What’s So Cosmic About This Cosmic Microwave Background?
In 1964, In NJ, two astronomers, Penzias and Wilson, who were interested in measuring radiation in outer space, discovered the cosmic microwave background while experimenting with a 6m horn antenna. This is usually referred to as an accidental discovery, because they were not specifically searching for the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). At the same time Robert Dicke at Princeton had developed a theory that such radiation should exist as a remnant of the big bang, and would represent basically a view of the “baby universe” (Max Tegmark in “The Principle”). Robert Dicke was searching for evidence of CMB. The two groups got together, Penzias and Wilson ended up winning the Nobel Prize, and all antennas pointed to the CMB from then on.
Early terrestrial-based studies indicated some funny anomalies in the radiation. The radiation did not appear to be random and isotropic (no special directions) as theory suggested. The anomalies were a challenge to The Copernican Principle. Scientists such as George Ellis studied these results. Unfortunately it was not possible to rule out terrestrial contamination, plus the terrestrial studies only saw small patches of sky.
In 1989 the COBE satellite was launched. COBE mapped the microwave sky from earth orbit. It also detected signals which were not random, and also found some significant anomalies, but COBE circled the earth, so potential contamination from terrestrial sources was still possible. Additionally, COBE was not a very high resolution instrument.
In 2001, the WMAP satellite was launched. It was designed with higher resolution detectors, and was planned to operate far from earth’s influence at a location in space known as L2 (about 1.5 million km from earth). WMAP results were taken very seriously. It represented a high confidence map of the entire cosmic microwave background. The anomalies seen in COBE and hinted at from terrestrial studies were amplified and were quite shocking, and were dubbed the “axis of evil” by cosmologists. Max Tegmark (currently at MIT) discovered that the anomalies appeared to be correlated to a special direction in space, and later researchers, especially the group including Copi, Huterer, Schwarz and Starkman, linked the “Axis of Evil” specifically to a special direction in our solar system. Physicist Lawrence Krauss, while visiting the Virgin Islands and Jeffrey Epstein’s private island with a group of scientists sponsored by Epstein, commented concerning these anomalies:
“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.” Edge.org, THE ENERGY OF EMPTY SPACE THAT ISN’T ZERO, A Talk With Lawrence M. Krauss, July 5th, 2006.
In 2011 Lawrence Krauss interviewed for “The Principle”, and was asked about these anomalies. Most scientists at that time were waiting for the Planck satellite, the gold standard in microwave background mapping satellites, to return its results in 2013. Planck was designed with better, even higher resolution instruments, and with some of the uncertainties of WMAP in mind. Many scientists believed that the anomalies would turn out to have been an issue with either foreground contamination, or a scanning flaw in the WMAP satellite.
In March 2013, Planck returned its results. The outcome was a complete blow to those who expected Planck to discredit the anomalies in WMAP. “The Principle” re-interviewed Max Tegmark in Boston after the announcement. What has been discovered is shocking.