National Geographic News
The sun sets behind BICEP2 (in the foreground) and the South Pole Telescope (in the background).

The sun sets behind BICEP2 (front) and the South Pole Telescope.


Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published May 14, 2014

An acclaimed "smoking gun" discovery explaining the unfolding of the early universe faces rumors of a cosmic misfire. (See: "Big Bang's 'Smoking Gun' Confirms Early Universe's Exponential Growth.")

In March the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2 (BICEP2) team headed by Harvard's John Kovac announced a pioneering observation of cosmological "gravitational waves" first predicted by Einstein to headlines worldwide. The claim seemed to confirm the conventional cosmological view of the universe expanding exponentially in its earliest instant.

The cosmologists reported that, using a telescope in Antarctica, they had seen the swirled signatures of these surprisingly strong gravity ripples crisscrossing a portion of the big bang's aftermath—the so-called cosmic microwave background that emanates from every corner of the sky. (Related: "How Will Science Confirm Those Cosmic Signals From the Infant Universe?")

That claim, however, has come under fire. An online particle physics blog post written by physicist Adam Falkowski of the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics of Orsay, France, on Monday reported that "experts now put a finger on what exactly went wrong in BICEP."

Dust Storm

Essentially, Falkowski suggests that the BICEP2 team had mixed up the effects of microwaves emitted by dust inside our Milky Way galaxy with those of the microwaves released by dust filling the entire sky. Both kinds of microwaves need to be carefully unmasked and removed from the analysis to observe the gravitational wave ripples seen by BICEP2 in the underlying cosmic microwave background.

While Falkowski claims that the BICEP2 team "has now admitted to the mistake," Kovac and team scientist Clement Pryke of the University of Minnesota have both denied the claim, to Science and New Scientist magazines. Pryke calls it "totally false" in Science, saying the team stands by the result.

In Science, however, Pryke acknowledges that the discovery team's dust map comes from a conference presentation, not published data, made by Europe's Planck satellite, which adds some uncertainty to the results.

Nevertheless, the Antarctica observations are thought to come from a relatively un-dusty part of the sky. And in an April presentation at MIT, Kovac had suggested that early indications from follow-on observations made by the BICEP2 team supported its gravitational wave discovery.

Inflation Elation

Physicist Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore had said the gravitational wave observations were "the smoking gun for inflation," the theory that explains how the early universe smoothly expanded to unimaginable vastness in the first fractional second of its existence.

The BICEP2 results have already weathered an earlier round of criticism on the Internet in April, when three cosmologists claimed that galactic "radio loops" had actually produced the gravitational waves reported by the team. The radio-loop critique seems to have faded off the dial, though, and been replaced by the new rumors.

In October the Planck team is expected to release its own, latest cosmic microwave map, one perhaps sensitive to the gravitational wave effects seen by the BICEP2 team, which may settle the dispute. Other efforts in Antarctica and Chile are also under way, scanning the sky on the same hunt and offering more hope for a final confirmation, or not, of the March results.

Follow Dan Vergano on Twitter.

Hamid Khadivian
Hamid Khadivian

Universe is not a one-way, endless and aimless path ( WE ARE IN A ORBIT ).

Louis Lalonde
Louis Lalonde

Yet again the Big Bangers trying to keep their model alive by falsifying data and twisting terminology and facts. Enough is enough. When are we going to bury this imposed, erroneous theory and move on to studying what really constitutes the actual Universe: electro-magnetism and plasma physics? The BIg Bang is nothing more than pure mathematical models completely detached from real physical phenomenons, soaked in myth and religious references. The whole history the of the Big Bang has been to fabricate "invisible" elements to fill in the blanks (Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Black Holes, Higgs Bosons, etc) and compensate for the fact that astronomical observations where in opposition to the Big Bang Theory. Let's move one and bury the BBT once and for all. It is time for physics to leave childhood (meaning sci-fi beliefs perpetuated by the media, i.e. Star Trek movies and series and their references to warp engines, time travel and what not!) and become mature. There is great difficulty in the USA to separate science from science-fiction, entertainment from journalism. All these are mashed up together to the point of having a completely confused and ignorant public who is intellectually so poorly developed that it cannot defend itself against gurus, charlatans and idiotic theories like the Big Bang.

Luis Gonzalez-Mestres
Luis Gonzalez-Mestres

See also my last blog note : 
BICEP2 Data, CMB B-modes, Inflation, Alternative Cosmologies... (I)

The present controversy concerns the experimental and phenomenological side. But what about the theoretical interpretation from the point of view of fundamental Cosmology, assuming that BICEP2 has really observed a signal from the early Universe ? Many important questions are being just ignored, especially about the potential role of alternative cosmologies. 

Not only space anisotropies may be at the origin of vector perturbations with local rotational motion producing CMB B-modes, but pre-Big Bang models can generate gravitational waves without any need for cosmic inflation. 
Best regards 
Luis Gonzalez-Mestres 

Probing Omega
Probing Omega

There was a nearly universal rush-to-belief in the media that the BICEP2 findings were already confirmed and that the BICEP2 team should be awarded the Nobel as evidenced by the title of the 'see also' article, "Big Bang's 'Smoking Gun' Confirms Early Universe's Exponential Growth."

The qualifier "may" and a reworking of the headline would have been more appropriate, rendering a title such as, "BICEP2 Team Announcement May Indicate Fossilized Gravity Waves From Alleged Big Bang."

At the time, many of us were hounded for taking a wait-for-confirmation attitude.  We were called 'anti-science' for wishing to wait for validation.

It seems that science is always in trouble with its credibility, but there's been no time when science has been in more trouble than it is in this modern era.

It seems that today, science treads where it shouldn't go, attempting to prove the un-provable, describe the indescribable and believe the unbelievable.  Where is the discipline?

It seems that first causes which can never be reproduced and tested are among the most entertaining diversions from real science.  While these subjects make for entertaining sci-fi novels and movies, they make for bad science.

Now we will brace for a defense of the indefensible.  

M. Omerbashich
M. Omerbashich

Food for thoughts:

Linde theory builds on infinite vacuum-energy concept (energy outside our known universe), meaning that infinitely many universes (Multiverse) exist out there that came into being by the same or another token as our universe did.

This would disprove Big Bang as envisioned by a Catholic (Jesuit-trained) priest in 1927 quasi-scientifically -- w/o any data. Also, given that he was an ordained priest with a PhD, rather than a science evangelist as some kindly portray him -- he more likely than not did base Big Bang on Genesis; note also the capital B's.

This priest and his supporters claimed quite shamelessly that his quasi-theory described The beginning of Everything.

Then came Linde and downgraded it all to a bang.

Besides, Linde stated explicitly in his Financial Times audio-interview that his theory proves there is no God (or god).

So this could be an ideological clash, not scientific one at all. At least on part of his (BICEP2's) attackers.

Gravely mistaken is anyone who thinks an organization like the Church would simply let go its basic teachings (The biggest money-making machine of all times) just like that, i.e. without fight.

No matter how much dust... oopps dirt, it took.


M. Omerbashich
M. Omerbashich

Discussions on whether BICEP2 proved the Linde's brilliant theory on origin of universes (some prefer to call it "chaos inflationary theory", which is an oxymoron) are unnecessary because his theory has an underlying requirement -- that of Multiverse, which has already been proven mathematically and multiphysically.

The proof involved an absolute generalization of resonant gravity effects, using 10+ billion Earth's most accurate 1Hz gravity measurements spanning one decade, from (Canadian) superconducting gravimeter that is used also for verifying G. The approach regarded G originally i.e. as a constant of proportionality. Meaning, w/o any units -- that anyway have no multiversal meaning since Newton attached units to G only in order to close his own (our universe's) physics mathematically. (Here "only" is meant not of disrespect for Newton but to say that Multiverse was starting physical hypothesis).  Such a generalization of secondary gravitational effects of the Earth-Moon system (regarded as a forced mechanical oscillator) resulted in expressing G (and thus gravity too) via speed of light c, at both quantum and mechanist scales down to NIST-prescribed accuracy, all w/o resorting to our or any other universe's physical units. Newton "invented" our universe arbitrarily, so that Type II Multiverse with who-knows-how-many variations in laws, is real indeed:

BICEP2 is thus the first observational proof of Linde's chaotic theory on origin of universes (inflation theory in its gazillion versions never worked so that Guth himself has recanted it in a paper more than 100 pages long -- according to Linde in his latest Financial Times audio-interview at: It seems pathetic to see MIT now politicking to fetch Nobel for Guth.

BICEP2 is also an independent verification of the first Multiverse proof and Hyperresonance Unifying Theory,   Summary PR on the Multiverse proof:


Rodolfo Alonzo
Rodolfo Alonzo

Their are billions of Galaxies with billions of chances of a star dying causing a huge explosion leaving a Black Hole at the center of most Galaxies. What if those Black Holes compact everything it gets ahold that it is so dense it is in comprehend able. Then it in a millisecond or faster explodes expanding into space with chances of life after the dust settles on some lucky Planets. Then if we get intelligent enough we can ruin that Planet and hopefully move onto another one. Maybe this is not our first rodeo. Née née née née née née née née.

Maya of Themiscryra
Maya of Themiscryra

The noise can't be eliminated from a signal that doesn't exist. If BICEP2 used Planck data, and Planck used WMAP, and WMAP used COBE and COBE didn't resolve signal from noise, there never was a signal. If there was a signal, greater than 0% of CMB maps would be reproducible, and this is not the case.

Gerard Van der Leun
Gerard Van der Leun

But.... but.... Dan, I thought that thar science was settled!

I sure hope they can git them thar scans dun in Antiarctika be4 the ice cap melts and drowns all you folks at Nat Geo who are too slow to get out of the oceans deepenings in the next thousand yars.

Bjørn Remseth
Bjørn Remseth

This is exactly as it should be.  The BICEP2 folks made an honest attempt.  Since their finding is an extremely important one, just about everyone who are competent to do it will, and should,  try their best to poke holes in  the BICEP2 folks's  argument.

If  holes are found, the BICEPS2 folks try to amend.  If they can't  do that, then they will have to retract some or all of their conclusions, learn from their mistakes and try again.   However, whatever  remains as undisputed after the critics have done their best is most likely true. Or at least as true as anything we can know today.   This is is how science progresses, through this wonderful interaction proponents and opponents of new knowledge. 

Either way this is a success for science, but we'll of course have to wait  and see a while before we -know- what is the best interpretation of the BICEP2 findings.

Zomick's Bakery
Zomick's Bakery

@Rodolfo Alonzo  Well is somehow makes sense what you are saying. We do not have enough evidence and enough knowledge about the universe yet, so a scenario of black holes is totally plausible 

Dan Vergano
Dan Vergano

@Bjørn Remseth Exactly right. Only alarming thing would be if other experts weren't looking for holes in this result.


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