Archive for I want to believe

The truth is out there

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2014 by telescoper

So here I am, then, sitting in my hotel room in Copenhagen and drinking coffee, filling in time before I check out and travel to the airport for the journey home. I don’t have to be there until this afternoon so today is going to be a bit more leisurely than the rest of the week has been. It’s nice to get a couple of hours to myself.

It was an interesting little workshop, with lots of time for discussions, but lurking in the background of course was the question mark  over BICEP2. Many theorists have clearly been beavering  away on models which assume that BICEP2 has measured primordial gravitational waves and I suspect most of them really want the result to be correct. When I posted a message on Twitter about this, Ian Harrison posted this homage to a famous poster for the TV series The X-files. There’s more than a little truth in the comparison!


Whatever the truth about the BICEP2 measurements there’s no question that it’s a brilliant experiment, with exquisite sensitivity. There is no question that it has detected something so faint that it boggles the mind. Here is a slide from Phil Lubin’s talk at the meeting, which shows the unbelievably rapid improvement in sensitivity of microwave detectors:



I don’t think cosmologists ever pay enough credit to the people behind these technological developments, as it is really they who have driven the subject forward. In the case of BICEP2 the only issue is whether it has picked up a cosmological signal or something from our own Galaxy. Whatever it is, it’s an achievement that deserves to be recognized.

And as for the claims of the person responsible for the post I reblogged yesterday that the cosmic microwave background is a fraud, well I can assure you it is not. Any scientific result is open to discussion and debate, but the ultimate arbiter is experimental test. Several independent teams are working in competition on CMB physics and any fraud would be easily exposed. The cosmic microwave background is out there.

And so is the truth.