Planck Helps Scientists Read The Cosmic Writing On The Wall
    By News Staff | March 21st 2013 12:56 PM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Thanks to a supersensitive space telescope and some sophisticated supercomputing, scientists from the international Planck collaboration have made the closest reading yet of the most ancient story in our universe: the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

    Today, the team released preliminary results based on the Planck observatory's first 15 months of data. They show that the universe is 100 million years older than we thought with more matter and less dark energy.  

    Decoding the Cosmos

    Written in light shortly after the big bang, the CMB is a faint glow that permeates the cosmos. Studying it can help us understand how our universe was born, its nature, composition and eventual fate. "Encoded in its fluctuations are the parameters of all cosmology, numbers that describe the universe in its entirety," says Julian Borrill, a Planck collaborator and cosmologist in the Computational Research Division at Berkeley Lab.

    However, CMB surveys are complex and subtle undertakings. Even with the most sophisticated detectors, scientists still need supercomputing to sift the CMB's faint signal out of a noisy universe and decode its meaning.

     Parked in an artificial orbit about 800,000 miles away from Earth, Planck's 72 detectors complete a full scan of the sky once every six months or so. Observing at nine different frequencies, Planck gathers about 10,000 samples every second, or a trillion samples in total for the 15 months of data included in this first release. In fact, Planck generates so much data that, unlike earlier CMB experiments, it's impossible to analyze exactly, even with powerful supercomputers. 

    Instead, CMB scientists employ clever workarounds. Using approximate methods they are able to handle the Planck data volume, but then they need to understand the uncertainties and biases their approximations have left in the results.

    One particularly challenging bias comes from the instrument itself. The position and orientation of the observatory in its orbit, the particular shapes and sizes of detectors (these vary) and even the overlap in Planck's scanning pattern affect the data.

    To account for such biases and uncertainties, researchers generate a thousand synthetic (or simulated) copies of the Planck data and apply the same analysis to these. Measuring how the approximations affect this simulated data allows the Planck team to account for their impact on the real data.

    Hundreds of scientists from around the world study the CMB using supercomputers at NERSC, a DOE user facility based at Berkeley Lab. "NERSC supports the entire international Planck effort," says Borrill. A co-founder of the Computational Cosmology Center (C3) at the lab, Borrill has been developing supercomputing tools for CMB experiments for over a decade. The Planck observatory, a mission of the European Space Agency with significant participation from NASA, is the most challenging yet.

    "These maps are proving to be a goldmine containing stunning confirmations and new puzzles," says Martin White, a Planck scientist and physicist with University of California Berkeley and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). "This data will form the cornerstone of our cosmological model for decades to come and spur new directions in research."


    Finally, verification of the demise of the Copernican Principle. Or maybe one more satellite to settle it?

    Finally, verification of the demise of the Copernican Principle.
    Does that mean our clocks will stop working?
    It should be interesting to watch the scientific establishment finally start peeling all that egg off its face that's been accumulating these last 400 years plus. Check out I'm glad to see there are at least some folks out there that were predicting these results. Now they have been vindicated once again with this latest showing indicating that the Copernican Principle is one big myth on much the same order as evolution's frog to prince fairytale.

    Gerhard Adam
    That's actually pretty funny.  Claiming that Galileo was wrong and the church was right ... so, I guess now the church must be wrong, since they apologized regarding their treatment of Galileo.

    Oh well, that's what happens when one accepts bullshit as truth.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank, the joke is on those who read too much of the MSM. Contrary to popular opinion, the Church (i.e., in the person of John Paul II or any other pope) never officially apologized for its dealing with Galileo nor was there any need to, although individual members of the Church who are too prone to being victims of human respect and often cowered by mockers such as yourself have. As for Galileo, he actually recanted his Copernican views towards the end of his life (That's a fact Jack -- look it up.) and not because he was tortured or any other nonsense Catholic bashers like yourself like to spout.

    Gerhard Adam
    Moving formally to rectify a wrong, Pope John Paul II acknowledged in a speech today that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in condemning Galileo 359 years ago for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

    The address by the Pope before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences closed a 13-year investigation into the Church's condemnation of Galileo in 1633, one of history's most notorious conflicts between faith and science.
    Yes, of course, a 13 year investigation is not official.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You would do well to read John Paul II's actual speech rather than rely on the Catholic bashing MSM NYTimes. I have read it carefully. He did not apologize either as an individual or on behalf of the Church. Instead, he sent out a wordy ambiguous message which attempted to mollify some while at the same time being quite careful not to contradict the Church's official stance on the Galileo case. Even if he did apologize (which as I stated he did not) it would have carried none of the Church's Magisterial teaching authority behind (due to the nature of the speech as opposed to a sort of formal papal pronouncement such as an encyclical) and thus in no way have overturned the Church's official doctrinal position on the matter.

    As for your sarcastic statement, "Yes, of course, a 13 year investigation is not official." you conveniently mix apples with oranges. No one denies there was an official investigation. What I have denied and what you certainly have not proven here is your initial claim, that the Church apologized regarding its treatment of Galileo.

    Gerhard Adam
    OK ... so it's just more political subterfuge?   I'm really not that interested.  It's a massive non-issue and only of consequence to those that like to engage in such trivialities.  So, if you want to continue to believe that the church had some inside track on scientific knowledge ... go for it.  It's just not that interesting nor important.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You stepped in it Gerhard and now you are making your quick exit. Whatever!

    As for the subject matter of this article here are a few things for your consideration.
    1) Planck clearly confirms that the dreaded Axis of Evil is real.
    2) The Copernican Principle (which is the irreducible, foundational assumption of modern cosmology) has been observationally falsified.
    3) The universe's largest visible structure is aligned in completely inexplicable ways with supposedly insignificant Earth. This is now established, scientific, observational fact.
    4) "The Principle" scheduled for release this summer is now the one movie that you really must see this year, since it is only every few centuries or so that the foundational assumption governing our entire worldview comes crashing down.
    5) The ESA press release includes (suitably buried under paragraphs of reassurances that almost everything fits)..........
    a) “The fact that Planck has made such a significant detection of these anomalies erases any doubts about their reality; it can no longer be said that they are artefacts of the measurements. They are real and we have to look for a credible explanation,” says Paolo Natoli of the University of Ferrara, Italy.
    b) “Imagine investigating the foundations of a house and finding that parts of them are weak. You might not know whether the weaknesses will eventually topple the house, but you’d probably start looking for ways to reinforce it pretty quickly all the same,” adds François Bouchet of the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris.

    Gerhard Adam
    No, actually I haven't.  I've just been down this road before, and I tend not to travel it when the only companions are people that like to make stuff up, and then revel in their own ignorance.

    Somehow I'm inclined to think that this is just a set of rubbish comments intended to promote "The Principle" since this seems to be a common thread between your comments and Mark Wyatt.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Good old revisionist history. So it makes us realize scientists were not gods, which is not a bad thing, but then it opens the floodgates for nonsensical websites like "" . And embarrassingly it has a Canadian domain. 
    Our clocks work, and always have. Nothing physically has changed, only philosophically/theologically.
    With COBE we saw that the CMB was aligned to the earth's equinox and ecliptic, but science said bah, not possible. So we sent out the WMAP. The WMAP more clearly showed that the CMB is aligned to the earth's equinox and ecliptic, but science said, bah, bah (and inside oh crud). So we sent out the Planck, using a different sensor and scanning methodology. Well Planck has once again verified that the supposed most primal signal in the universe knows about is pointing directly at the earth. What does that tell those not steeped in mythology (i.e., big bangism)? The Copernican Principle was accepted without reservation or proof 400 years ago, and science has received crushing blow after blow against it, yet philosophically insisted it is true, while continually distorting science to fit the view to the point that it claims that rods magically shrink and space warps to mathematically shoehorn the idea into the observed data (which otherwise indicates we are standing still in a central location). The jig is up, and the truth may set you free (If you can accept it).

    Even the cosmologists themselves know this now, and in The Principle Movie ( ) the scientists themselves discuss this.

    Gerhard Adam
    You sure know how to pick 'em Hank.  Perhaps these fruitcakes will begin going after physics instead of spouting their nonsense exclusively in evolution.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Speak for yourself Gerhard, but please try to say something just a tad more intelligent.

    Gerhard Adam
    Oh that's rich...
    Mundus vult decipi
    CMB misions are not the first in showing some evidence about the possible or apparent breaking of the CP. There have been other measurements in the early 90's (appeared in Nature, by the way) showing an apparent periodicity in galaxies with our galaxy at the center of that concentric patch. Some scientists who took that data seriously proposed some explanations: from "the spontaneous breaking of the Copernican Principle" to "periodic (time) variatons of the fundamental constants". So it wouldn't be the first time we start rethinking our most cherished philosophycal principles. But it is still to early to jump into wild conclusions.