Do We Exist in a “Flat” Universe?


The awesome WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) has been scanning the universe to see if space itself is curved, and various other cosmological queries that make Star Trek sound like My First Chewable ABC Book.  A recent study aims to cast doubt over the conclusions, and while may only highlight indicate its own shortcomings one thing is for sure – scientists get to argue over far cooler stuff than anyone else.

Analysis of data from WMAP has convinced most astrophysicists that our universe is indeed flat (though it still gets bent out of shape around massive objects).  98% probability results from calculations will do that kind of thing.  However, Professor Silk and colleagues at the University of Oxford repeated the calculations with a different set of assumptions – ones other astrophysicists didn't actually use based on "evidence" and "everything we've observed up to now" – and came out with a 67% chance of universe-flatness.  Which, er, is still a pretty convincing flat argument.

"It's a reasonable assumption that the universe isn't entirely flat," said Silk, possibly not aware that 67% is actually a majority vote in most kinds of mathematics.  Other astrophysicists have pointed out that you can get any results you want from a theory if you change the starting conditions, and even when choosing the worst possible points for flatness the answer still came out as "Pretty damn flat."

Nevertheless, such second-guessing is an extremely important part of science.  Even an unconvincing counter-argument is welcomed, and rigorously analysed to determine exactly where that "un" comes from. 

The Daily Galaxy via WMAP Analysis


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