Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ancient Light


News feature: 2013-110                                                                    March 21, 2013

Supercomputer Helps Planck Mission Expose Ancient Light

Supercomputer Helps Planck Mission Expose Ancient Light

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:

Like archeologists carefully digging for fossils, scientists with the Planck mission are sifting through cosmic clutter to find the most ancient light in the universe.

The Planck space telescope has created the most precise sky map ever made of the oldest light known, harking back to the dawn of time. This light, called the cosmic microwave background, has traveled 13.8 billion years to reach us. It is so faint that Planck observes every point on the sky an average of 1,000 times to pick up its glow.

The task is even more complex than excavating fossils because just about everything in our universe lies between us and the ancient light. Complicating matters further is "noise" from the Planck detectors that must be taken into account.

That's where a supercomputer helps out. Supercomputers are the fastest computers in the world, performing massive amounts of calculations in a short amount of time.

"So far, Planck has made about a trillion observations of a billion points on the sky," said Julian Borrill of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif. "Understanding this sheer volume of data requires a state-of-the-art supercomputer."

Planck is a European Space Agency mission, with significant contributions from NASA. Under a unique agreement between NASA and the Department of Energy, Planck scientists have been guaranteed access to the supercomputers at the Department of Energy's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The bulk of the computations for this data release were performed on the Cray XE6 system, called the Hopper. This computer makes more than a quintillion calculations per second, placing it among the fastest in the world.

One of the most complex aspects of analyzing the Plank data involves the noise from its detectors. To detect the incredibly faint cosmic microwave background, these detectors are made of extremely sensitive materials. When the detectors pick up light from one part of the sky, they don't reset afterwards to a neutral state, but instead, they sort of buzz for a bit like the ringing of a bell. This buzzing affects observations made at the next part of the sky.

This noise must be understood, and corrected for, at each of the billion points observed repeatedly by Plank as it continuously sweeps across the sky. The supercomputer accomplishes this by running simulations of how Planck would observe the entire sky under different conditions, allowing the team to identify and isolate the noise.

Another challenge is carefully teasing apart the signal of the relic radiation from the material lying in the foreground. It's a big mess, as some astronomers might say, but one that a supercomputer can handle.

"It's like more than just bugs on a windshield that we want to remove to see the light, but a storm of bugs all around us in every direction," said Charles Lawrence, the U.S. project scientist for the Planck mission. "Without the exemplary interagency cooperation between NASA and the Department of Energy, Planck would not be doing the science it's doing today."

The computations needed for Planck's current data release required more than 10 million processor-hours on the Hopper computer. Fortunately, the Planck analysis codes run on tens of thousands of processors in the supercomputer at once, so this only took a few weeks.

Read about the newest results from Planck at .

More information about the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center is online at: http:/// .

Planck is a European Space Agency mission, with significant participation from NASA. NASA's Planck Project Office is based at JPL. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, contributed mission-enabling technology for both of Planck's science instruments. European, Canadian and U.S. Planck scientists work together to analyze the Planck data. More information is online at, and .

Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

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  1. I was just reading this article over breakfast. The universe is actually 100 million years older than they thought, which of course had the right wing trolls out in force declaring how this means science "got it all wrong".

    I didn't have the heart to mention that 100 million years is just a small variation in the cosmic timeline.

  2. "100 million years is just a small variation in the cosmic timeline."

    Suddenly I feel futile with the 70 or perhaps 80 years that I will exist!!

    : |

  3. WORFY6:27 PM

    yes...assuming that's all you'll exist...

  4. WORFYCARE11:31 PM

    This is why I was against President Obama's plan after he gave up on extending a single payer system.

    I don't blame all this on him mind you, the republicans made sure it wouldn't work. But I do blame him for being so desperate to pass a bill, "any" bill, that he ended up screwing us with this sham of a bill he ended up greasing past congress.

    As this start date draws near, evidence is piling up that ObamaCare will: Boost insurance costs. Officially the "Affordable Care Act," ObamaCare promised to lower premiums for families. But regulators decided to impose a 3.5% surcharge on insurance plans sold through federally run exchanges. There's also a $63 fee for every person covered by employers. And the law adds a "premium tax" that will require insurers to pay more than $100 billion over the next decade. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation expects insurers to simply pass this tax onto individuals and small businesses, boosting premiums another 2.5%.
    Push millions off employer coverage. In February, the Congressional Budget Office said that 7 million will likely lose their employer coverage thanks to ObamaCare — nearly twice its previous estimate. That number could be as high as 20 million, the CBO says.
    Cause premiums to skyrocket. In December, state insurance commissioners warned Obama administration officials that the law's market regulations would likely cause "rate shocks," particularly for younger, healthier people forced by ObamaCare to subsidize premiums for those who are older and sicker.
    "We are very concerned about what will happen if essentially there is so much rate shock for young people that they're bound not to purchase (health insurance) at all," said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
    That same month, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said ObamaCare will likely cause premiums to double for some small businesses and individuals.
    And a more recent survey of insurers in five major cities by the American Action Forum found they expect premiums to climb an average 169%.
    Cost people their jobs. The Federal Reserve's March beige book on economic activity noted that businesses "cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff.
    Around the same time, Gallup reported a surge in part-time work in advance of ObamaCare's employer mandate. It found that part-timers accounted for almost 21% of the labor force, up from 19% three years ago.
    Meanwhile, human resources consulting firm Adecco found that half of the small businesses it surveyed in January either plan to cut their workforce, not hire new workers, or shift to part-time or temporary help because of ObamaCare.
    Tax the middle class. IBD reported in February that much of the $800 billion in tax hikes imposed by ObamaCare will end up hitting the middle class, including $45 billion in mandate penalties, $19 billion raised by limiting medical expense deductions, $24 billion through strict limits on flexible spending accounts, plus another $5 billion because ObamaCare bans using FSAs to buy over-the-counter drugs.
    Add to the deficit. The Government Accountability Office reported in January that Obama-Care will likely add $6.2 trillion in red ink over 75 years if independent experts are right and several of its cost control measures don't work as advertised.
    Cost more than promised. The Congressional Budget Office now says ObamaCare's insurance subsidies will cost $233 billion more over the next decade than it thought last year.

    Investor's Business Daily – 9 hours ago

  5. WORFYCARE11:31 PM

    Be a bureaucratic nightmare. Consumers got their first glimpse of life under ObamaCare when the Health and Human Services Department released a draft insurance application form. It runs 21 pages. "Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes," the AP concluded after reviewing the form.
    Exacerbate doctor shortages. Last summer, a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than its needs by 2015, thanks in large part to ObamaCare. At the same time, a survey of 13,000 doctors by the Physicians Foundation found that almost 60% of doctors say ObamaCare has made them less optimistic about the future of health care and they would retire today if they could.
    Leave millions uninsured. After 10 years, ObamaCare will still leave 30 million without coverage, according to the CBO. As IBD reported, that figure could be much higher if the law causes premiums to spike and encourages people to drop coverage despite the law's mandate.

    Investor's Business Daily – 9 hours ago

  6. I know thanks to this plan, its going to cost me several thousands a year more, and I can't afford it like most. This is a bad plan, and President Obama needs to do the right thing here and let it go.

    We'll be better served by letting it go for now and waiting until we have a democratic congress that will pass a meaningful plan that works.

    This Obama care which I was originally supportive of, is not going to work.

  7. This by the way, is one of those prime examples where the republicans permanently damage a democratic bill, ruining it just so they can then come back and say "see it doesn't work".

    Its like someone wants to build a house on and you say it won't stand on that ground, but they're welcome to try....then go in after they get started and break up the foundation with a jack hammer then when the house comes down say "see, told ya so".

    The only fault of President Obama's here is in letting them, and playing along. He should have held out for the single payer system that he originally proposed and waited until his reelection to try to push it through.

    Then we'd have either a good workable system, or nothing at all. Which in either case is better than what we have now which is worse than nothing, as it damages us all. The costs for this new care are breaking small business, stalling hiring, RAISING insurance rates on all middle class families and ESPECIALLY individuals like myself which is insane.

    We couldn't afford insurance before as premiums were so high.

    And this just made them higher.

    That helps no one and instead HURTS everyone.

  8. Anonymous12:46 PM

    Can you please enlighten us as to what exactly the Republicans did to ruin this?

    1. Apparently you weren't alive in 2009, 2010 when the Tea Party republicans held massive rallies, town halls, etc calling a single payer system Nazism and Socialism and threatened congressmen to not pass it, and republicans threatened filibuster of any bills.

      Of course that doesn't let Harry Reid or Pelosi off the hook for being weaklings and caving in, nor does it let Obama off the hook for not pushing it, but it was you Tea Bagging dolts and your ignorant nonsense that shot it down.

  9. Clippy12:58 PM

    The Earth IS 10 to 14 billion years...The Universe MIGHT be 80 billion...ya never know

    1. Clippy1:03 PM

      It's a possibility, but Clif probably thinks the Universe is 10,000 years old.

    2. For all we know Clippy our universe could be one of billions of universes?

      Now I ask you! Why would god, with all his vast infinite powers, create something as inane as man?

  10. Clippy1:34 PM

    If An Unexpected Meteor Heads For Earth, All We Can Do Is 'Pray'

    in an effort to tackle the 'myths' surrounding the belief that the world would end on December 21st, NASA set up a website to debunk theories about 'Mayan Prophecies', and even released a video explaining why Armageddon was not imminent.

    NASA chief Charles Bolden was somewhat less reassuring, however, when asked this week for advice on how to handle a large asteroid headed toward New York City.

    His suggestion: Pray.

    Mr Bolden gave his stark advice to lawmakers at a US House of Representatives Science Committee hearing on Tuesday, telling them that all that anyone in the US, or indeed anywhere, could do about unknown asteroids or meteors on a collision course with earth is offer up a prayer.

  11. Isn't it interesting anonymous always shows up with "clippy"?

  12. Clippy2:17 PM

    It's not interesting, it's coincidental.

    1. Sure it is. Every single time. Just one "coincidence" after the next.

  13. I dislike spammers but I also dislike signing in with stoooooooooooooooooooopid robot letters!!!!!

  14. Some of them are 100% ridiculous to figure out???????????????????????????

  15. I prefer to not have to but it does seem to have cut down on the spam, particularly the foul nasty stuff.

  16. Lydia

    May I suggest we go back to our regular way of commenting...............simply don't allow anonymous posting!!!

  17. I agree with you,Worf, to an extent.............the nasty stuff was way too much for this site!I just hate signing in the robot way.

    : |

  18. I wouldn't mind the old way with everyone having to create an account. Then the spammer could be tracked that way. I think this way tracks the IP's which is why she's doing it this way. But the captcha is a pain, makes it hard to respond fast.

  19. Worf

    I thought you were Lydia's security guy? Cant you look into this?

  20. You know better than that Johnny. I don't have anything to do with the blog other than commenting just like you and haven't for years and years. I have no idea who admins the blog now, other than Lydia of course.

  21. George Vreeland Hill8:27 PM

    This is really amazing stuff.
    We are learning more and more about the universe, but what we know is not even one percent of what is out there.
    In fact, it (1%) may be much less than that.
    Something to think about.

    George Vreeland Hill

  22. I read an article today George (was looking for it to post it but couldn't find it) about scientists discussing the nature of "nothing" and what constitutes nothing.

    This is something I've been talking about in here and elsewhere for years and years. Because that is the real question. Some atheist scientists like to dismiss the question as stupid or meaningless (because they can't answer it), but of course in reality its the single most important question there is.

    What was the original "nothing", what constitutes a nothing, where did the first "something" come from and how did it get there.

    A lateral question is what's beyond the edge of the universe, and if the answer is "nothing" then what's that nothing, how far does it go, and what's beyond that.

    Those questions a few atheist scientists like to dismiss as "religious in nature", but that of course simply points to the fact that they see the only possible answer as being somehow supernatural.

    Dr. Tyson was on a discussion like this recently and he scoffed at the idea that these questions were unimportant, pointing out that simply because we cannot answer them (or even fathom them) doesn't mean they're insignificant.

    There is an answer to them, that is what compels me to always contemplate them. Because there IS an answer, whether we can comprehend that answer or not.

  23. Clippy12:01 PM

    The Bible teaches, and God said; "let there be light".
    The start of the Universe.

    Before this was the eternity of Heaven.

    When the LIGHT goes out, at the end of time, we return to the eternity.

    One persons guess is as good as the next persons.


    The Bible does say "let there be light". The rest of that you just made up.

    As for a guess, so far no human in history has even postulated one.

    When one does, let me know. I'll be all ears.

  25. Worf, google loop quantum gravity

  26. I'm familiar with the theory, aka the "bounce", however like most theories it addresses a process, not an origin. It doesn't even touch on where the bounce comes from, or the "stuff" bouncing. It's just another theory in an endless stream of theories that addresses the process but not the origin.

  27. The question that eludes mankind, that to date has never even been hypothesized on is where did the first "Stuff" come from, and how'd it get there. And when that's answered of course you have a new first prior to the first you're answering.

    The fact is nothing should be here, or anywhere, but then we're left with the nature of a "nothing".

    That it "always" existed is one theory, but one that is not scientific in any respect of the word.

    How long in an "always". Why is it here. And unlike some atheist scientists and their suppositions, why is NOT a religious or philosophical question. Its cause and effect. When I say "why" I don't mean what's the purpose as in some religious or philosophical sense of the word. I mean why as in what caused it. Nothing should be here. Yet it is.

    If it was always here we need to define an "always", as right now that answer constitutes that which is supernatural by scientific definitions.

    I don't have the answer, or even a wild guess, but no man does or ever has. Throughout all recorded history no man ever has even proposed the most wild guess as to how the first "Stuff" got here, and where it came from, much less how there could have ever been a "first" anything.

    That's the question that needs to be addressed, but unfortunately its to date, unaddressable.

  28. A good lateral question that helps format the question of the "first stuff" and its origins, one that's more tangible yet no less unanswerable, is "how far?".

    How far does not the universe go, but what's beyond it. Nothing? Fine, ..what's a nothing, and how far does this nothing reach? What there's a wall at the edge of that nothing?

    These questions make our heads hurt. They make atheists angry and cause them to define them as "infantile" and pointless. Which is of course the same answer most parents used to give us when we asked why is the sky blue. "I don't just IS!" was the usual retort. Of course that question's answerable as we now know in adulthood (Back in the 60's we weren't so scientifically informed on such matters).

    And so to are the questions of "how far" and the question of "how can there be anything anywhere" and "what was first and how'd it get here" answerable.

    Because there is an answer. But for some reason, our minds are created in such a way as to not be able to even fathom a remote guess.

  29. Anonymous10:57 AM

    The universe is shaped like a klein bottle.

  30. Maybe, that's a theory. But what's beyond the bottle?

    And how far does whatever is beyond it.....go?

  31. I WORFEUS5:58 PM

    When you start to address these questions, honestly, your mind gives pause and you realize that regardless of what you "believe" or don't believe, there is in fact an answer, and that answer is beyond our mortal comprehension.

    This of course opens the door to the supernatural, as whatever that answer is it constitutes the supernatural given all that we can comprehend, which is why some atheist scientists like to scoff at the very questions themselves.

    Because to confront them, is to recognize that which is beyond mortal comprehension.

    And they'll have none of that.

  32. One more fact the AGW deniers will have to lie about;

    Global warming predictions prove accurate

    Forecasts of global temperature rises over the past 15 years have proved remarkably accurate, new analysis of scientists' modelling of climate change shows.

    The debate around the accuracy of climate modelling and forecasting has been especially intense recently, due to suggestions that forecasts have exaggerated the warming observed so far – and therefore also the level warming that can be expected in the future. But the new research casts serious doubts on these claims, and should give a boost to confidence in scientific predictions of climate change.

    The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Geoscience, explores the performance of a climate forecast based on data up to 1996 by comparing it with the actual temperatures observed since. The results show that scientists accurately predicted the warming experienced in the past decade, relative to the decade to 1996, to within a few hundredths of a degree.

    The forecast, published in 1999 by Myles Allen and colleagues at Oxford University, was one of the first to combine complex computer simulations of the climate system with adjustments based on historical observations to produce both a most likely global mean warming and a range of uncertainty. It predicted that the decade ending in December 2012 would be a quarter of degree warmer than the decade ending in August 1996 – and this proved almost precisely correct.

    "within a few hundredths of a degree" ..... think about how improbable that would be unless the basic theory is correct.

    Then think about the future that the theory predicts, if we keep heating the planets climate.

    Not good if you have children or grandchildren .......


    Pope washes women's feet in break with church law

    By NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press – 2 hrs 6 mins ago

    ROME (AP) — In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center — a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.

    No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture
    Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.

    Why is it the conservatives always have a problem with Christlike behavior, like charity, humility, forgiveness...etc...?

    Why is it always the conservatives who CLAIM to be Christian, but hate the values Christ taught us?



    Hmmm, that got truncated.

    I'll try again.

    ROME (AP) — In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center — a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.

    No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a "questionable example." Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.

    So again I ask, why is it the CONSERVATIVES are the ones who have a problem with people demonstrating the values Christ taught us?

    Note the liberals embraced this act of humility by this pope, but Conservatives were upset by it.

    So why do the Conservatives always have a problem with Christlike values?

    Values like charity, meekness, forgiveness and turning the other cheek. These things conservatives denounce.

    And they denounces them while claiming THEY are the Christians.

    Instead they force nonsensical dogma's down our throats like the earth is 6000 years old and how they hate the homos, both things CHRIST never taught, but they teach, and yet when it comes to the values Christ taught, oh well then they'll have none of that.

    What's up with that?


    I'm really starting to like this new Pope. A lot.

    Makes me almost wish I were Catholic again.

  36. Worfy, there is a difference between being conservative in your religious views and being conservative in your political views. I also note that your story comes from the AP so it's probably an opinion piece.

    That said, Political Conservatives have no problem with any of the values you mention. They simply believe it should come from the free will of the HEART of the INDIVIDUAL, NOT by government fiat.

  37. Except for all the political active Christian conservatives the GOpers rely on to win elections .........

    You know the moral majority, game the GOpers have played since the 1970's ginning up attacks on a women's control over her own body and of course attacks on gays and their rights for political advantage ......

    Then they want it codified into law, not the free will of individual citizens.

    Typical right wing hogwash from dummytron as usual.

    Also nice to see how dummytron calls facts he disagrees with opinion .......


    I love how everything that points out conservative flaws is an "opinion piece" with you volty. And no, there are liberal and conservative Catholic groups and its the conservative ones decrying his actions.

    That's not an "opinion", no matter how much you want to believe it is.


    As for coming from the heart?

    You're a funny guy sometimes.

    We've seen the hearts of you conservatives, tossing dollar bills on a man suffering from Parkinson's disease.

    Also, can't have much of a heart when you LIE through your teeth about the amount of money the govt spends on charity. Its fractions of pennies from the average citizen. FRACTIONS OF PENNIES.

    Yet you decry it like they're picking your pocket when you know good and well that the most of our money goes into defense.

    Also, its a cop out and a lie that presupposes just because the govt spends a little on charitable help for our fellow Americans, that somehow that negates you from doing it from the "good of your heart".

    It doesn't. The few pennies taken from you for charitible govt programs in no way precludes you from donating to your "hearts" content.

    Of course we all know the truth.

    If we let our poor and needy rely on the "good hearts" of you people, then they'd starve in the streets.

  40. Clippy12:14 PM

    The Catholic Church taught that God created the Universe in His infinite wisdom, Gods wisdom is unfathomable to us. Will he ever reveal this...God only knows.

    Most Catholic churches teach what scientists believe, that this was billions of years ago... NOT thousands.

    God, and the human soul are infinite...the rest disintegrates into nothingness, including the Universe, and all that is within it.

  41. Actually Worfy, studies show conservatives give more to charity than liberals do.


    Another urban legend you like to purport.

    Studies actually show both give about the same, its just what charities are being polled.

    Studies show that Liberals and Conservatives give equally to charity, with liberals tending to give more to secular charities and conservatives giving more to religious charities, particularly to ones associated with their own congregations.


    Neither of which would support this nations needy, which is why we need government subsidy like any country to ensure our poor and needy are cared for at least in basic human needs.

    Failure to do so is not just unethical and immoral.

    Its stupid, as crime is tied directly to the lack of care given to a nations poor.

    Reduce the suffering, reduce the crime.

  44. To the World of Seekers: Please read the new article and leave a comment on the new thread. THANK YOU! It's written by a critically acclaimed blogger from this blog! Guess who? Love and HAPPY EASTER BUNNY TO YOU ALL.

    Love all, serve all. WE are all ONE tribe, one race: human