Biggest cosmology news in a decade could be a mistake

Remember a couple months ago, when you spent the better part of a week trying to understand the Big Bang in order to appreciate a huge, new discovery in physics? Now other physicists think that discovery might just be an artifact of data analysis — not a real finding at all.

...scientists cautioned that the result would have to be scrutinized thoroughly. And now a potential problem with the BICEP analysis has emerged, says Adam Falkowski, a theoretical particle physicist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics of Orsay in France and author of the Résonaances blog. The BICEP researchers mapped the polarization of the CMB across a patch of sky measuring 15° by 60°. To study the CMB signal, however, they first had to subtract the "foreground" of microwaves generated by dust within our galaxy, and the BICEP team may have done that incorrectly.

For their part, the folks at BICEP are unequivocally denying this. There's a very nice piece at New Scientist by Lisa Grossman that gives you some good reasons to be skeptical of the skepticism. Ultimately, nobody is going to know whether the BICEP results are legit (or not) until their work is replicated (or not) by another team of researchers ... something that could take another year to happen. Watch this space.