An Uncooperative Universe: Large Scale Anomalies in the CMB
Case Western University
The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is our most important source of
information about the early universe. Many of its features are in good agreement with
the predictions of the so-called standard model of cosmology -- the Lambda Cold Dark
Matter Inflationary Big Bang Theory. However, the large-angle fluctuations of the
microwave background are uncooperative with "the program" -- they continue to exhibit
several statistically significant anomalies. On the one hand, if we look at the whole
sky the lowest multipoles seem to be correlated both with each other and with the
geometry of the solar system. On the other hand, when we look just at the part of
the sky that we most trust – the part outside the galactic plane - there is a dramatic
lack of large angle correlations. So much so that it challenges basic predictions
of the standard model. These anomalies either reflect fundamental new physics of great
importance, or our remarkable ability as humans to see patterns where there are none.
I will discuss how we might begin to test which of these is the case, even without
a model for the anomalies.