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Penrose strikes back in war of the cosmos

Do these concentric circles offer a glimpse of before the Big Bang?

By James Dacey

Roger Penrose is defending his claim that our universe did not begin with the Big Bang but instead continually cycles through a series of lifetimes, or “aeons”. He makes his latest case in a paper submitted to the arXiv preprint server yesterday.

The recent excitement began in November when Penrose, a University of Oxford physicist, made the sensational claim that he had glimpsed a signal originating from before the Big Bang. Working with Vahe Gurzadyn of the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia, Penrose came to this conclusion after analysing maps from the Wilkinson Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). These maps reveal the cosmic microwave background, believed to have been created just 300,000 years after the Big Bang and offering clues to the conditions at that time.

After scrutinizing over seven years’ worth of WMAP data, as well as data from the BOOMERanG balloon experiment in Antarctica, Penrose and Gurzadyn say they have identified a series of concentric circles within the data. These circles show regions in the microwave sky in which the range of the radiation’s temperature is markedly smaller than elsewhere. According to the researchers, the patterns correspond to gravitational waves formed by the collision of black holes in the aeon that preceded our own, and they published these claims in a paper submitted to arXiv.

The paper was quickly picked up by and, in no time at all, the story was causing a big stir in the blogosphere. But not everybody agrees with Penrose’s outlandish claims and to date at least two other groups have published their own independent analyses of the same CMB data, and both have taken issue with the original conclusions. The first is a paper by Moss et al and the second is written by Wehus et al – both published on arXiv.

The disagreements are subtle – and I won’t pretend I fully understand them – but in essence both groups are saying that we should not be surprised by the circles, which can easily be explained by anisotropies in the CMB. The patterns, claims Wehus’ group, are fully consistent with the accepted inflationary model of cosmology: that the universe started from a point of infinite density, expanded extremely rapidly for about a second, and has continued to expand much more slowly ever since.

But not to just sit and sulk, Penrose and Gurzadyn have already hit back with a follow up paper, published yesterday on arXiv. In the short article, they agree that the presence of circles in the CMB does not contradict the standard model of cosmology. However, the existence of “concentric families” of circles, they argue, cannot be explained as a purely random effect given the pure Gaussian nature of their original analysis. “It is, however a clear prediction of conformal cyclic cosmology,” they write.

The battle, it seems, is set to go on.

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  1. andwor

    Roger Penrose is at least half correct on two points. If you look up advanced quantum gravity, then it shows that the Universe is likely to have had some structure before the Big Bang.
    Logically however, as the universe is accelerating in its expansion – it is predicted to continue to expand.
    And the corrolary to that is that in advanced quantum gravity that the fundamental constituents of this Universe, harmonic quintessence, get recycled into the formation of other Universes in some future aeon.

  2. It seems for me, both parts have their truth in this controversy. Before some time the dodecahedron universe model was quite popular and it leads into similar structures in CMBR distribution, too. IMO these concentric “circles” are rather nodes of emergent foam, i.e. vertices of docecahedron, thus being another evidence of E8 heterotic structure of Universe. Mr. Garret should extend his E8 theory to the cosmologic scale… But because these artifacts aren’t formed with continuous circles, the opponents of Prof. Penrose have their truth, too. These circles just cannot be seen on the sky reliably. And they’re many, in fact – not just three or four.
    Does it mean, Prof. Penrose is wrong? Actually not quite: we are living in foamy “hall of mirrors” composed of nested Gosset-Petrie polytopes, so we can see the neighbouring universe cells – i.e. these more distant in apparent “Universe history”. The duality of observational perspectives is very pronounced at the boundaries of observable Universe, because we can see things there both from inside, both from outside of it – and it’s not always so easy to distinguish the interior from exterior, a reflection from refraction, etc..
    From perspective of AWT, Penrose’s conformal geometry is not exact model, it’s just approximate. If he wouldn’t try to cover it, everyone would see it clearly. His turquoise “circles” are hand drawn in Photoshop – not generated with actual data. Why such hand drawn pictures are ever allowed in scientific publication as an illustration of experimental data? If these results would be reliable to “six sigma” as Mr. Penrose is claiming, why we cannot see them directly? Maybe he is simply guessing in priority race – but I suspect, he’s playing a game with the rest of scientific community, as he has some additional backing arguments prepared.
    What Penrose can actually see on the sky is the Kolmogorov map of CMB. I know about it, because I know about previous articles of his collaborator. Well, it contains some cyclic structures, but they’re quite fuzzy and scale invariant. In this sense, prof. Penrose faked the presentation of these results to suit his theory better. But his insight is quite relevant in similar way, like the relativity has been “proven” with noisy data from solar eclipse in 1919 originally. Such noisy data just couldn’t be published as a support of relativity by now.
    There is still rather semantic question opened, whether the parts of observable Universe can ever belong into previous generation of it – or not.

  3. rl dwyer

    A theorist observation: A Big Bang implies an explosion of an atom-seed-egg with pure chaos to follow until temperatures cool down.
    An Inflationary model where “the universe started from a point of infinite density,…” has the premise of a big bang.
    A Penrose cyclic model demands a big bang beginning, over and over (due to temperature variations or pure inflationary segments?) [Entirely possible.]
    However, Dwyer’s theory where the first atom-seed-egg became a Sun which relies on the Sun shedding itself over and over, this would lead to Suns being produced ad infinitum. [Entirely possible.]
    All of the above should lead to a meeting of the minds.

  4. Q

    reference for the above:
    String quintessence and the formulation of advanced quantum gravity. Physics Essays 22: 364-377


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