomic particles. "It amazes me that we can say anything at all about what transpired in the first trillionth of a second of the universe," said Charles Bennett, a Johns Hopkins University physicist.

"We can measure the sky to tell what powered this expansion," said Goddard Space Flight Center astrophysicist Gary Hinshaw. "It's really amazing, actually. I was in graduate school when the theory was first proposed, and I've been working on it ever since. It's gratifying to see the idea hold up now". "You're looking out to the edge of space and time," Hinshaw said in a telephone interview. "It's like trying to see a car's headlights through the fog."

What is truly amazing is that it took so long to find such a flimsy suggestion that an odd mathematical theory might have any validity at all!

What the team found was a pattern of light and temperature of differing brightness and intensity. "The light is polarized, like when it bounces off the hood of a car," said astrophysicist David Spergel - of Princeton. "We measured temperature differences in 2003, but with three years' more data we were also able to measure polarization." The result is a pattern of fluctuations that Hinshaw compared to a ship bobbing in a short, choppy sea even as it rolls periodically with longer swells. The theory of inflation predicts what the ratio of chop to swell should be, he said, and the astonishing thing is that it's doing exactly what was predicted."

The "smoking gun" proof seems to rest on a poorly measured ratio matching a theoretical ratio to some degree!

"Galaxies are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky," said Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist.