Physics News of the Week: Dust Officially Kills BICEP2 Breakthrough

| February 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Another exciting week has passed and I hope it’s been productive for you. As always, we take a look at some of the top events that happened in the world of science. To get these reports delivered straight to your email, register for our email newsletter.

1. Researchers Aim to Equip Humans with Magnetic Sense (Feb 3)

Scientists from Germany and Japan have developed a new magnetic sensor, which is thin, robust and pliable enough to be smoothly adapted to human skin, even to the most flexible part of the human palm. This is a major step towards equipping the human body with the sense of magnetic fields.

“We have demonstrated an on-skin touch-less human-machine interaction platform, motion and displacement sensorics applicable for soft robots or functional medical implants as well as magnetic functionalities for electronics on the skin”, said Michael Melzer, the PhD student of the ERC group led by Denys Makarov concentrating on the realization of flexible and stretchable magnetoelectronics. “These ultrathin magnetic sensors with extraordinary mechanical robustness are ideally suited to be wearable, yet unobtrusive and imperceptible for orientation and manipulation aids” added Prof. Oliver G. Schmidt, who is the director of the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at the IFW Dresden.

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Still on the hunt for gravitational waves

2. BICEP2 Breaktrough Now Officially Dead (Feb 4)

One of the biggest discoveries (or so we thought) last year was announced by the BICEP2 team, who claimed that they had found signs of cosmic inflation in the CMB data. Now, however, a joint team that includes the BICEP2 researchers has found that there is no clear evidence of the primordial gravitational waves that signaled evidence for inflation, and that much of the signal was clearly caused by dust.

“I think the conclusion is that the BICEP2 team misinterpreted their results,” said David Spergel, a Princeton University cosmologist who was not involved in the work, however, he wrote a paper last year arguing that the strange signal was due to dust. “They effectively with this paper have withdrawn their claim of detection.”

3. Planck Pins Down the End of the Cosmic Dark Ages (Feb 6)

The first stars and the large-scale structure in our universe formed much later than previously thought, according to the latest data from the European Space Agency’s Planck telescope, which has been scrutinizing the polarized light from the early universe. Planck’s new timeline pinpoints when star formation began in the nascent universe. This signalled the end of the cosmic “dark ages” and knowing when it occurred will help improve our understanding of the earliest epochs of the universe.

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