Sunday, May 04, 2014

Is the Cosmic Microwave Background a mirror of Earth

This may be the ultimate conspiracy theory. If you look at a picture of the Cosmic  Microwave Background (CMB), like this

you can see an image similar to the image produced by a Mollweide projection of Earth.

It’s not just that they both face the same challenge of trying to represent a spherical surface on a flat display. It’s the patterns on the image, the grouping of yellow dots on the CMB against the black outline of the continents on the map.

Don’t you see it? OK, let me help you.

But the similarities vague. Large chunks of northern Asia are missing, Australia isn’t complete and the Pacific Ocean seems awfully narrow. But that’s the point. Because the similarities are vague, they are open to interpretation.

Sketchy evidence is exactly what a good conspiracy theory is based on. Just look at photographs of sasquatch, UFOs, shadowy figures behind The Grassy Knoll or the discovery of Noah’s Ark on the side of Mount Ararat. The link between reality (the CMB image) and the fantasy is easy to bridge. Rising sea levels will change the shapes of the continents, wind time forward a few million years and America will come closer to Asia. Look at the CMB image in a fairground mirror and perhaps the likeness is perfect.

So, the shape Earth’s continents is mirrored in the distribution of radiation from the big bang. That’s a correlation to intrigue everyone from the religiously devout to the most dedicated conspiracy theorists. Is this a message telling us that the Universe was built just for us. So either there is a God, or we are part of some super-being’s  experiment (or both). Perhaps the exact shape tells us when the Earth will be destroyed. Just watch the planet’s surface move closer and closer to the CMB image. Perhaps there is spot on the CMB that indicates the location of the Holy Grail or the Arc of the Covenant or the burial place of Genghis Khan. Perhaps the spot is so small that current technology hasn’t exposed it yet. Perhaps we just aren’t looking hard enough.

The problem is, while it is amusing to speculate about such things, there are people who will take it seriously. After all, there are still people who think the Earth is flat. And if such claims are made, the forces of pragmatism will rise with a collective sigh in defense of rationality and the battle lines will be drawn. And in this I think, lies the really good story. The battle between the gullible and incredulous with their ‘irrefutable’ proofs of nothing on one side and the objective and scientific on the other, taking up the cudgels for common sense, reality and evidence based theories, as they must do all the time.