The strange right hand of the universe


Is the Universe right handed? If Michael Longo at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is to be believed, the answer is yes; and the evidence comes from the right or left-handed shape of spiral galaxies.

Astronomers have images of many thousands of spiral galaxies. But classifying them as left or right handed is tricky for a computer program. So a project called the Galaxy Zoo asks humans to analyse galaxies and mark them as either left or right handed.

It’s fair to say the results have caused some controversy. The Universe, according to this data, seems to prefer right-handed galaxies and by some distance.

Various critics have said this is a result of the way the tests are set up and that we humans have an in-built bias for right-handed spirals. But this has been challenged by other data. Longo has trawled through the lot and and has settled on the conclusion that there is some kind of universal preference for right handedness, an Axis of Evil along which galaxies tend to spin.

What to make of this claim? Longo says that various studies have shown all kinds of biases, some such as the cold spot in the cosmic background radiation, more convincing than others.

But it always pays to tread carefully in areas like this. A number of claimed biases have disappeared after a more thorough analysis of the data.

A fascinating idea it may be, but we need to treat claims of a universal handedness with caution.

Ref: Does the Universe Have a Handedness?

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