UPDATE: Changed pic 4. See old version here.
UPDATE: Changed pic 4. See old version here.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Há poucos meses, a BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) homologou um novo sub-estilo de cerveja que significa uma vitória para os cervejeiros artesanais latinoamericanos: a IPA Argenta. Mas no que essa nova IPA difere das demais? Basicamente, a IPA Argenta se caracteriza por usar em sua composição maltes pilsen e de trigo (cereal muito cultivado pelos hermanos) e lúpulos da Patagônia Argentina.
Nós, Lupulinas, fãs confessas do estilo India Pale Ale, resolvemos aproveitar o feriado para visitar a bela Buenos Aires e, de quebra, provar a novidade. Amigos, a IPA Argenta não nos decepcionou.
Ainda difícil de encontrar nos bares especializados, demos sorte de encontrar três garrafas de IPA Argenta produzidas pela cervejaria Dust. Muito bem equilibrada, esta IPA leva lúpulos Nugget, Cascade, Mapuche e Victoria (todos plantados no sul da Argentina), é razoavelmente maltada e tem um teor alcoolico de 5,6% e 45IBU, fazendo dela uma cerveja leve e com bastante “bebabilidade”.
Ela é mais seca que as IPAs americanas e tem corpo mais leve que as inglesas, tendo em comum com elas os aromas cítricos, herbáceos e florais, dependendo da proporção e do modo como são adicionados os lúpulos.
Bebemos esta IPA Argenta, produzida pela Dust, num boteco sensacional aberto há um ano no bairro de Palermo, em Buenos Aires. É o Bodega Cervecera que mantém com destaque a boa fama dos bares portenhos. O ambiente é pequeno, com mesas na calçada e um segundo andar bem confortável. O estilo é rústico e meio improvisado como os bons botecos são. Sente-se que ele está sendo criado pelo tempo, por seus donos e frequentadores.
No dia que fomos a TV estava ligada na semifinal da Copa dos Campeões e vimos o Chelsea ser eliminado pela Atlético de Madrid e os outros clientes do bar festejarem a final madrileña. Terminado o jogo, o preponderante classic rock invade o ambiente como em todos bares de artesanais que fomos aqui em Buenos Aires. O clima fica ótimo.
Apos experimentarmos a IPA Argenta resolvemos continuar na viagem e comparar as outras IPAs poduzidas por nossos vizinhos. Aconselhadas por Alícia (a melhor garçonete do mundo) partimos para a American IPA da Triskell Brewing Co. com 7% de graduação alcóolica e 70 IBU. Uma garrafa linda de 750ml, com elefantes raivosos no rótulo e produzida com double dry hopping. Ela é bem maltada mas com lupulo muito presente. Uma pedrada. Das boas.
A Bodega Cervecera não tem muitas torneiras, mas tivemos o prazer de experimentar a Black IPA da Cork que não nos decepcionou. Redonda, bem feita, ela fica magnífica com azeitonas pretas que Alícia providenciou. Alias, seguindo a tradição de bares europeus, a Bodega não tem cardápio de petiscos ou pratos. Improvisa-se queijos e azeitonas só pra você não sair de lá dando PT (Perda Total ;)
Completamos o trabalho com uma Frausen IPA que achamos bem normalzinha, bem feita mas sem nada que nos chamasse mais a atenção. Uma IPA mais floral que herbácea ou cítrica.
E assim saimos do Bodega Cervecera felizes da vida por termos experimentado a IPA Argenta e por termos conhecido um boteco dos bons. Aquele que os locais passam na sua hora e são muito bem recebidos por Alícia que sabe o que eles gostam.
Rua Thames, 1759 (entre a El Salvador e a Costa Rica)
Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires
aberto todos os dias a partir das 18hs
todas as fotos de Cilmara Bedaque
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Meet the sailfish—a predator that combines teamwork, ninja-like stealth, record-breaking speed, chameleonic colour changes, and a weapon that looks like a sword, works like a sword, and is mounted on its face.
It is surely one of the most spectacular hunters in the ocean. Thanks to a new study by Jens Krause, we now have a much better idea of its technique, and how it uses that distinctive pointed snout.
Sailfish typically grow to around 3 metres in length and are among the fastest of fish, reaching speeds of up to 68 miles per hour (110 kilometres per hour). Like their relatives, the swordfishes and marlins, their upper jaws end in a sharp, protruding bill. Many people assumed that the bills are used to attack prey, but others have claimed that they are too fragile; instead, they might help the fish to swim faster by cutting down on drag.
Krause became captivated by sailfish after watching a sequence in the classic 2001 documentary Blue Planet, in which a hundred-strong team take out a school of smaller fish. He wanted to see these hunts for himself and in 2011, he got his wish. “I took a trip organised by Shark Diver magazine,” he says. “They claimed it was possible to observe these animals. It was, and next year, I gathered a group of scientists to film them seriously.”
By using frigate birds and pelicans as spotters, the team found several groups of hunting sailfish. They jumped in the water, and captured several hours of high-speed and high-definition video. “It’s quite scary,” says Krause. “They do come very close to you, but they’re very accurate and careful, so they never made any contact with the divers.”
The bill isn’t a piercing weapon; it’s a slashing one. Krause’s team saw that a sailfish would swim up, insert its bill within the sardines, and flick it sideways to hit one or more targets. The sardines are none the wiser. The high-speed videos revealed that fish close to the bill don’t react any differently than the ones far away. The bill, which is so obvious to us, is actually a stealth weapon! It’s so thin that it’s hard to see and barely disturbs the surrounding water, allowing the sailfish to thrust it into the sardine school without being detected.
Now, the sardines are in serious trouble. When a sailfish flicks its bill, it either gives a gentle tap that stuns an individual fish, or a violent slash that hits several at once. During a slash, the tip of the bill can cover 6 metres and turn through 575 degrees in a single second. That’s much faster than a sardine can swim, and the bill’s acceleration (among the highest of any aquatic back-boned animal) outmatches the sardine’s reflexes. It’s hard to detect and impossible to avoid.
Krause thinks that the sailfish combine these tactics in a brutal way. They start by chasing schools of fish using their legendary speed, and they erect their eponymous sails to corral their prey. Gradually, they split large schools into smaller ones.
Then, they start slashing to inflict heavy wounds. “They don’t just attack a school and remove individuals, like dolphins or sharks would,” says Krause. “They rough these fish up for many hours. They keep them pinned, go in, and hit multiple individuals over and over again. In smaller schools, virtually every fish has been injured many times. They’re slow and exhausted. That’s when the sailfish start with the tapping. The tapping is targeted harvesting of individuals that have already been roughed up,” he adds.
The sailfish also work in teams. “We’ve seen up to 40 sailfish surrounding just 50 to 100 sardines, although maybe they started with 1,000,” says Krause. They always took turns to attack, presumably to avoid injuring each other with their sharp bills. No one knows how they coordinate their movements, but it might have something to do with their ability to change their colours. When they attack, they switch from silvery to almost black, and their flanks blaze with orange spots and electric blue bars. Perhaps these are signals to other fish, which say, “I’m up now; stand back.”
Krause’s study clearly shows that the sailfish uses its bill for hunting. “There has always been anecdotal information about bill use in feeding, but as far as I know this is the first systematic investigation. Recreational fishermen that fish for marlins and sailfish often use artificial lures or natural baits towed on the surface behind the boat,” says Richard Brill from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “I personally have seen blue and white marlin strike lures with their bills immediately before they grab it in their mouths.”
Brill adds that fishermen often catch billfishes whose bills are broken or missing, but that still seem healthy. There is no way of knowing whether most fish with such injuries starve and die, but these catches tell us that at least some individuals can survive without their bills.
Krause thinks that their phenomenal speed might help. He’d sometimes see a lone sardine breaking off from the school and trying to flee. When that happened, the sailfish simply chased it down through sheer speed, and swallowed it. This might explain why fishermen have sometimes found whole, uninjured fish in the bellies of billfish.
Reference: Domenici, Wilson, Kurvers, Marras, Herbert-Read, Steffensen, Krause, Viblanc, Couillaud & Krause. 2014. How sailfish use their bills to capture schooling prey. Proc Roy Soc B. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.0444
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Today I’m breaking from this week’s bird theme to make a double-dedication to two Happy Tree fans… Happy birthday to Giuseppe today! And a very belated happy birthday to Sam!
Monika Horcicova, Bachelor thesis, Wheel of Life, 3D print, polyurethane resin, 2012
Como venho me dedicando aos livros em detrimento aos podcasts, venho marcando a passagem das semanas pelas quintas-feiras. Mais especificamente pelo excelente Nerdologia, escrito e apresentado por Atila Iamarino (sim, aquele do Rainha Vermelha).
O videocast é patrocinado, via de regra, pela Nerdstore (autoexplicativo) e, vez por outra, por alguma outra empresa fora do conglomerado Jovem Nerd (do qual o Nerdologia faz parte), mas nunca deixando de ser algo relacionado ao mundo neo-nerd, como videogames, computadores, esportes de ação (hein?). Exceto este último.
O episódio mais recente me pegou de surpresa. E me pegou num lugar inesperado. E privado.
Logo no comecinho, na primeira aparição do patrocinador, surge a imagem abaixo:
Desconhecida por mim mas totalmente cromulente e inocente.
Como a imagem aparece por menos de dois segundos na tela, li “hearing guardian” e achei que fosse algum tipo de protetor auricular. Sabe? Daquele que guard sua hearing? Pois. Não é.
No final, meio distraído (porque quando estou prestando atenção eu fecho o vídeo antes da propaganda começar), escuto uma voz diferente exclamando(sic): “Agora que você já sabe para que servem as suas células ciliadas, você pode exercitar as suas com o Hearing Guardian V1 da Biosom.”
Depois de recolher meu diploma do chão e recolocá-lo na parede, voltei para ouvir o resto. A propaganda alega que o produto Hearing Guardian V1 da empresa Biosom (sic) “é um software que ativa e movimenta as suas células ciliadas uma a uma, como se fosse um afinador de piano, deixando elas mais resistentes ao longo de sua vida”.
Eu até poderia discorrer sobre as propriedades fisiológicas dos esterocílios (o nome próprio das células que o software promete
re-energizar reativar ressuscitar rejuvenescer exercitar) e fazer comparações do tipo “alegar que um programa pode exercitar as células do seu ouvido com estímulos sonoros é como tentar vender um massageador de períneo que promete deixar seus espermatozóides mais bronzeados, já que ambos prometem dar novas propriedades às celulas” ou ainda que dizer que isso vai deixar os esterocílios “mais resistentes ao longo da sua vida” é semelhante a propor que a pedra só é dura porque precisou aguentar, por anos a fio, as pancadas da água (que é mole pelo mesmo motivo, só que ao contrário).
Todavia, como sou formado apenas em engenharia de áudio, vou me ater aqui ao que vem escrito na fonte.
E sabe o que mais movimenta suas células ciliadas uma a uma? Barulho. Qualquer barulho. E isso para não falar nada sobre o fato de que elas não ficam isoladas, mas sim em feixes de várias ao mesmo tempo.
O locutor da propaganda diz, em seguida, que o software foi desenvolvido na Coréia do Sul e teve sua eficácia comprovada pelo Instituto Earlogic de Pesquisa da Coréia. Bom, a partir dessa informação impressionante de comprovação de eficácia, já posso passar para o site da empresa Biosom. Lá, me deparo com a temida seção “depoimentos” que todo pseudocientista adora, já que experiência pessoal é sempre mais importante que qualquer estudo bem feito com milhares de pessoas (agora, adivinha o que nunca tem nessas páginas? Um formulário de “escreva aqui o seu depoimento” ou algo semelhante). São oitenta depoimentos dos quais cinquenta e um (63,75%) agradecem à marca por uma melhora significativa do zumbido ou tinnitus. Mas isso só fica importante mais para a frente.
Em seguida, encontro a subseção “estudo“, onde se lê:
Vários estudos têm relatado que o condicionamento de som (ou seja, exposição prévia a sons de baixo nível) poderia proteger contra danos na capacidade auditiva causados por ruído traumático em um número de espécies de mamíferos, incluindo humanos.
Palavra-chave ali é “proteger”, correto? Como em português essa frase só existe nessa página e noutras apontando para ela (e não sei do que se trata coreano), catei em inglês até achar isto aqui:
“In addition to delaying progressive hearing loss, acoustic stimuli could also protect hearing ability against damage by traumatic noise. In particular, a method called forward sound conditioning (i.e., prior exposure to moderate levels of sound) has been shown to reduce noise-induced hearing impairment in a number of mammalian species, including humans.”
Isso eu achei no ClinicalTrials.gov, uma base de dados de estudos clínicos em humanos do Instituto Nacional de Saúde americano. Esse estudo deveria comparar a diferença de percepção entre tons puros, antes e depois da estimulação sonora. Pena que, mesmo tendo sido completado dois anos atrás, ele nunca apresentou os resultados.
Ambos, prepare-se para a surpresa, patrocinados pela Earlogic Korea, Inc., tendo como investigadores principais Eunyee Kwak, Ph.D. e Earlogic Auditory Research Institute, empresa que o locutor diz ter comprovado a eficácia do software. Volto já para a Earlogic, calma.
Procurando mais especificamente pelo resultado do ^estudo^ (aspas irônicas) na página da Biosom vejo que na Internet inteira (ou na parte alcançada pelo Google, pelo menos), não há uma só menção (fora, claro, o site da marca) que relacionasse “13,51 dB” com “P= 0.00049″ a um estudo sobre audição. Ou sequer a qualquer outra coisa senão o próprio texto.
Me interessando bastante o “vários” em “vários estudos têm relatado que o condicionamento de som poderia proteger contra danos na capacidade auditiva causados por ruído traumático”, fui atrás. Achei um bem interessante, este sim publicado (no Journal of Neurophysiology da American Physiological Society).
O teste mostrou que o condicionamento sonoro (em ratos, seis horas diárias) realmente melhora a resposta coclear. Exceto na faixa testada acima de 12kHz. Que é o que acontece com a idade, quando os agudos começam a morrer. Como se ela tivesse sido exposta a sons, como quem passou anos ouvindo (como os ratos que passaram seis horas diárias e consecutivas durante dez dias ouvindo o equivalente ao som de um liquidificador de 600W triturando cem gramas de gelo a uma distância de noventa e cinco centímetros, mais ou menos ).
O estudo acima diz que é possível melhorar (simplificando, porque a explicação toda envolve termos como “permanent threshold shift” e “high pass filter” que eu aprendi quando fui alfabetizado em inglês e estou com séria indisposição agora) a eficiência coclear. Sabe o que o estudo não diz? Aliás, sequer cita? Que essa macumba sonora cura tinnitus ou zumbido ou perda de audição. Que é no que os depoimentos do site se concentram.
Se eles dizem ter sido curados de seus zumbidos e a propaganda diz que a eficácia foi comprovada pela Earlogic, vamos agora para a Coréia do Sul (a boazinha da duas) conhecer de perto a empresa.
Procurando primeiro por Eunyee Kwak, Ph.D., vejo que ela é a diretora de pesquisa da Earlogic Corporation.
Na página da Biosom ela é constantemente associada a outro Kwak, Sangyeop. Este, descobri, é o fundador e presidente/CEO da Earlogic Corporation (link em PDF). Segundo seu currículo, Sangyeop não publica desde 2010.
Fuçando na publicações curriculares, tem o promissor “Hearing Improvement with Customized Sound Stimulation“, supostamente publicado na American Academy of Audiology. O problema é que a academia nunca ouviu falar desse trabalho.
Aliás, somente a Eartronic e sua irmã Earlogic (digo irmã porque o currículo Kwak está no fileadmin da primeira, mostrando que ele é dono da segunda) parecem saber dessa publicação.
Do também excitante Ameliorative Effect of Customized Sound Stimulation on Sensorinerual Hearing Loss, só achei o abstract na Association for Research in Otolaryngology. As demais supostas publicações do currículo são mais específicas da prática de otologia do que da de magia negr, ops, “condicionamento sonoro antecipado”.
Aprofundando-me mais ainda naquele(a) obscuro(a) fosso(a) de desinformação que é o site da Biosom, encontro a seção “curiosidades“, onde acho o trecho a seguir:
“O software foi baseado no nosso equipamento que se chama REVE 134 (…)”
O que é esse REVE 134? O produto vendido pela Earlogic, criado por Kwak.
Aliás, as passagens “Um aparelho auditivo auxilia os deficientes auditivos amplificando os sons externos. Ele não tem a função de uma terapia fundamental para perda auditiva” da Biosom e “According to the current hearing loss management, hearing aids is used to help hearing-impaired people hear better by amplifying external sounds.It is not a fundamental therapy for hearing loss and does not cure the damaged auditory hair cell.” da Earlogic são bem, digamos assim, traduzidas.
Na parte de “Perguntas frequentes -> Dúvidas sobre os efeitos do Hearing Guardian V1 -> Há provas da eficácia do software?”, podemos ler e confirmar o que o locutor da propaganda diz, que:
“(…) estudos do Instituto Earlogic de Pesquisas da Coréia do Sul e do Grupo de Pesquisa Tecnológica Adaptive Neuromodulation GmbH (ANM) da Alemanha comprovaram que a utilização da tecnologia adequadamente pode recuperar em até 10dB a audição perdida no prazo de duas semanas, podendo assim diminuir sintomas decorrentes da perda auditiva, como zumbido e dores de cabeça.”
O produto Hearing Guardian V1, que também responde por REVE 134, foi desenvolvido pela Earlogic, aquela lá do Doutor Quack – ops, Kwak (hoje estou especialmente disléxico, que diabos!), mesma empresa (ou “Instituto”, como eles anunciam) que ^provou a eficácia^ do próprio produto em ^vários estudos^ nunca publicados.
O método descrito no ^estudo^ do site da Biosom usa um certo tom “a um nível mínimo audível” (o que nós, detentores de um diploma basicamente inútil, chamamos de “limiar de audição”). Bem diferente do som de liquidificador do estudo realmente publicado! O ^estudo^ com 17 voluntários (!) publicado no site é uma tradução do “The Effect of Sound Stimulation on Pure-tone Hearing Threshold” que o ClinicalTrials.gov diz não ter sido completado (última atualização em 7 de setembro de 2011) enquanto a Eartronic (irmã da Earlogic) publica uma versão atualizada dia 7 de janeiro de 2011 (PDF). Huuum…
E todos, todos os estudos, reais ou não, sempre dizem que o treinamento sonoro melhora a percepção de alguns tons ou ajuda a proteger contra lesões traumáticas. Nenhum deles cita zumbido/tinnitus ou restauração de audição perdida. Essas alegações só aparecem nas propagandas, subrepticiamente sempre conectada a “vários estudos” ou “teve sua eficácia comprovada” usando testes que nunca disseram coisas do tipo. E isso é propaganda enganosa, desonestidade intelectual e falência moral.
Não posso dizer que me decepcionei com o Nerdologia, visto que seu conteúdo continua sendo muito bom, além do programa ser bem produzido. O que posso afirmar é que o locutor do anúncio não pode dizer que o software teve sua eficácia comprovada. Especialmente tendo o público-alvo que tem. Mais ainda quando um deslize desses pode sujar a reputação de um cientista de verdade. Mais especificamente quando se trata de um amigo meu.
Agora durma com esse barulho.
 Segundo meu decibelímetro e minha fita métrica.
Increasingly we see phenomena from the digital environment foraying in our physical environment. Potato maker Birds Eye decided to join the trend.
You can now buy #frozen #potato shapes for the social media generation. The mashtags come in five shapes: a hashtag, @ sign, asteriks and two emoticons.
Please note that this virtual snack makes you really fat.
If you think this isn’t the damn truth you should know that a few years back, my campus newspaper ran an article that said fat women should be grateful for rape because it’s the only way they’ll ever feel worthy of a man’s attention.
I shit you not.
20 gigapixels might not seem like a lot in the world of super-high-res images. After all, we shared a 681 gigapixel image of just the moon’s north pole the other day. But when you’re talking infrared images of the milky way, the 20-gigapixel panorama that NASA just released yesterday is the clearest ever captured, and took them TEN YEARS to shoot.
The zoomable 360-degree mosaic panorama only captures 3% of the night sky, but since it’s the 3% that usually appears front and center in every night sky time-lapse you’ve ever seen, it contains over half of the stars in our galaxy.
Captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the mosaic is made up of over 2 million infrared photos Spitzer has taken over the 10 years it has spent gazing at the heavens.
NASA does a better job of explaining what you’re looking at than we do, so we’ll let them take it from here:
Because the images are taken in infrared, Spitzer is able to see farther than any visible light telescope could, helping scientists to visualize and trace the very shape of the Milky Way we reside in.
But just in case the scientific value of this 360-degree panorama doesn’t interest you, we’ll leave you with a fun fact about the size of this awe-inspiring image: “If we actually printed this out, we’d need a billboard as big as the Rose Bowl Stadium to display it,” said Robert Hurt, an imaging specialist at NASA’s Spitzer Space Science Center. “Instead, we’ve created a digital viewer that anyone, even astronomers, can use.”
To use this viewer and browse the Milky Way for yourself, head over to the Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE) project website by clicking here.
Image credits: Photograph courtesy of NASA
Pour clore la semaine en horreur, voici quelques images en avant-première de ce qui attendra les plus courageux des New Yorkais ce soir à la Hero Complex Gallery, pour le King for a Day Art Show. Un hommage vibrant à l’un des plus grands auteurs contemporains d’horreur et de fantastique… Il y a de très belles pièces, je vous préviens. En voici déjà quelques unes avant d’en reparler plus en avant la semaine prochaine. Bon week-end !
Mon Dieu ce clown.
Let’s finish the week with this glorious preview about what awaits you if you’re lucky enough to be tonight at the Hero Complex Gallery premiere, for their King for a Day art show. A tribute to the fantastic universe of the master of horror Stephen King. I’ll give you more details next week, but here comes a few candies for your week-end nightmares… Enjoy !
Thanks to Adam Smasher for the artworks !
share da vergonha da helô
Era lá por 2008, na época eu namorava, e fui numa festa de aniversário de um menino da sala do meu ex num bar-balada.
Estava tudo ok, o pessoal bebendo quentão, tirando fotos incrivelmente constrangedoras, daí resolvemos ir embora. A mãe de uma amiga nossa vinha buscar, até porque ninguém tinha carro na época e o táxi até a minha casa sairia uma fortuna. Daí aquele bando de universitários entrou no carro, foi todo mundo se acomodando, definindo o esquema de quem ia ficar no colo de quem, e eu saí do carro pra entrar por último e sentar no colo do meu namorado.
A mãe da minha amiga nos olhou, fez uma cara de pensativa e falou:
-Você é namorada dele?
-Mas você é muito bonita pra namorar com ele.
hoje eu sei, tia.
Well, yesterday was quite a day, and I’m still sifting through the consequences.
First things first. As with all major claims of discovery, considerable caution is advised until the BICEP2 measurement has been verified by some other experiment. Moreover, even if the measurement is correct, one should not assume that the interpretation in terms of gravitational waves and inflation is correct; this requires more study and further confirmation.
The media is assuming BICEP2′s measurement is correct, and that the interpretation in terms of inflation is correct, but leading scientists are not so quick to rush to judgment, and are thinking things through carefully. Scientists are cautious not just because they’re trained to be thoughtful and careful but also because they’ve seen many claims of discovery withdrawn or discredited; discoveries are made when humans go where no one has previously gone, with technology that no one has previously used — and surprises, mistakes, and misinterpretations happen often.
But in this post, I’m going to assume assume assume that BICEP2′s results are correct, or essentially correct, and are being correctly interpreted. Let’s assume that [here's a primer on yesterday's result that defines these terms]
Then — IF BICEP2′s results were basically right and were being correctly interpreted concerning inflation — what would be the implications?
Well… Wow… They’d really be quite amazing.
Would this story be bigger than the discovery of the Higgs particle? Certainly at least as big. To try to compare the two gets us into silly discussions; you can’t know the long-term implications of a discovery at or near the time it is made. But the immediate list of implications would certainly be longer.
Before I start: we’ll need some definitions, given in this article, of:
If any of these is unfamiliar to you, you may want to read that article first and to have it handy, in another tab or window, to serve as a glossary. You may also want to have my History of the Universe or my BICEP2 Discovery Primer hand.
Implications of BICEP2′s Discovery — IF … IF …
IF IF IF BICEP2′s measurement is correct, at least roughly, and IF IF IF it is being correctly interpreted, at least roughly, then there’s a long list of broad implications that I can think of, or that others of my colleagues have pointed out to me in conversations. Some of them are vague — areas where the implications are likely to be important but are not yet very clear. Some of these things were already somewhat implied by the previous experimental successes of the theory of inflation, while some stem directly from BICEP2.
IF … IF …
A puzzle that bothered scientists for decades, as to how the observable patch of the universe (i.e. the part that we can actually observe today; the universe may be much, much larger than this — see here) could be so uniform, would indeed be firmly solved, by a period of cosmic inflation. The extremely flat geometry of the universe would also now be firmly explained.
We would also have confirmation about how the universe became hot — about how the Hot Big Bang got started. The picture would be this: a large amount of dark energy first makes the universe big, via inflation, and then the dark energy turns into energetic particles, making the universe hot (and still expanding, albeit more and more slowly [until relatively recently]). Some people like to say that inflation puts the “Bang” in “Big Bang”, but remember that it also makes the universe flat and uniform and huge (typically much larger than the observable patch) before it heats it up.
The existence of cosmic inflation would itself be another feather in the cap of Einstein’s theory of gravity — since it is Einstein’s theory that predicts that the presence of a positive cosmological “constant” [not necessarily constant], also known as “dark `energy’ ” [not really energy, but energy density and negative pressure in just the right combination] actually causes the universe to expand, rather than (as we’d naively expect from gravity) contract.
And (IF… IF…) the confirmation of cosmic inflation would mean that those who pointed it out and its advantages, and developed the idea — people like Starobinsky, Guth, Steinhardt, Linde — ought to be able to celebrate (though not all will do so, because they abandoned the idea…)
Also celebrating would be those who pointed out the possibility of a detectable signal from gravitational waves in the polarization of the CMB, which is what BICEP2 has apparently observed. I believe these would be Kamionkowsi, Kosowsky, Stebbins, Seljak and Zaldarriaga (but the cosmologists should correct me if I’m unfair here.)
Were there any doubt left concerning Einstein’s prediction that gravitational waves exist — perhaps some leftover worry about the 1993-Nobel-Prize-winning indirect detection of energy carried being off by these waves, via precision measurements of a pulsar, one of a pair of closely-orbiting neutron stars discovered by Hulse and Taylor — it would be over.
And if anyone still wasn’t sure that gravity is due to a spin-two field, not a spin-zero field, the BICEP2 result would settle the matter; you can’t get B-mode polarization of the CMB without combining the spin-two polarization structure of the gravitational waves with Thomson scattering.
If there were any doubt that gravity is controlled, just like everything else, by quantum physics, it would erased; BICEP2′s observation would imply that just like other fields, which are subject to quantum jitter (i.e., random “fluctuations“), space and time (somewhat more precisely, the metric that determines distances) undergoes the same type of quantum fluctuations as other fields, fluctuations that any quantum version of Einstein’s theory of gravity would predict. No details about quantum gravity are needed for this conclusion.
The amount of dark energy required during inflation, in order that BICEP2 could observe this gravitational wave signal, would (IF… IF…) be enormous. The energy scale of dark energy [defined here] would be about 1016 GeV, just about 100 times less than the absolute maximum possible, which is the (reduced) Planck scale. This need not have been the case! This energy scale could have been trillions of times smaller, and yet still given acceptable amounts of inflation of the universe and an acceptable Hot Big BAng. Amazingly, the dark energy during inflation, if BICEP2 is right, is much larger than it needed to be, and almost as large as it could possibly be!
Moreover, if the energy scale of dark energy [defined here] had been just a few times weaker than BICEP2 observes — 1000 times less than the absolute maximum — then the gravitational wave signal would have been so faint that it would have been completely drowned out by another process (lensing of E-mode polarization, the solid red curve on the first figure here.) So most of us thought, with this wide range of possibilities, that it was a real long shot that BICEP2, or any future similar experiment, would ever see any signal due to gravitational waves from inflation. That the gravitational waves would turn out to be large and powerful enough to be observed would be an amazing piece of luck for scientists wanting to understand the universe. (IF… IF…)
[The original version of this paragraph overstated what we'd know; thanks to my colleagues for pointing out a blunder concerning the heating after inflation.] Also, this would mean we would now have an estimate for how hot the observable patch of the universe could have become after inflation ended and the region containing the observable patch became very hot — the start of the Hot Big Bang. The energy scale of the dark energy during inflation determines the maximum possible temperature at the start of the Hot Big Bang, more or less. To say it another way: after inflation with dark energy of scale 1016 GeV ended, the universe would have become hot, potentially so hot that the average particle rushing around in the hot dense soup of particles had a motion-energy of 1016 GeV, though perhaps quite a bit less than this. That’s a maximum temperature of as much as 1029 degrees [yes, that's a 1 with 29 zeroes after it!!!]
The Large Hadron Collider’s data provide direct insights into physics at the energy scale of around 1000 GeV or so. [The mass-energy mc² of the Higgs particle is 125 GeV.] The BICEP2 measurement would arguably be our first direct evidence (IF… IF…) concerning physics at higher energy scales than the LHC (though one could argue we have a little information from the existence of neutrino masses.) And not just a little higher! Since the scale of the dark energy at inflation is at 1016 GeV, we’re talking 10,000,000,000,000 times higher!!! We’ve been trying for years, using various methods, to find evidence concerning how physics works at or near the Planck energy and Planck length. All previous efforts have come up with nothing; proton decay might have given us insight, but it is too rare if it happens at all; neutrino oscillations haven’t given a clear pictures; cosmology might have revealed big surprises concerning the Planck energy, but none have previously shown up. But if BICEP2 is right, then, for the first time, we are seeing phenomena which occurred near this energy scale!
Similarly, data from cosmology has made us very confident that we understand physics in the early universe back to the time when the first atomic nuclei formed during the Hot Big Bang — a few minutes after the Hot Big Bang started, when the temperature was such that the typical particles had energy of about 0.001 GeV. And we have had reasonable confidence that we have a decent understanding, using what we’ve learned about particle physics recently, back to times of a billionth of a second, and temperatures corresponding to an energy of a hundred GeV or so. But now our understanding may be taking (IF… IF…) an enormous leap, back to the very start of the Hot Big Bang, at a temperature corrresponding to an energy of as much as 1016 GeV, and even earlier, into the frigid inflating universe.
The success of the details of the equations that form the heart of inflationary theory suggests that not only did Einstein’s theory of gravity describe physics at very early times and very high energy scales, the basic principles of quantum field theory worked back then too. It could easily have been imagined — and many have imagined, with concrete ideas backed up with equations — that there might be important principles that we are unaware of, or modifications of the ones we know, that would give very different predictions from standard inflationary theory. So far, there’s no sign of that at all. BICEP2′s result (IF… IF…) would be yet another sign that despite having done all our particle physics and gravity measurements at much lower energy scales and longer distances, those accessible to the LHC and to our previous experiments, we’ve actually understood the principles that govern the behavior of phenomena at much, much higher energy scales and much shorter distances!
The energy scale inferred from BICEP2′s measurement, 100 times smaller than the Planck energy — 1016 GeV or so — has appeared in particle physics before! If you take the three non-gravitational forces of nature — the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force — and you first consider how they are rearranged when the Higgs field is turned off, into strong nuclear, weak isospin, and hypercharge forces — and then you look at how the strengths of the forces drift as you study them at shorter and shorter distances and higher and higher energies, you find the forces all become about the same strength at an energy scale of about 1016 GeV or so. This is called “unification of coupling constants” (i.e. force strengths) — or, originally and more ambitiously, “grand unification”, a grander notion that the three non-gravitational forces are actually manifestations of just one type of force. [Unification of that unified force with gravity is yet another question; that's what string theory might do, though string theory does not require grand unification be a separate process from the unification with gravity.] Originally, back around 1980, inflation was imagined to be associated with grand unification, and if so, would have an energy scale of about … yes, 1016 GeV or so. But that idea died out long ago as people learned more about both unification and inflation. Yet now we must wonder: could that part of the original idea, in some vague way, have actually been right?
Over the years, scientists have invented a plethora of variations on how inflation might have, in detail, taken place. BICEP2′s observation of a gravitational wave signature would sweep away most of them, leaving just a few. (More will be invented in coming months, though!) It also would sweep away some alternatives to inflation and many speculative ideas for how the universe might behave, or might at least have behaved at earlier times. Despite “tension” (meaning mild disagreement) between BICPS2s current data and the Planck satellite’s data, a rather simple observable patch of universe, with rather simple laws of nature and a rather simple form of inflation, are consistent with what we know.
One of the variants of inflation that would be excluded by BICEP2′s data is the notion (admittedly long-shot anyway) that actually the Higgs field could play the role of the inflaton after all. It turns out that no observably large gravitational wave signal would be expected if that were true.
BICEP2′s result would represent the first time that, without any theoretical speculation about quantum gravity, an experiment has forced us to consider processes involving physics at the Planck scale, where quantum gravity is important. Specifically, for a variant of inflation to give such a large gravitational wave signal relative to the size of the other non-uniformities in the cosmic microwave background, the Planck energy scale becomes important. The inflaton field, which (by definition) is the field whose stored “potential energy” is the dark energy, must change by an amount close to or a bit larger than the Planck energy scale. [Sorry for the necessary technical-speak here. This whole business is inherently confusing for non-experts. The dark energy may change or may not change at all while the inflaton field is changing; that's a separate question. What it means for a field like an inflaton to change by the Planck energy scale is that if a particle interacted with the inflaton field as strongly as it possibly could (the way the electron interacts with the Higgs field, but stronger), then as the inflaton field changed by an amount comparable to the Planck energy scale, the particle's mass would change by an amount comparable to the Planck mass.]
An extremely simple possibility for inflation that would still be consistent with all the data (IF… IF…) is just to have a spin-zero field (a bit like the Higgs field, but with important differences — no weak nuclear force effects, for instance) which has a mass and no substantial interactions with any other fields. This is a model introduced by Andrei Linde; it’s amazingly simple. Could it really be correct?
Among the other very simple ideas that are likely to feature prominently in discussions of the near future are ones involving a “pseudo-Nambu-Goldstone boson”, of a type often called an “axion”. [I wrote a little about this in the paragraph just below the figure within this post about the Planck satellite and what it means for variants of inflation.] One of the variants of inflation that is most consistent with both the Planck satellite and BICEP2 (IF… IF…) is an idea called “natural inflation”, from 1990, due to Katherine Freese, Joshua Frieman and Angela Olinto. [Here's a pdf of the paper.] Such a field has the feature that it is periodic (i.e., if you change it by enough, it comes back to itself, the way an angle that can only range from 0 to 2π.) It also has the feature that its interactions with all other fields are rather weak. When this field varies a lot, the dark energy associated with it varies by quite a bit less… so the field could vary by something approaching the Planck scale yet the energy scale of the dark energy could stay rather constant, at one percent of the Planck energy.
In order for this idea to really be consistent with quantum gravity, it might require some modification, of the sort was introduced in 2008 by Liam McAllister, Eva Silverstein, and Alexander Westphal, in which the axion is periodic with a larger range than you’d naively expect. [They did this work in the context of string theory, but I don't believe that string theory specifically is necessary for the idea to work; it might work in other consistent quantum gravity theories, if there are any.] Expect to hear much more about axions. [By the way, it's long been suggested that dark matter itself could be made from a type of axion... but presumably not the same one...]
One last one which is the weakest of the set… In a recent article, I pointed out that if the Higgs particle discovered at the LHC turns out to be of the simplest possible type — a “Standard Model Higgs” — then because this is “unnatural” (in the sense of “highly non-generic”) it might call into question fundamental conceptual issues, perhaps even the whole framework of quantum field theory. But BICEP2′s measurement would seem to support the framework of quantum field theory in a world of three smooth spatial dimensions up to very high scales and very short distances, so that line of thinking would be disfavored. (IF… IF…) Of course, measurements of the Higgs particle are still in the early days — at this point we can only say the Higgs particle is roughly “Standard-Model-like” in type — and maybe the Higgs will turn out to be more complex, or other new particles will show up at the LHC, possibly rendering the discussion moot. But (for reasons I outlined in my Santa Barbara talk two weeks ago) having only the Standard Model, with the Higgs field turned on just a little, plus quantum gravity and an inflaton field (and plus something to explain dark matter and neutrino masses) would pose many grave conceptual problems, ones that anthropic reasoning would not address. [Experts: Anthropic reasoning can be used to argue why the cosmological constant might be small; it can be used to argue why there is a hierarchy between the Planck mass and the proton and electron masses; but it cannot easily be used, without huge and problematic assumptions, to argue why one would find just the Standard Model at the LHC, with one light scalar Higgs field and nothing else new.] So I would tend to see the BICEP2 result (IF… IF…) as a (rather weak!!) argument slightly in favor of supersymmetry and grand unification, with supersymmetry just a little out of reach of the LHC for some reason, or modified in some way to make it harder to observe than expected. [Experts: "mini-split" supersymmetry, which preserves quantum field theory, with unification of coupling constants at the grand unified energy scale, starts to look better than something more radical.]
Colleagues: what have I left out? Eventually this post will be stored on this site as a reference article, so I’d like to make it complete.
One more time I must remind you that we’re still some time away from trusting the BICEP2 result, and quite a long time from trusting the interpretation of the result in terms of inflation. All of the implications I’ve mentioned are therefore provisional. But the list is impressive, and there are probably more I have forgotten to mention, or are known to others but not to me, along with still others that haven’t yet been noticed by anyone. So I don’t yet know if BICEP2′s measurement is right, or if inflation occurred and if it created the signal they observe, but I do know this: there’s a lot at stake.