Planck Satellite map of primordial universe better than Apple map of lower Manhattan

Scientists have really been knocking out some projects with absurdly expensive equipment lately. And I say, why not? If the soulless yuppies that push around imaginary currency and wreck lives for a living are entitled to multi-million dollar bonuses, we should be able to test wildly theoretical ideas in diamond-encrusted test tubes.

And scientists are batting 1000 at this point (or at least that’s what’s been reported). A European coalition recently proved the existence of the Higgs Boson at CERN using the Large Hadron Collider and now the European Space Agency has flexed its cartography skills by mapping the ancient universe at the highest resolution ever using the $750 million Planck satellite. By the way, are you asking the same question I am at this point? Exactly. Where the hell is the U.S. in all this business? Last time I checked, we were never ones to back away from a little global fan-fare. Maybe this is why Obama is pushing the Brain Map initiative, which deserves a few comments of its own, but that will have to wait.

I’m pretty sure the resolution of the brain map sits about here:

brain resolution

Back to the ancient universe though:

The map is actually one of cosmic background radiation (CMB), which was obtained by grabbing information on microwave radiation across the galaxy over a 15 month period and then removing the ‘dust and shit’ (I couldn’t get an exclusive with the authors so I’m taking some liberty in assuming this is how they would have explained it).

The resulting image is one of the universe just 380,000 years after the big bang, and considering the universe is 13.8 billion years old – up 80 million from previous estimates thanks to the map – that’s a pretty young universe.

But what else does three quarters of a billion dollars and two years buy you? Well, apparently the universe is expanding slower than we thought and the expansion is not uniform, meaning it’s looking less like a basketball that’s getting larger in all directions and more like a football that becomes more oblong due to faster expansion at the tips than in the center. Scientists assume this is so God can spike it into Hell when he’s tired of humanity.

The map has also adjusted scientist’s calculations of the different percentage compositions of the universe. It would be stupid to type it, so check the graph below. Striking, isn’t it? But apparently these small differences mean major things for physicists everywhere and that’s good, because physics is the closest thing we have to magic and therefore one of the last things a general audience can get super blown away by. Dark Energy and Dark Matter? Physics laid claim to all of the cool terms.


Even though the study was a huge success, it also revealed ‘large scale anomalies’. The two mentioned refer to the asymmetrical expansion I mentioned earlier, which is what they call ‘preferred direction of energy fluctuation’ and a ‘cold spot’. It is unclear what these anomalies could mean for physicists but as a scientist, I’m very familiar with this play.

We have come a long way towards answering the problem poised, but our answers have also led to even more crucial questions that must be answered before we fully understand the scope of the question.

These are diversionist tactics at their best and beg two things of those listening: more money and more time. I’m only glad large groups of Europeans aren’t too good to do the same in widespread print. Although Efstathiou, the studies’ corresponding author, did use the discovery of anomalies to make the statement that ‘Cosmology is not finished’.

Dude, next time, try not to come off so needy.

But seriously, space is pretty cool.

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  1. Pingback: Dark Matter a Matter of Fact? | Science Under The Scope

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