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WHAT would you do if you found a mysterious and controversial pattern in the radiation left over from the big bang? In 2005, Kate Land and João Magueijo at Imperial College London faced just such a conundrum. What they did next was a PR master stroke: they called their discovery the cosmic "axis of evil".
What exactly had they seen? Instead of finding hot and cold spots randomly spattered across the sky as they expected, the pair's analysis showed that the spots in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) appeared to be aligned in one particular direction through space.
The apparent alignment is "evil" because it undermines what we thought we knew about the early universe. Modern cosmology is built on the assumption that the universe is essentially the same in whichever direction we look.
If the cosmic radiation has a preferred direction, that assumption may have to go - along with our best theories about cosmic history.
This disaster might be averted if we can show that the axis arises from some oddity in the way our telescopes and satellites observe the radiation. A nearby supercluster of galaxies could also save the day: its gravitational pull might be enough to distort the radiation into the anomalous form seen.
Nobody knows for sure. We are dealing with the limits of our capabilities, says Michael Longo of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "All observations beyond our galaxy are obscured by the disc of the Milky Way," he points out, so we need to be careful how we interpret them.
The European Space Agency's recently launched Planck space telescope might settle the issue when it makes the most sensitive maps yet of the CMB. Until then, the axis of evil continues to terrorise us.
Originally posted by damwel
That's right, the world is only 6000 years old. hehe