Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is The Big Bang "Busted"? Not At All!

In  a recent issue of the Mensa Bulletin (June, p. 22) writer Dan Duda presents an article ('Is the Big Bang Busted?')  that basically invokes a highly speculative approach to reach a "conclusion" that dovetails with his "personal feeling that the Big Bang is a questionable theory". Fortunately, he does go on to concede this is "in spite of a significant amount of scientific evidence that supports it".

Significant indeed! Ii includes the presence of the uniform 2.7K cosmic microwave background radiation which a number of physicists (e.g. Steven Weinberg) have shown can only be traced back to the Big Bang. In fact, it was the discovery of this microwave radiation that earned Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson the Physics Nobel Prize, see e,g,

That Duda doesn't even mention this is incredible, given any decent science writer would have to be aware of the finding. And yet, Duda prefers to consider way out speculative (and mostly irrelevant) theories like simulated universes, as well as oddball cosmological theories like that recently trotted out by Ahmed Farag Ali (?) of Benha University and Saurya Das of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.

My complaint is that even the intelligent and scientifically literate reader - say of the Bulletin, will come away even more confused, as opposed to educated. The National Science Board (a part of the National Science Foundation) has produced an annual survey of American beliefs about science called the Science and Engineering Indicators since the 1980s.   Americans - as reflected in the AP survey -  both seem to find the Big Bang confusing and worse, to have faith-based conflicts with the scientific conclusions of cosmology.
I attribute a lot of this to fake scientists - actually pseudo-scientists (like Jason Lisle) - who gain a peanut gallery following as well as prominence in the fundagelical religious sphere then profess to spiel on scientific issues like the Big Bang and the age of the Earth, confusing and undermining their followers.

Duda doesn't drag in specious religious bunkum but he does clutter his article with unusual complaints and fanciful conjectures that don't really have a bearing on the Big Bang,

For example, he cites a 1991 book 'The Big Bang Never Happened', wherein author Eric J. Lerner states:

"The Big Bang theory predicts that no object in the universe can be older than the Big Bang. Yet the large scale voids observed cannot have been formed in the time allowed."

Uh, yes they can! As I noted in an earlier post on these voids, e.g.

"Though the Hubble expansion limit is often cited as about 13.7 billion light years, this only refers to the extent that the radiating objects, galaxies, clusters, quasars etc. occur within our light cone. However, owing to the actual expansion of space itself, registered as a "comoving distance", the universe is really some 93 billion light years in diameter, so the actual edge of the observable universe is some 46.5 b light years distant."

In other words, those ancient, vast voids can definitely be accommodated. Duda's problem,  like that of the author he cites, is the failure to distinguish between the age of the cosmos registered within our own light cone and the physical extent defined as a comoving distance and actual expansion of space itself.  

In addition, Duda's citation of Lerner's 1991 work would have missed the discovery of the relic structures of the Big Bang (by George Smoot and his collaborators at the University of California at Berkeley,) in 1992. The investigation made use of data obtained from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. The data exposed very small temperature differentials (dT), from which density variations could be deduced. (In principle the temperature variations of the form dT/T are taken as a proxy for density fluctuations (dr / r)  in the early universe). These variations were also  found consistent with the postulated characteristics of an inflationary cosmos, as opposed to an always uniformly expanding cosmos. Indeed, an inflationary phase would feature an exponential rate of expansion by way of doublings over very small time periods.

The inflationary phase, with expansion rates in some cases exceeding the speed of light,  see e.g.

which could also have enabled the formation of the cosmic voids.

Duda's devotion of almost half his article to quantum aspects and collapsing wave functions is admirable, but really has no bearing on general relativity or the Big Bang. It is true that there could be a quantum 'tie-in' but the underlying theory - referred to quantum loop gravity - is still in its infancy.

Speculative excursions are indeed fascinating, especially in cosmology, but they shouldn't be used as filler for an article purported to be evidentiary or factual. A better title for Duda's piece would therefore have been: "Speculative alternatives to the Big Bang Theory".

No comments: