Planck’s new microwave maps cast doubt on earlier results.

Planck’s new microwave maps cast doubt on earlier results.

ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Evidence for cosmic inflation wanes

A crumbling claim that appeared to reveal the workings of the big bang may instead say more about how science is done in an age of incessant news coverage. In March, researchers working with a specialized telescope at the South Pole, known as BICEP2, claimed that by studying the afterglow of the big bang—the so-called cosmic microwave background—they had discovered direct evidence that the newborn cosmos had undergone a bizarre exponential growth spurt known as cosmic inflation. Now, researchers from the European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft have shown that radiation from dust in our galaxy accounts for some, and possibly all, of the BICEP signal. Curiously, the BICEP and Planck teams took very different tacks in publicizing their results. The BICEP team held a press conference and issued a bold press release. The Planck team did not—because they did not want the press to jump to the conclusion that they had definitively proved the BICEP result wrong.

For more, see the full story in this week's issue of Science.