I am submitting this on behalf of MazeHatter, who originally posted it here in the most recent open tread. Go there to upvote if you like this submission.
I grew up thinking that the Big Bang was the beginning of it all. In 2013 and 2014 a good number of observations have thrown some of our basic assumptions about the theory into question. There were anomalies observed in the CMB, previously ignored, now confirmed by Planck:
Another is an asymmetry in the average temperatures on opposite hemispheres of the sky. This runs counter to the prediction made by the standard model that the Universe should be broadly similar in any direction we look.
Furthermore, a cold spot extends over a patch of sky that is much larger than expected.
The asymmetry and the cold spot had already been hinted at with Planck’s predecessor, NASA’s WMAP mission, but were largely ignored because of lingering doubts about their cosmic origin.
“The fact that Planck has made such a significant detection of these anomalies erases any doubts about their reality; it can no longer be said that they are artefacts of the measurements. They are real and we have to look for a credible explanation,” says Paolo Natoli of the University of Ferrara, Italy.
... One way to explain the anomalies is to propose that the Universe is in fact not the same in all directions on a larger scale than we can observe. ...
“Our ultimate goal would be to construct a new model that predicts the anomalies and links them together. But these are early days; so far, we don’t know whether this is possible and what type of new physics might be needed. And that’s exciting,” says Professor Efstathiou.
We are also getting a better look at galaxies at greater distances, thinking they would all be young galaxies, and finding they are not:
The finding raises new questions about how these galaxies formed so rapidly and why they stopped forming stars so early. It is an enigma that these galaxies seem to come out of nowhere.
The newly classified galaxies are striking in that they look a lot like those in today's universe, with disks, bars and spiral arms. But theorists predict that these should have taken another 2 billion years to begin to form, so things seem to have been settling down a lot earlier than expected.
B. D. Simmons et al. Galaxy Zoo: CANDELS Barred Disks and Bar Fractions. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2014 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stu1817
The findings cast doubt on current models of galaxy formation, which struggle to explain how these remote and young galaxies grew so big so fast.
Although it seems we don't have to look so far away to find evidence that galaxy formation is inconsistent with the Big Bang timeline.
If the modern galaxy formation theory were right, these dwarf galaxies simply wouldn't exist.
Merrick and study lead Marcel Pawlowski consider themselves part of a small-but-growing group of experts questioning the wisdom of current astronomical models.
"When you have a clear contradiction like this, you ought to focus on it," Merritt said. "This is how progress in science is made."
Another observation is that lithium abundances are way too low for the theory in other places, not just here:
A star cluster some 80,000 light-years from Earth looks mysteriously deficient in the element lithium, just like nearby stars, astronomers reported on Wednesday.
That curious deficiency suggests that astrophysicists either don't fully understand the big bang, they suggest, or else don't fully understand the way that stars work.
It also seems there is larger scale structure continually being discovered larger than the Big Bang is thought to account for:
"The first odd thing we noticed was that some of the quasars' rotation axes were aligned with each other -- despite the fact that these quasars are separated by billions of light-years," said Hutsemékers. The team then went further and looked to see if the rotation axes were linked, not just to each other, but also to the structure of the Universe on large scales at that time.
"The alignments in the new data, on scales even bigger than current predictions from simulations, may be a hint that there is a missing ingredient in our current models of the cosmos," concludes Dominique Sluse.
D. Hutsemékers, L. Braibant, V. Pelgrims, D. Sluse. Alignment of quasar polarizations with large-scale structures. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2014
Dr Clowes said: "While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe. This is hugely exciting -- not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe.
These observations have been made just recently. It seems that in the 1980's, when I was first introduced to the Big Bang as a child, the experts in the field knew then there were problems with it, and devised inflation as a solution. And today, the validity of that solution is being called into question by those same experts:
In light of these arguments, the oft-cited claim that cosmological data have verified the central predictions of inflationary theory is misleading, at best. What one can say is that data have confirmed predictions of the naive inflationary theory as we understood it before 1983, but this theory is not inflationary cosmology as understood today. The naive theory supposes that inflation leads to a predictable outcome governed by the laws of classical physics. The truth is that quantum physics rules inflation, and anything that can happen will happen. And if inflationary theory makes no firm predictions, what is its point?
What are the odds 2015 will be more like 2014 where we (again) found larger and older galaxies at greater distances, or will it be more like 1983?