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Does lopsided universe mean problems with standard model?

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Planck_anomalies_Bianchi_on_CMB_orig
Planck satellite details anomalies

  Further to “Search more widely for dark matter, astrophysicists say,” the two hitches being that it may not exist, or it may not be discoverable: Some at Ars Technica think the lopsided universe is telling us we need new theories. In general, our universe is “incredibly regular” except for irregularities like the stars and ourselves but

it also contains a few mysteries: on very large scales, the cosmos seems to have a certain lopsidedness. That slight asymmetry is reflected in temperature fluctuations much larger than any galaxy, aligned on the sky in a pattern facetiously dubbed “the axis of evil.”

The lopsidedness is real, but cosmologists are divided over whether it reveals anything meaningful about the fundamental laws of physics. The fluctuations are sufficiently small that they could arise from random chance. We have just one observable Universe, but nobody sensible believes we can see all of it. With a sufficiently large cosmos beyond the reach of our telescopes, the rest of the Universe may balance the oddity that we can see, making it a minor, local variation.

Some, however explore the view that the lopsidedness points to something we don’t know. They focus on the fact that

some of the largest fluctuations—covering one-fourth, one-eighth, and one-sixteenth of the sky—are bigger than any structure in the Universe, therefore representing temperature variations across the whole sky.

In those large fluctuations he temperature variations are both larger than expected and highly aligned with each other, which is not what theory would predict. In the absence of further information, these variations are generally ascribed to theories around inflation.

Judging from the article, it comes down to a question of whether this is a real problem or something that someone needs to be a problem. For example, we read,

Yoho told Ars, “The general consensus in the field I’m sure would be that dark matter and dark energy are more pressing issues. But if it turned out that these large angle anomalies were due to primordial physics and not a statistical fluke or systematic errors (two big ‘ifs’, granted), the impact of the results would huge since there is no way for [the standard cosmological model] to account for that behavior. And that’s the kind of thing that us theorists have a field day with.”

Ah yes, the standard model again. The standard model is widely critiqued today not because of its occasional problems—or because of the normal skepticism of science—but because it provides support for a universe that many in science don’t like (one with theistic implications, courtesy the Big Bang and fine-tuning).

The new Cosmos series’ Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for example, argues for a multiverse without any good evidence, as does Wikipedia and National Geographic because the people involved very much want to believe in a cosmos of cosmoses that has no theistic implications. Not because there is any evidence that such a collections of contradictory cosmoses exists. Unless, of course, you think that the fact that you can imagine it adds to the likelihood that it exists.

Who knows, the standard model may be wrong and may be replaced a century from now. But we should be appropriately cautious when dealing with th criticism offered by supporters of farflung cosmologies whose only real merit is lack of theism and only real demerit is lack of evidence, or even coherence in some cases.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).

See also: Mature galaxies found from when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old (Fifteen years ago, such galaxies were not predicted to even exist.)

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7 Replies to “Does lopsided universe mean problems with standard model?

  1. 1
    exal says:

    Is it accurate to describe these features as “lopsidedness”. From the work of Huterer, there seems to be alignments that point directly at us. This article was written before the Planck data (with WMPA & COBE data), but the multipoles were actually verified by Planck:
    http://www-personal.umich.edu/.....uterer.pdf

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Nice link exal:

    Why is the solar system cosmically aligned? BY Dragan Huterer – 2007
    The solar system seems to line up with the largest cosmic features. Is this mere coincidence or a signpost to deeper insights?
    Caption under figure on page 43:
    ODD ALIGNMENTS hide within the multipoles of the cosmic microwave background. In this combination of the quadrupole and octopole, a plane bisects the sphere between the largest warm and cool lobes. The ecliptic — the plane of Earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere — is aligned parallel to the plane between the lobes.
    http://www-personal.umich.edu/.....uterer.pdf

  3. 3
    exal says:

    It is interesting that this observation has been dubbed the “axis of evil”. Ostensibly, this is because the discovery happened around the same time that the term was employed geopolitically by Pres Bush, but it may reflect some dread of abandoning the Copernican Principle.
    ‘Axis of evil’ warps cosmic background: http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....yHqyCgqY21

    Also, compare with “A Large Scale Pattern from Optical Quasar Polarization Vectors”: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1311.6118.pdf

    Testing the Dipole Modulation Model in CMBR: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1308.0924.pdf

    This paper from last year examines the the corroboration of this challenge to the Copernican Principle in the radio sky:
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.4134

    In 2006, Lawrence Krauss made this statement (Just speculating, but I imagine he was expecting the Planck data to invalidate rather than reinforce ‘axis of evil’ observations): “But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That’s crazy. We’re looking out at the whole universe. There’s no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe.” full article:
    http://www.edge.org/conversati.....n-39t-zero

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  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    exal, this might interest you:

    Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky? – Ashok K. Singal – May 17, 2013
    Abstract: Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) observations from the WMAP satellite have shown some unexpected anisotropies (directionally dependent observations), which surprisingly seem to be aligned with the ecliptic\cite {20,16,15}. The latest data from the Planck satellite have confirmed the presence of these anisotropies\cite {17}. Here we report even larger anisotropies in the sky distributions of powerful extended quasars and some other sub-classes of radio galaxies in the 3CRR catalogue, one of the oldest and most intensively studies sample of strong radio sources\cite{21,22,3}. The anisotropies lie about a plane passing through the two equinoxes and the north celestial pole (NCP). We can rule out at a 99.995% confidence level the hypothesis that these asymmetries are merely due to statistical fluctuations. Further, even the distribution of observed radio sizes of quasars and radio galaxies show large systematic differences between these two sky regions. The redshift distribution appear to be very similar in both regions of sky for all sources, which rules out any local effects to be the cause of these anomalies. Two pertinent questions then arise. First, why should there be such large anisotropies present in the sky distribution of some of the most distant discrete sources implying inhomogeneities in the universe at very large scales (covering a fraction of the universe)? What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.4134
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1305.4134.pdf

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    OOPS you already had the paper

  7. 7
    exal says:

    Here is another interesting quote from the Singal paper. This effectively rules out speculation that the observation is caused either by our motion, or by chance, but is an objective reality:

    “In order to figure out if our result is consistent with the null hypothesis that the radio sky is statistically isotropic, modified by the kinetic effects of our proper motion (measured via the CMB dipole), we performed 100,000 Monte Carlo simulations. The corresponding histogram is shown in figure 10. We find that only 21 of those realizations contain a dipole higher than the measured one and thus we can exclude that the estimated radio dipole is just due to our proper motion and amplitude bias at 99.6% CL. This is actually very puzzling, as the direction of the radio dipole agrees with the direction of the CMB dipole within the measurement error.

    All measurements so far point towards a higher radio dipole amplitude than expected, when we assume that the cosmic radio dipole is just due to our peculiar motion with respect to the rest frame de- fined by the CMB. This is quite puzzling, as the orientation of the radio dipole agrees with the orientation of the CMB dipole within measurement errors.”

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