COSMIC DUST SPOILS A COSMOLOGICAL FINDING. My first post on this blog was about the marvel that I felt that background radiation in our skies was evidence of the Big Bang. I posted here in March 2014 about a new experiment which provided information that would go back to 10 to the minus thirty-fifth seconds after the Big Bang (take that as an extremely small fraction of a second).
This Economist article from the February 7 issue describes what the experiment was thought to have found: evidence of “primordial gravitational waves—ancient ripples in space-time, produced in the first few moments after the Big Bang. Such waves would have left their imprint on the cosmic microwave background radiation, a faint afterglow of the Big Bang itself, in the form of a [sic] subtle changes in the way the microwaves are polarised.”
I had posted here three months after the announcement that the team that had conducted the experiment had announced that the first announcement might have been wrong because the experiment did not exclude the possibility that polarized galactic dust emission rather than gravitational waves produced the experimental results. Now, this month’s Economist article says that improved maps of interstellar dust have shown that if a correction is made for the improved dust data, “the purported gravitational waves disappear”.