The Planck Telescope: News From the Dawn of Time

Will a new picture of the universe’s first light overturn a theory that has reigned for 30 years?

Cosmologists study the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe -- here imagined as it evolved (reading left to right) from 900 million years after the Big Bang to today. (Volker Springel / MPE)
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Today’s precision cosmology, which began with COBE and continued with WMAP and Planck, requires theorists and experimentalists to cooperate in order to resolve the statistical variations in data. In the 20 years since Jan Tauber joined the Planck team, he has watched cosmology seesaw, as theorists and experimentalists race to catch up to each other. “Now they’re being forced to talk,” he says.

The odd reality of cosmology—of any science— is that anomalies are interesting because they defy theory, but may not be taken seriously until they are explained by a theory the experimentalists can test. They could also turn out to be little more than unlikely patterns, like tossing a coin and coming up with 10 heads in a row.

About Michael Milstein

Michael Milstein is a freelance writer who specializes in science. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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