Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A real puzzle in cosmology: part I

from Blank On The Map

Today I'd like to write about something which currently is a really exciting puzzle. Measurements have been made of a particular cosmological effect, known as the integrated Sachs-Wolfe or ISW effect, and the data show a measured value that is five times larger than it should be if our understanding of gravitational physics, our model of the universe, and our analysis of the experimental method are correct. No one yet knows why this should be so. The point of this post is to try to explain what is going on, and to speculate on how we might hope to solve the puzzle. It has been written in a conversational format with the lay reader in mind, but there should be some useful information even for experts.

The CMB sky as seen by the WMAP satellite. The colours represent deviations of the measured CMB temperature from the mean value – the CMB anisotropies (red is hot and blue is cold). This map uses the Mollweide projection to display a sphere in two dimensions. Image credit: NASA / WMAP Science team.