This week in science (#40)
Recent results from the European satellite Planck have challenged what was previously reported as the discovery of the century. The signal detected by BICEP2, a South Pole based experiment, and attributed to an extremely rapid expansion during the first moments of the Universe (inflation), seems to have a much simpler explanation: dust. While the judge is still out, and the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, any extraordinary claims about the very first instants of the Universe will have to be backed by extraordinary proof.
In a press release boldly entitled “Rethinking the Origins of the Universe” it is claimed that scientist Laura Merisini-Houghton has “proven, mathematically, that black holes can never come into being in the first place”. The reason being the inclusion of quantum effects (namely Hawking radiation) in the process of stellar mass Black Hole formation. This process is usually only discussed in the framework of Einstein’s general relativity. The press release has been criticized for a number of reasons: overhyping a result that is not peer-reviewed yet, generalizing the result to all kinds of black holes, and finally extending the implications of the finding to the first moments of the Universe (a topic that is not discussed in the paper itself). While definitely a potentially exciting development, skepticism is recommended.
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