Skip to comments.Open Letter to the Scientific Community
Posted on 03/28/2005 11:44:29 PM PST by Swordmaker
An Open Letter to the Scientific Community
(Published in New Scientist, May 22, 2004)
The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed-- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory.
But the big bang theory can't survive without these fudge factors. Without the hypothetical inflation field, the big bang does not predict the smooth, isotropic cosmic background radiation that is observed, because there would be no way for parts of the universe that are now more than a few degrees away in the sky to come to the same temperature and thus emit the same amount of microwave radiation.
Without some kind of dark matter, unlike any that we have observed on Earth despite 20 years of experiments, big-bang theory makes contradictory predictions for the density of matter in the universe. Inflation requires a density 20 times larger than that implied by big bang nucleosynthesis, the theory's explanation of the origin of the light elements. And without dark energy, the theory predicts that the universe is only about 8 billion years old, which is billions of years younger than the age of many stars in our galaxy.
What is more, the big bang theory can boast of no quantitative predictions that have subsequently been validated by observation. The successes claimed by the theory's supporters consist of its ability to retrospectively fit observations with a steadily increasing array of adjustable parameters, just as the old Earth-centered cosmology of Ptolemy needed layer upon layer of epicycles.
Yet the big bang is not the only framework available for understanding the history of the universe. Plasma cosmology and the steady-state model both hypothesize an evolving universe without beginning or end. These and other alternative approaches can also explain the basic phenomena of the cosmos, including the abundances of light elements, the generation of large-scale structure, the cosmic background radiation, and how the redshift of far-away galaxies increases with distance. They have even predicted new phenomena that were subsequently observed, something the big bang has failed to do.
Supporters of the big bang theory may retort that these theories do not explain every cosmological observation. But that is scarcely surprising, as their development has been severely hampered by a complete lack of funding. Indeed, such questions and alternatives cannot even now be freely discussed and examined. An open exchange of ideas is lacking in most mainstream conferences. Whereas Richard Feynman could say that "science is the culture of doubt", in cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding.
Even observations are now interpreted through this biased filter, judged right or wrong depending on whether or not they support the big bang. So discordant data on red shifts, lithium and helium abundances, and galaxy distribution, among other topics, are ignored or ridiculed. This reflects a growing dogmatic mindset that is alien to the spirit of free scientific inquiry.
Today, virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology are devoted to big bang studies. Funding comes from only a few sources, and all the peer-review committees that control them are dominated by supporters of the big bang. As a result, the dominance of the big bang within the field has become self-sustaining, irrespective of the scientific validity of the theory.
Giving support only to projects within the big bang framework undermines a fundamental element of the scientific method -- the constant testing of theory against observation. Such a restriction makes unbiased discussion and research impossible. To redress this, we urge those agencies that fund work in cosmology to set aside a significant fraction of their funding for investigations into alternative theories and observational contradictions of the big bang. To avoid bias, the peer review committee that allocates such funds could be composed of astronomers and physicists from outside the field of cosmology.
Allocating funding to investigations into the big bang's validity, and its alternatives, would allow the scientific process to determine our most accurate model of the history of the universe.
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"Yet the big bang is not the only framework available for understanding the history of the universe. Plasma cosmology and the steady-state model both hypothesize an evolving universe without beginning or end. These and other alternative approaches can also explain the basic phenomena of the cosmos, including the abundances of light elements, the generation of large-scale structure, the cosmic background radiation, and how the redshift of far-away galaxies increases with distance. They have even predicted new phenomena that were subsequently observed, something the big bang has failed to do."
Challenge to the Big Bang from scientists...
PLASMA UNIVERSE PING!
It's All In The BelievingBritish astronomer A. Eddington... "believed" in Relativity and wished to make it more acceptable. Eclipse photos showing the shifting of star images by the gravitational influence of the eclipsed sun might do the job. On the day of the eclipse, Principe was bedevilled by clouds, and only 2 photographic plates were deemed marginally acceptable. At Sobral, 18 poor plates and 8 better plates were obtained. The problem was that the 18 poor plates yielded a deflection of starlight much smaller than predicted by Relativity, while the 8 better plates produced a much higher value. By adding the 2 plates from Principe to the mix, Eddington managed to come up with a number close to that required by the Theory of Relativity. It was not the clear-cut victory for Einstein that the textbooks proclaim... Eddington let ideology affect his conclusion. Even today, the results from the 1919 eclipse are still proclaimed to be proof of Relativity.
by William R. Corliss
Nov-Dec 1999Stealing Energy from a Black HoleXMM-Newton observed the x-ray spectrum of iron gas whirling in the black hole's accretion disk. The researchers reveal that the energy output was too great to simply be the result of matter being crushed and falling into the black hole. They add that the observed light was stretched to extreme lengths by gravity. This observation indicates that the emitting gas must be exceptionally close to the black hole, where gravity's influence is greatest. According to theory, the supermassive black hole must be spinning to let material get that close before being swallowed.
by Vanessa ThomasUnveiling the Flat UniverseIn Einstein's general theory of relativity, space curves around massive objects. In a closed universe, there is enough mass and energy so that space as a whole curves until parallel lines will eventually meet. An open universe, which has much less mass and energy, curves in the opposite direction, and parallel lines seem to diverge. Hot and cold spots about 1° across mean that the microwaves in the background radiation would remain parallel almost all the way across the universe. There's just enough mass and energy to keep the universe flat. With flat, Euclidean geometry, parallel lines don't curve in either direction.
by Diana SteeleAt the Speed of LightWebb used data collected by the world's most powerful telescope -- the Keck, perched on the summit of Mauna Kea, 13,796 feet up on the Big Island of Hawaii. He looked at light from 68 quasars -- extremely bright young galaxies -- as much as 12 billion light-years from Earth. During the light's long journey to Earth, it passed through clouds of intergalactic gas. In doing so, the light's spectra changed, depending on the chemical elements in the clouds.
by Tim Folger
DISCOVER Vol. 24 No. 4 (April 2003)
The details of such spectral shifts are expressed mathematically by the so-called fine-structure constant, which consists of four components, including the speed of light. The constant should remain the same no matter where or when it's measured -- that's why it's called a constant. But Webb found otherwise. In the intergalactic clouds, the "constant" was smaller than the expected value by one part in 100,000. This means one or more elements of the fine-structure constant -- possibly the speed of light -- must have varied by the same amount. If light did travel that much faster 12 billion years ago, when it left the remotest quasars Webb studied, it would be consistent with Magueijo's theory. The difference may seem tiny, but it floored physicists around the world, including its discoverer. "I was absolutely stunned, yeah," Webb says. "I certainly didn't expect it."
...According to Magueijo's calculations, the speed of light near a cosmic string would increase dramatically: A spaceship traveling on one of these fast tracks could go well above the standard speed of light186,282 miles per secondwhile still traveling at a fraction of the accelerated light-speed limit around the cosmic string. The laws of special relativity would still holdtime would slow down for the travelers. But because they would be traveling at a fraction of the cosmic string's light-speed limit, the effect would be minimized; astronauts could travel to the stars and return to Earth to find that months, not centuries, had passed.
OPEN PROBLEMS IN COSMOLOGY
Halton Arp, Max Plank Institute, Garching, Germany
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