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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Physics Suppression
If physics had a mafia, I'm pretty sure the BICEP2 mess would have ended in bloodshed.
Title text: If physics had a mafia, I'm pretty sure the BICEP2 mess would have ended in bloodshed.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by the Physics Mafia. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

White Hat is mad at physicists in general and directs his fury at Megan, a physicist. He has a theory and blames physicists for suppressing it. He believes that no one takes it seriously because his theory would disrupt the standard model in physics. He believes they do this because his theory would be inconvenient to accept, causing them to have to change their current models.

Megan is not taking him seriously and instead states that she did not know that physicists had a Mafia that was able to suppress anyone from publishing annoying results. She continues that if such a group were there to do so, then why were they not there to stop the people who published results about dark energy? The Mafia is a criminal organization famous for their use of force to get their way, and while White Hat didn't mention the Mafia, Megan is facetious in her mentioning them because they would be an extreme example of a group that could do what White Hat seems to think is being done.

She acknowledges that the "dark energy people" were awarded a Nobel Prize (in 2011), but she's still mad at them for the "trouble" this new concept caused for other physicists, including her.

Dark energy is an unknown form of energy which is hypothesized to permeate all of space, tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Even though "dark energy" is a direct consequence of Albert Einstein's "cosmological constant" in the field equations of general relativity, its actual discovery was still seen as a surprise within the physics community. Einstein called the cosmological constant his "greatest blunder"[1], but the concept was revived after the observation that cosmic expansion was accelerating. In the comic, Megan says that if scientists were able to suppress inconvenient ideas, dark energy would likely have been such a case.

It should be noted that White Hat doesn't state that he actually has some results, but just a theory that contradicts known physics. The reason the "dark energy people" got a Nobel Prize is that the experiments and measurements show that they were onto something real. It seems like White Hat currently only has a model, and not data, to back his theory up which is probably why his theory is being ignored (which he decides to interpret as "suppression").

The title text mentions BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, 2nd generation) which was part of a series of instruments used to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). On 17 March 2014, it was announced, to much fanfare, that BICEP2 had detected B-modes from gravitational waves in the early universe (called primordial gravitational waves). A few years later, this announcement had to be backtracked as it was found that most, if not all, of the reported signal was actually due to interstellar dust within the Milky Way.[2] The word BICEP2 is a word play with the biceps brachii, a large arm muscle, indicative of physical strength.

The title text notes that if there had been a physics mafia, then those results would have ended in bloodshed due to the controversy they caused.


[White Hat, with his hands balled into fist and held up above him, is talking with Megan.]
White Hat: You physicists are suppressing my theory because it's inconvenient for your models!
Megan: Wait, we have a mafia that can suppress annoying results?
Megan: Why didn't they do something about the dark energy people?!
Megan: We gave them a Nobel prize but I'm still mad at them!

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