Monday, April 10, 2006

More about WMAP

I'm planning to write more about the recent WMAP results reported here. But there's actually a lot to say, so I'm going to take it slow and easy. It's hard to overemphasize the importance of some of the issues.

To set the stage in this note, I'm just going to list some of the more important news reports and commentaries that appeared along with, or following, the initial announcement. This is the grist for future reference. There's a lot of repetition, especially in the "news" stories, and much of it is pretty lightweight (which, of course, is a problem). No need to read it all, but if you skim it, you'll have some perspective on what this is all about. What I hope to do, over time, is fill in some of the details and try to explain some of the important issues that are still outstanding.

News reports

Ringside Seat to the Universe's First Split Second (NASA)

New Three Year Results on the Oldest Light in the Universe (NASA)

New Satellite Data On Universe's First Trillionth Second - also here (NASA)

New Satellite Data On Universe's First Trillionth Second (similar to preceding article, NASA)

Scientists Get Glimpse of First Moments After Beginning of Time (NY Times)

Astronomers Find the Earliest Signs Yet of a Violent Baby Universe (later version of preceding article, NY Times)

WMAP Bolsters Case for Cosmic Inflation (Sky & Telescope)

A New Triumph for Inflation (AIP Physics News Update)

Best ever map of the early universe revealed (New Scientist)

Satellite confirms birth theory of universe (Science News)

New direction for cosmic radiation (PhysicsWeb)

Big Bang Afterglow Points to Inflation (ScienceNOW)

Astronomers Detect First Split-Second of the Universe (

Evidence for Universe Expansion Found (AP)

Blog comments

New WMAP results: quantum fluctuations, galaxies, and the first stars
Phil Plait at the Bad Astronomy Blog (not a self-descriptive name) offers a very easy, gentle introduction to some of the key concepts relevant to the WMAP science.

WMAP results — cosmology makes sense!
Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance gives a nice (but rather technical) summary of what's interesting about the results.

Everything I know about the universe I did not learn from newspaper headlines
Sean returns with a shorter summary of the main results, and he adds some mild laments for how the findings were described in press headlines.

WMAP year 3 highlights
Steinn SigurĂ°sson at Dynamics of Cats gives very brief summaries of some of the technical papers.

WMAP for Dummies
Steinn expands nicely on his previous post -- though still assuming much familiarity with the technical background.

WMAP First Impressions
Milligan at EGAD provides a succinct summary of some of the important results. A subsequent post (WMAP: The Cosmic Axis of Evil) calls attention to the possible existence of a suspicious preferred direction in the data. Then he talks about the problem of foreground microwave radiation from our own galaxy. (WMAP: Foregrounds) Finally, he discusses polarization in the CMB. (WMAP: Polarization in the Low-Signal Regime) Altogether, a very nice series.

WMAP results
Jacques Distler at Musings shows a table of some key cosmological parameters and their values implied by WMAP together with other important studies. (For real cognoscenti.)

New WMAP results: first comments
The discussion board CosmoCoffee has a short thread with brief comments from a number of cosmology specialists.

WMAP Results 2006
There's a less technical and more spirited discussion at the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum, with scattered references to other relevant material along the way.

The WMAP 3-year data release
Christine Dantas at Christine's Background Independence provides a summary of the main WMAP results. But more interesting is the rather heated discussion in the comments, especially the questioning of the idea of inflation itself.

Three-year WMAP Data Now Out
Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong provides a few links to NASA releases and some blog comments, which echo some of the issues raised at Christine's blog.

Three-year WMAP data
Scientia est Potentia just lists a few links.

Technical articles

Three Year Science and Instrument Papers (list of technical papers about the WMAP results)

Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Three Year Results: Implications for Cosmology (technical explanation of what this is all about, PDF)


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