The Demise of a Discovery: BICEP2 and Gravitational Waves

Last week, BICEP2 scientists — who in March announced evidence of cosmic inflation, a potentially Nobel-worthy find — threw handfuls of dust on the grave of their own results. The official paper [pdf], just published on the BICEP website, tells the story of how they mistook cosmic dust for “primordial gravitational waves,” and why everybody needs to calm down and stop trying to bury inflation, too.
What’s inflation?
Just 10-35 seconds after the Big Bang, cosmologists (or at least most of t

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