Gravitational waves bust: Rob Sheldon called that one right
|May 30, 2014||Posted by News under Cosmology, Intelligent Design, News|
Further to “There isn’t evidence for gravitational waves, let alone big claims – Nature” (once again, g’bye multiverse; we are stuck with reality), we asked Rob Sheldon, who had been suspicious from the beginning, for a comment—and this is his reply:
It was obvious from the way they presented their data in their first paper that they were fudging on the dust–stealing data from Planck Powerpoint presentations, using theoretical models to subtract backgrounds, trumpetting a 2 sigma signal above the theoretical noise.
But I did have a piece of information that no other physicist had, and that is the world’s only levitated spinning dust experiment right here at MSFC, and I’m a co-author on the discovery paper. When a single dust grain is levitated in the Paul trap, and illuminated by a laser, it begins to spin at enormous spin rates. The slightest amount of charge on that dust grain, and it becomes a magnet. These spinning, magnetized dust grains very effectively polarize starlight, which was a suprising discovery some 50 years old. But the CMBR is microwaves, with wavelengths of millimeters, so it shouldn’t even notice the micron-sized dust grains as it passes through the universe. The theories that BICEP2 and others are using give the dust a minor fractional effect of something like 5% to the polarization of CMBR. If more CMBR is polarized, they attribute it to increased dust density. So the Planck satellite and others are using infrared light, with wavelengths down near a micron, to “see” the dust and estimate a density. That is the point of contention in all these claim-and-counterclaim papers.
However, none of them have a good model for how dust polarizes CMBR. If our MSFC experiment is understood correctly, these dust grains make a magnetic field that then aligns another spinning grain nearby. This is known as the ferromagnetic effect, and essentially turns clouds of interstellar dust into giant ferromagnets. We know the magnetic field is about 1-10 nanoTesla out there in the galaxy, but no one knows why. (I hope you are starting to get a feel for the significant amount of ignorance in astrophysics.) This dust would not only explain the origin of that magnetic field, but it also explains why CMBR get polarized in the vicinity of galaxies. But these large dust “ferromagnets” do more than that, they interact with microwaves even better than expected because the dust grains are spaced millimeters apart–exactly the size of the CMBR wavelength. So instead of 5%, I would expect something like 20% or 30% polarization, which of course, completely blows the BICEP2 results out of the water, and makes it impossible for anyone to use microwave polarization to probe the CMBR.
Sorry for the length of this discussion. I just had the PI for the MSFC dust experiment in my office expressing his disappointment that no one at NASA sees any benefit to continuing his research. I explained that the furor in cosmology could be resolved by his experiment, but NASA managers refuse to listen. Which we all blame on the tendency of all government agencies to hire lawyers instead of scientists for management positions. More generally, American exceptionalism was based on the idea that anyone could excel, that committees could work for the public good, that the truth would prevail–and America is losing its exceptionalism.
America will always be exceptional. But will its science be so?
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