I love anomalies, the thrill of thinking that half of what we know is wrong and the other half is suspect. They hold the promise of new discoveries and a newer better understanding of reality. Unfortunately the vast majority of observations in cosmology, which appear to break the rules, do not stand the test of deep scrutiny.
I have written about the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation several times, usually in the context of one anomaly or another. Most of them have since been deemed to be questionable. We are talking about tiny variations from the ideal random fluctuations and the sensitivity of the experiments is often pushed beyond its limits. It is not surprising that many conclusions drawn from the data are, well somewhat speculative. That said who would fail to find their possibilities intriguing?
Two new papers have been published describing ripples seen in the CMB. The most recent arXiv post by Stephen M. Feeney, et al, is based on some implications of Eternal Inflation. The model states that our universe banged then inflated quickly and so do other universes. As other universes (or false vacuum bubbles in the jargon) blow up they may slam against ours causing bruises in the CMB. They analyze data from WMAP with special software that looks for the telltale signs of these bruises.
In this image they show an idealized collision, the temperature modulation, a high needlet response, and results of edge detection in the CMB. Using these techniques they have found four candidates for primordial collisions. Check it out here: arxiv.org/abs/1012.1995
Another paper coauthored by the renowned Mathematical Physicist Sir Roger Penrose takes a different starting point for its analysis. Penrose is a proponent of Cyclic Inflation rather than Eternal Inflation. Cyclic Inflation starts from the question of why the beginning of the universe had such low entropy and postulates that at the end of the universe there are only black holes and that they evaporate, somehow removing the entropy from the universe and leaving it in an extremely low entropy state from which another big bang will start the whole rising entropy cycle anew.
He and his collaborator see evidence of concentric circles in the CBM which they imagine may have come about from the merger of ultra massive black holes that existed before the big bang. Check in out here: arxiv.org/abs/1011.3706
The first wave of anomalies (purportedly) seen in the CMB came from analyzing the data with little pre supposition about what the anomalies would look like. We now have at least two examples which start from an existing theory and try to see if there is evidence to support the theory. Both methods are valid but they have to be truly supported by the data and only time and those blessed second guessing trolls who bash through the data looking for mistakes will sort that out. And, of course those trolls will have the Planck data soon. In the meantime we have something to pique our imagination.