Early in the year, astrophysicists announced that they had detected gravitational waves, a telltale sign indicating a period of cosmic inflation immediately prior to the Big Bang. (Yes, cosmic inflation occurred before the Big Bang.) Alas, what they actually detected was dust.
Not the “smoking gun,” they say. Indeed not. Rob Sheldon has noted that it wasn’t just a disappointment; it was a bust that points to bigger problems:
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.
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