This past March, a US led team of scientists released that there was immediate gravitational waves following the heated explosion of the Big Bang. Multi-sharing of a Nobel prize was the spin, but an Indian astrophysicist Abhas Mitra discounted the announcement, reported in The Times of India.
The astronomers working with BICEP-2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) radio telescope at the South Pole put forth to the world at the news conference in March that immediately after the Big Bang there was cosmic inflation at the intensity level of 10 raised to the power of 78.
Mitra, who is an astrophysicist with Mumbai's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), was alone in his rejection of the finding and said hold that Nobel award. He filed a mathematical proof in a peer review paper in which he stated that the universe can expand only with a uniform speed and model that does not allow for inflationary or cyclic cosmologies. The BICEP-2 findings were incorrect as he published his proof in the “New Astronomy” international journal.
Mitra is not alone. This past week Paul Steinhardt, respected theoretical physicist at Princeton, has published a paper in the “Nature” journal. The serious flaws that Steinhardt shows in the analysis are due to flaws in the data from the BICEP-2 analysis and its claim of having found gravitational waves. Steinhardt’s article calls this finding, “premature hype.”
The first flaw is in the BICEP2 team’s identification of a twisty (B-mode) pattern in its maps of polarization of the cosmic microwave background. The team’s conclusion from their telescope at the South Pole concluded that this was a detection of primordial gravitational waves.
Steinhardt follows Mitra and points out that there are other twists produced within our own Galaxy. This is due to light scattering from dust and the synchrotron radiation generated by electrons moving around galactic magnetic fields that have been found in our Galaxy. It is not unique.
Now, due to other mathematical proven possibilities there is a hold on using this as the proven theory going forward. An effort by scientists at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, also in Princeton noted that when the BICEP-2 team used the measurements of galactic dust from the Wilkinson Microwave Probe and Planck satellites. These two satellites operate over a range of other frequencies. When the BICEP-2 team used the data from Wilkinson, the Planck data was not presented until several months later.
Taking a step back to study gravitational wave theory is now under way by at least eight additional experiments of which there is, BICEP3, the Keck Array and Planck. The next announcement will need to have several ranges of frequencies studied with data and vetted by other scientists before a definitive release to the world.
Steinhardt states that inflation is driven by a hypothetical scalar field, and the properties of inflation can adjust to produce any outcome. But, inflation does not end in a universe with uniform properties. Instead there are an infinite number of bubbles and the cosmic and physical properties vary from bubble to bubble.
What does mean to Steinhardt? He writes, “The inflationary paradigm is fundamentally untestable, and hence scientifically meaningless.”
Since Albert Einstein gave us the notion that there are gravitational waves whose ripples carry energy across the universe, the general Theory of Relativity has become an extraordinary search and will continue to seek the explanation of our beginning.
Seth MacFarlane executive producer of "Cosmos" has introduced a new version of the Carl Sagan series of 1980-1983 with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as host for thirteen episodes on Fox this summer. Sagan's widow and collaborator, writer Ann Druyan, is working to bring this valuable piece of introduction to science and the universe again to TV.