BICEP2 Redux: How the Sausage is Made

I came across this (rather lengthy, but very good) discussion of the BICEP2 story so far so thought I would share it here. There’s a particularly useful collection of articles at the end for those who would like to read more.

I’ll also take this opportunity to refer you to a recent BBC News story which states that the BICEP2 and Planck teams are now in discussions about sharing data. About time, if you ask me. Still, it will take a considerable time to work out the ordering of the authors if they ever do write a paper!


An ongoing problem with communicating science to the general public is the existence of widely-held misconceptions among the public regarding how science actually works. A case in point is the March 17 announcement by the BICEP2 Collaboration regarding the detection of B-Mode polarization in the Cosmic Microwave Background and the events which have unfolded since then.

All too often, news stories and blog posts will trumpet some announcement with sensational headlines like “Scientists Say Cheap, Efficient Solar Cells Just Around the Corner”, or “Scientists Close in on Cure for Cancer.” Many people take such announcements at face value and consider the case closed. The work has been done.  The reality of the situation, however, is that the initial announcement of a discovery or breakthrough is just the beginning of the hard work, breathlessly hyped headlines notwithstanding.

How Science Actually Works (or at least how it is supposed to work)


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4 Responses to “BICEP2 Redux: How the Sausage is Made”

  1. Some interesting reading; .

    Title: Self-similarity and universality of void density profiles in simulation and SDSS data

    AUs; S. Nadathur, S. Hotchkiss, J. M. Diego, I. T. Iliev, S. Gottlöber, W. A. Watson, G. Yepes

    From abstract: “Using this method we show that voids in simulation are exactly self-similar, meaning that their average rescaled profile does not depend on the void size. Within the range of our simulation we also find no redshift dependence of the profile. Comparison of the profiles obtained from simulated and real voids shows an excellent match. The profiles of real voids also show a universal behaviour over a wide range of galaxy luminosities, number densities and redshifts. This points to a fundamental property of the voids found by the watershed algorithm, which can be exploited in future studies of voids.”

    Nature may abhor a vacuum, but nature adores self-similarity.

    • Gorillas indeed!

      Knowledge increases when minds are open and inquiring, but its growth is stunted when arch-conservative forces disallow observational evidence and reasoning that conflict with fundamentalist liturgy.

    • D R Lunsford Says:

      I am always amazed by blanket statements of omniscience based on limited knowledge. (Human) Nature abhors humility more than anything else it seems.


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