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Big Bang Theory Possibly Foiled by Dust

Jun 06, 2014 11:02 AM EDT

Scientists have long accepted the Big Bang theory as the explanation for the Universe, and a groundbreaking experiment may have finally found proof of it, but others claim that dust has foiled their findings.

Technically, the Big Bang theory is called cosmic inflation - the trillionths of seconds after the Universe expanded rapidly. However, researchers failed to take into account dust from the Milky Way, which may have rendered their readings useless.

This week at the American Astronomical Society conference in Boston, Princeton astrophysicist and the study's co-author David Spergel announced a different idea related to the Big Bang, based on a discovery made last March.

Using a South Pole-based radio telescope called BICEP2, researchers observed a twisting pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the Big Bang's afterglow - a phenomenon that could just as easily been caused by dust in the Milky Way Galaxy.

"Based on what we know right now... we have no evidence for or against gravitational waves," co-author Uroš Seljak, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Nature News.

However, others, like Princeton physicist David Spergel, argue that this brief period of rapid "inflation" in the very early Universe could just as well be explained by light scattering off dust between the stars in the Milky Way.

Even though the announcement is causing a sensation among scientists, physicist James Boch, co-leader of the BICEP-2 experiment, says the evidence for gravitational waves "is certainly not being retracted."

If the BICEP2 team is correct, they detected the first signs of such waves from the birth of the Universe - the first to find true evidence of the Big Bang.

If naysayers are correct, then dust actually caused these gravitational waves and scientists will have to continue their quest in search of proof of the Big Bang.

There are a series of claims that the experiment is flawed, and so the paper is being revised and will be resubmitted for publication at a latter date.

Until then, it is recommended that any findings be viewed as preliminary.

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