Here is the critique you won't see published by science journalists, and the reason why you should be skeptical of these most recent claims about the CMB. I've tried to simplify this, but you may need to look some things up:
Our modern world is full of contradictions. People will go to great lengths today to read all of the various reviews for the products they buy on Amazon, but when it comes to their beliefs about the universe they live in, they generally fail to seek out alternative explanations.
In this particular instance, we have a creation story. It comes with models which run on supercomputers, but many aspects of these models are non-falsifiable. In other words, nobody can use science to argue against these claims, because claims about the origin of the universe are just inherently non-scientific.
That said, there are some facts which are consistently left out of the journalism we see on the CMB, which demand re-telling:
Fact 1: All cosmologies can explain a cosmic background radiation. This is not a feature which is specific to any particular cosmology. Cosmologists simply insert it in. If there is a model, and the math works out, who can argue?
Fact 2: All plasma beams generate microwaves. So, this further expands our options for cosmologies which can explain these microwaves coming at us from all directions. If the CMB is instead the result of the movement of charged particles through space, then we don't even need an expanding universe to explain this background radiation. We can do this with steady-state too, further emphasizing that all cosmologies can explain this background radiation.
A plasma is simply a gas with some percentage of charged particles. What we see in the laboratory is that once a plasma reaches some threshold of charged particles -- and this threshold is actually quite low -- then the gas' behavior changes to a plasma, and the charged particles will tend to flow in filaments. And these filaments will twist around one another, without combining. If this confuses you, go to YouTube, and search on "plasma globe". Notice that when these collimated filaments hit the glass, they oftentimes separate. What plasma physicists tell us is that these beams tend to generate microwaves.
Now, in the laboratory, magnetic fields and electric currents tend to go hand-in-hand. So, the fact that we routinely see magnetic fields associated with objects in space is directly suggestive of the possibility of electric current causes. Somebody -- experts included -- who sees the magnetic field, and yet who does not immediately wonder about a potential electric current cause, is applying what we call a worldview in science, which is as follows:
Wherever I see evidence for electricity in space, I will assume that it is localized, and a side-effect (2nd-order) of other more fundamental phenomena.
Magnetic and electric fields are central to the behavior of laboratory plasmas. Now, with that in mind, read the press release -- keeping in mind that gravity is many, many orders of magnitude weaker than the electric force ...
Those distortions take the form of twisting of the light's polarization created by gravitational disturbances from inflation: the hypothetical rapid expansion of the earliest moments of the cosmos.
However, though astronomers have known for decades that gravitational waves exist, the evidence for them is indirect, so few expect to measure primordial gravitational radiation directly in the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, this gravitational radiation would affect any light passing through, curling its polarization in a unique way. Because the effect resembles the mathematical twistings of magnetic fields, which physicists perversely assign the letter "B," it is known as B-mode polarization. The distinction is important, because other phenomena can also polarize light, but without the telltale curling.
Because it bears a mathematical resemblance to electric fields, the non-twisting version is known as E-mode polarization. Gravitational radiation contributes to E-mode as well, but it is the only source of B-mode polarization.
Could aspects of the analysis of the BICEP2 data be in error instead? Polarization is challenging to observe, and there are many possible sources of confusion. Some of those include material in the foreground (dust and gas), Earth's atmosphere, and another type of gravitational distortion: the bending of light known as gravitational lensing.
So, notice that last paragraph about potential sources of confusion -- which is actually quite rare in these press releases. Is that really enough to help somebody to formulate a rational belief about this current claim on the CMB? What sense does it make to simply pursue one single model?
Now, let's look at what they are leaving out:
First: The models used to simulate cosmic plasma phenomena include highly idealized magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) plasma models. These models have been criticized since their inception. See papers by George K Parks: "Why Space Needs to Go Beyond the MHD Box" and "Importance of Electric Fields in Modeling Space Plasmas". For the history for how these models were conceived, see David Talbott's explanation for Edge, "The Plasma Universe of Hannes Alfven". Here is the most important part that you need to know:
"Through much of the 19th and 20th century, most astronomers and cosmologists had assumed the “vacuum” of space would not permit electric currents. Later, when it was discovered that all of space is a sea of electrically conductive plasma, the theorists reversed their position, asserting that any charge separation would be immediately neutralized. Here they found what they were looking for in Alfvén’s frozen-in magnetic fields and in his magnetohydrodynamic equations. Electric currents could then be viewed as strictly localized and temporary phenomena—needed just long enough to create a magnetic field, to magnetize plasma, a virtually “perfect” conductor.
The underlying idea was that space could have been magnetized in primordial times or in early stages of stellar and galactic evolution, all under the control of higher-order kinetics and gravitational dynamics. All large scale events in space could still be explained in terms of disconnected islands, and it would only be necessary to look inside the “islands” to discover localized electromagnetic events—no larger electric currents or circuitry required. In this view, popularly held today, we live in a “magnetic universe” (the title of several recent books and articles), but not an electric universe. The point was stated bluntly by the eminent solar physicist Eugene Parker, “…No significant electric field can arise in the frame of reference of the moving plasma.”
But the critical turn in this story, the part almost never told within the community of astronomers and astrophysicists, is that Alfvén came to realize he had been mistaken. Ironically—and to his credit—Alfvén used the occasion of his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize to plead with scientists to ignore his earlier work. Magnetic fields, he said, are only part of the story. The electric currents that create magnetic fields must not be overlooked, and attempts to model space plasma in the absence of electric currents will set astronomy and astrophysics on a course toward crisis, he said.
Second: All of cosmology hinges on these cosmic plasma models. Thus, it should be priority one to try to check their accuracy. And where we see idealizations, we should closely scrutinize the effect they have upon our inferences. What people might want to take into consideration is that the physical properties which have been taken out of the cosmic plasma models, relative to the laboratory plasma models, is their ability to conduct current, exhibit some small electrical resistance (as we see in the laboratory), and support dynamic magnetic fields which interact with the electric currents. In other words, the cosmic plasma is being modeled as through it is not an electrodynamic phenomena.
Now, compare that with this recent CMB claim: They are saying, "Hey, look, we have these features in the CMB which appear to us as though they are the result of electric and dynamic magnetic fields."
The appropriate response would be: Well, yeah, remember? You took that stuff out of your cosmic plasma models...
And since they are suggesting that this radiation must have originated billions of years ago, they say: "Well, this must be evidence for the big bang."
Why? Because this is clearly a path towards a Nobel Prize. It's basically a form of teaching to the test. They are training the world on how to interpret this data, in order to create a path for themselves that leads directly to the Nobel.
But, notice what happens if you take the creation element out of this story: The microwaves become local rather than at the edge of space. We switch from non-falsifiable metaphysics back to electrodynamics and plasma physics (laboratory sciences). We permit the cosmic plasmas to behave as we see plasmas behave in the laboratory, satisfying the critics -- with electric currents, the dynamic magnetic fields which they tend to produce, and with some small electrical resistance, which enables the formation of electric fields.
Is this just speculation? Well, no, not at all, actually.
The problem is that we already have data from radio astronomer, Gerrit Verschuur, which suggests that the non-creation version of this story is the accurate one. He points to the existence of critical ionization velocities all over the hydrogen all-sky surveys -- which distinguishes the filaments of HI hydrogen we see between stars as electrodynamic. It involves charged particles slamming into neutral clouds of gas at very high velocities, resulting in the emission of very specific and known redshifts.
He also links many dozens of features within the all-sky hydrogen survey (a local interstellar map) with the WMAP (which is claimed to be a relic of a primordial explosion, essentially coming at us from the "edge" of space).
In his numerous books and papers, he cautions that careful Gaussian curve fitting is required to see these CIV's. If all you do is push the hydrogen data through algorithms, you may never encounter the CiV's. This is an important warning for the future: We are at the limits of science here. There is excellent opportunity to just make shit up with a custom GIGO machine.
He also goes out of his way to complain about the term "interstellar cloud". These hydrogen phenomena we see in space are hardly cloud-like, in the way we are accustomed. In many places, they become extremely filamentary. That is the behavior of plasmas conducting electricity, folks. It can be -- barely -- explained in terms of a gravity-dominated universe, but the widespread prevalence of filaments in space demands more than explanations which depend upon accidents.
So, I urge people to please keep these details in the back of your mind as you watch peoples' reactions to this creation story. Is their reaction appropriate, given what they know? Notice how quickly people abandon their attempts to rationally inquire about alternatives, and how quickly the conversation switches to a discussion of expert opinion. And if you don't understand what's going on here, you might want to watch Daniel Kahneman's Yale lecture on what happens to people when they lack the information required to formulate a rational decision: