Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cosmic Background Radiation Problem

Is The Earth Really The Centre of the Universe?
Do Not Want
Really? Back here again? This old beauty?

Copernicus is not looking so impressed.

But it seems as though there's real cause for concern about the Cosmic Background Radiation because it means, if the radiation really is cosmic in origin then it's a cosmic conspiracy of sorts to make it look like the Earth is at the complete centre of the universe. There is a centre to the universe and we're sitting on it?

How can that be? How can the CBR now predict that?

There's a problem with the idea that it is cosmic is how that can be predicted. And the problem is both big and small.

This rather hard to read paper from January 2009 explains there is a problem with the old data.
"The question of isotropy has received considerable attention during recent years, due to unexpected signatures observed in the WMAP sky maps. These data appear to exhibit several significant and distinct signatures of violation of statistical isotropy. "
In other words, there's a problem with doing the analysis the way it was done. That problem is not solved in that paper.

It is solved instead in this November 2009 paper in which the authors explain that when you run the same old WMAP data through a Bayesian statistical analysis with properly corrected terms it looks as though the CBR signal is not universal at all but local, an effect created in tandem with the motion of the Earth itself:
"However, the corresponding preferred direction is also shifted very close to the ecliptic poles... in agreement with the analysis of Hanson & Lewis (2009), indicating that the signal is aligned along the plane of the solar system. This strongly suggests that the signal is not of cosmological origin, but most likely is a product of an unknown systematic effect."
In other words the CBR seems to have a kind of lurking factor in it which suggests that this CBR is very mysteriously aligned very exactly with our annual motion around the sun. To expect a dipole in the signal to be aligned with our plane seems a very great deal to ask of the universe. A simpler explanation is that the universal signal is a lot more local than was believed.

The physicist and populariser Lawrence Krauss has summed up the problem as follows:
Right Back Where We Started?
"But when you look at (the WMAP) map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? 
"That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. 
"That would say we are truly the center of the universe."

Now even on a list of big problems, this one would have to rate as one of the bigger problems faced by modern cosmology.

If the criticism is valid, then a theory of the universe was actually based on data which comes from a completely local cause but a completely unknown cause. It is literally like mistaking the end of your nose for the furtherest edge of the universe.

It is arguably the single largest hole in the orthodox cosmological theory.

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