New Study Challenges Planck Results

April 12, 2013

Space

New Study Challenges Cosmology

cosmic microwave background
A new view of the cosmic microwave background, as seen over the whole sky with the Planck satellite. Although analyses of this image indicate complete agreement with the simple model of a big bang inflation, a new paper suggests the agreement is so perfect that it is very unlikely the inflation model is actually the correct one. Credit: ESA/Planck

A new study from researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics challenges the inflation model, arguing that the new Planck results are actually too good.

The universe was created about fourteen billion years ago in a blaze of light known as the big bang. After about 380,000 years or so, once matter had cooled enough for neutral atoms (mostly hydrogen atoms) to form, light was able to travel through space relatively freely. We see that light today as the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). The light is extremely uniform across the sky, but not perfectly so: Astronomers have discovered that the radiation actually has very faint ripples and bumps in it at a level of only about one part in ten thousand. These ripples reflect the architecture of the universe when the light was freed, and are the cosmic seeds for subsequent cosmic structures, like galaxies.

The CMBR was discovered by Penzias and Wilson in 1964. Those faint ripples were first spotted by the NASA’s COBE satellite in 1991, and they have been studied in increasing detail during the past decade with NASA’s WMAP satellite (as well as with millimeter ground-based telescopes). Last month, the European Space Agency announced the first results from its Planck satellite, launched in 2009 to study the CMBR with greater precision than ever before. They reported excellent agreement with current models, and updated some of the key values, for example finding that the age of the universe is 13.82 billion years. But the precisions of WMAP and especially Planck allow astronomers to think about more than just how galaxies developed after the matter cooled. They enable consideration of what happened in the invisible era, before the matter had cooled. The pivotal event of that epoch is thought to have occurred right at the start, within less than a fraction of the first second: inflation.

According to models of inflation proposed in the 1980’s, based on concepts in elementary particle physics, the early universe underwent a dramatic and exponential growth spurt, swelling in size a trillion trillion trillion times. The power of this theory is that it explains many otherwise mysterious properties of the universe; for example, why distant regions located in opposite directions of space seem to be so very similar (and likewise, why do the CMBR ripples look everywhere so extremely similar to one another)? After all, the regions might be so far apart (both then and now) that they should have matured in completely independent ways? Inflation provides a solution by starting them all off rather close together and only then, somewhat later, pushing them quickly very far apart. The ideas of inflation have been constantly refined over the decades and numerous variations have been elaborated. The new Planck measurements seem to lend support.

Or maybe not. CfA astronomers Anna Ijjas, Paul Steinhardt, and Avi Loeb have just published a paper arguing that the new Planck results, far from lending credibility to ideas of inflation, actually undermine them. Indeed, they argue that they pose a challenge to cosmology overall. In an ironic and subtle twist, the scientists point out that the results of Planck are actually too good, because they confirm with high precision only the very simplest version of inflation. Yet, they argue, if one believes in the principles of inflation the simplest version is actually by far the most unlikely version. Hence the whole edifice of inflation becomes untenable. There are alternative ideas that have been proposed over the years to inflation. Perhaps the new Planck results and the criticisms in this new paper will prompt some provocative new reconsideration of modern cosmology.

PDF Copy of the Study: Inflationary paradigm in trouble after Planck2013

Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Image: ESA/Planck

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11 Responses to “New Study Challenges Planck Results”

  1. Steve Moody Says:

    We know that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating. However, the above findings might be explained if the RATE of acceleration is now far less than it was in the past. If the acceleration immediately after the Big Bang was really fast but has slowed down over billions of years, that could be the explanation. Not that the Universe has ceased to accelerate, but that it’s accelerating at a MUCH lower rate now than in the past.

    Reply

  2. Brian Wills Says:

    Trouble with all these theories, even though the math works very well for most, is that everything is made of light.. Light is infinitely divisible and so no beginning no end.. Sorry for that. Our creator will always know what we cannot comprehend..
    Size time distance is only a matter of perspective and relative.

    Reply

    • Robbie G Says:

      It has been very well demonstrated that light is quantized, ie, it comes in little packets called photons. Sorry for that.

      Reply

  3. Wardell Lindsay Says:

    It’s not what we don’t know, its what we know thats not so.

    The Universe is not expanding. T.

    The redshift is the gravitational refraction coefficient v/c = 1/n.

    The redshift is related to the “Dark Energy”. The “Dark Energy” is the omnipresent Momentum Energy cmV=cP.

    The Universe is a Quaternion Cosmos,

    W = -mGM/r + cmV = -vh/r + cP,

    where P is the momentum vector and cP is the vector energy, the so-called Dark Energy.

    The Force is the first derivative of the energy W:

    F = XW = [d/dr, Del][-vh/r, cP]

    F = [d(-vh/r)/dr -cDel.P, cdP/dr -Del vh/r + cDelxP]

    F = [vp/r - cp/r cos(P), -cp/r 1P + v/p/r 1R + cp/r sin(P) 1RxP]

    F = cp/r[v/c -cos(P), -1P + v/c 1R + sin(P) 1RxP]

    At Continuity the scalar force is zero: v/c- cos(P) = 0 and v/c=cos(P)

    At Boundary/Invariant the force is zero: v/c= cos(P) =1 or v=c and c2=GM/r.

    The Universe is Bounded when v=c. My estimate of size r is 155E24 meters.

    It is time for a recognition of Quaternion Physics and a Bounded Cosmos.

    Reply

  4. Maggnum Says:

    Could someone please illuminate what is less than a fraction of something? If it is less than a fraction, is that not just a smaller fraction?

    Reply

  5. Henry Says:

    To me the problem with this theory and the Big Bang is it always but us/earth in the centre. It is made to look like we are the centre of the universe and all things move around us. This is to say if I was to look this way or that way the farthest I would see is 13.82 billion light years, then there is nothing. Is the universe in a bubble as to say, with an outer edge. If I was to travel 13.9 billion light years out towards the edge would I bounce off or would the edge move to let me travel, to look one way and see total blackness or a wall. How do we know from math the age of the universe? to when and how it all started is a question we will never really truly.

    Reply

    • Laje Says:

      We are at the center of the observable universe. Beyond that, we can’t see because the light is so far away it hasn’t reached us.

      We don’t know for certain, but the age of the universe is estimated based on calculations of mathematical models.

      Reply

  6. Democritus Says:

    @henry you make a good point, gamma ray burst’s are detected all the time in deep space, and even way past the 13.83 billion light years range, thus the universe must be larger than anticipated, many cosmologists are accepting that now, the universe may be older than it appears. As for reaching the edge of the universe, the universe has no edge, go in one direction and you will end up coming from the direction you just left, it is the same as Earth, keep going West and you will appear from the East going towards the West again. It is impossible to go in a straight line in the universe because of dark matter/Star’s gravity. Space is curved in what we call an open universe, hence why our universe will expand forever (though i believe in the big crunch and not all the answers are complete). @Steve Moody there is a measurement called the Hubbles constant, this can be used to measure the rate of expansion of the universe by the distances other galaxys are red shifting, or moving away from us. But i agree that it is tricky to gauge a true reference point when we can only see a small portion of our universe. Through deduction of the CMBR the universe is made up of more dark energy and dark matter than there is of normal matter (hence the universes inflation(or expansion) but if Planck truly needs tweaking then this result is false and you may be right.

    Reply

  7. Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:

    Why do I get the feeling that Steinhardt (which is an author of ekpyrotic and cyclic models of the universe) doesn’t really like inflation? =D

    Unless I missed something, he tried to have it both ways. The paper is arguing that the unlikely aspects of the universe such as the parameter values of the standard model of particles or the low cosmological constant shouldn’t be taken as evidence for an anthropic selection on a natural eternal inflation multiverse while the likely aspects should be taken as evidence against.

    One simple solution is a Susskind eternal universe that when we go backward we never run up against Planck scales. Then all the papers problems go away AFAIU (with a suitable Hubble parameter for the inflationary phase).

    Reply

  8. Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:

    @Steve Moody: Changes in expansion rate doesn’t solve the problems of the paper. But they are exactly what the inflationary standard cosmology predicts, a rapid inflationary phase followed by phases where radiation control, later matter and now lately dark energy. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang , last figure.]

    So it is a part of the solution of the overall cosmology, as you perhaps surmised.

    @Brian Wills: Creationists shouldn’t comment on science, it is hilarious and makes deconverts from religion, see Dawkins’s Convert’s Corner.

    Inflationary standard cosmology is, of course, explicit about many other particles (standard particle matter, dark matter). [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang ] It can’t be any other way, matter exists.

    @Wardell Lindsay: The Planck results makes “no expansion” a miniscule likelihood, see its data release papers. Conversely, any alternates must predict all that data, Tbytes of data! And you don’t do that.

    @Henry: No, inflationary standard cosmology is explicit that there is _no_ center, every volume expands as much, it isn’t an explosion as you think. Also, due to the varying expansion rate, we can see ~ 46 billion light years out. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Size_of_the_universe#Size.2C_age.2C_contents.2C_structure.2C_and_laws ]

    Reply

  9. William Says:

    The way Inflation seems so perfect may be the whole,,,y,,,anticipated result
    its good but something has made us doubt (( like the myth of the spirit ))
    So when in doubt lets throw something into the pot,,,,hhuuummmm…lets say a ball that was covered with stuff that started to come loose and would float away from itself and then come back so itself began a movement of turning to
    see these parts of stuff go and come back and since turning was fun, itself started to spin and itself spun one way and then another way, and it was so much fun itself thought let me give it a good run ,,,,,AND HENCE INFLATION
    AND ITSELF IS STILL THERE IN THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
    SO INFLATION SHOWS MATTER AND ENERGY GOING STRAIGHT OUT AND KEEPS GOING…BUT
    WHAT IF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS ROTATING IN ORBIT AROUND ITSELF WHOM IS IN THE
    CENTER OF IT ALL.

    Reply

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