Skip to comments.Four Keys to Cosmology
Posted on 08/31/2005 8:19:37 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
In what is widely regarded as the most important scientific discovery of 1998, researchers turned their telescopes to measure the rate at which cosmic expansion was decelerating and instead saw that it was accelerating. They have been gripping the steering wheel very tightly ever since.
As deeply mysterious as acceleration is, if you just accept it without trying to fathom its cause, it solves all kinds of problems. Before 1998, cosmologists had been troubled by discrepancies in the age, density and clumpiness of the universe. Acceleration made everything click together. It is one of the conceptual keys, along with other high-precision observations and innovative theories, that have unlocked the next level of the big bang theory.
The big bang is often described as an event that occurred long ago, a great explosion that created the universe. In actuality, the theory says nothing about the moment of creation, which is a job for quantum physics (or metaphysics). It simply states that as far back as we can extrapolate, the cosmos has been expanding, thinning out and cooling down. The big bang is best thought of not as a singular event but as an ongoing process, a gradual molding of order out of chaos. The recent observations have given this picture a coherence it never had before.
From the perspective of life on Earth, cosmic history started with inflation -- a celestial reboot that wiped out whatever came before and left the cosmos a featureless place. The universe was without form, and void. Inflation then filled it with an almost completely uniform brew of radiation. The radiation varied from place to place in an utterly random way; mathematically, it was as random as random could be.
Gradually the universe imposed order on itself. The familiar particles of matter, such as electrons and protons, condensed out of the radiation like water droplets in a cloud of steam. Sound waves coursed through the amorphous mix, giving it shape. Matter steadily wrested control of the cosmos away from radiation. Several hundred thousand years after inflation, matter declared final victory and cut itself loose from radiation. This era and its dramatic coda have now been probed by high-precision observations of the fossil radiation [see "The Cosmic Symphony"].
Over the ensuing eons, matter organized itself into bodies of increasingly large size: subgalactic scraps, majestic galaxies, galactic clusters, great walls of galaxies. The universe we know -- a set of distinct bodies separated by vast expanses of essentially empty space -- is a fairly recent development, cosmologically speaking. This arrangement has now been systematically mapped [see " Reading the Blueprints of Creation"]. Starting several billion years ago, matter has been losing control to cosmic acceleration. Evidently the big bang has gotten a second wind, which is good for it but will be bad for us. The ever faster expansion has already arrested the formation of large structures and, if it continues, could rip apart galaxies and even our planet [see "From Slowdown to Speedup"].
In developing a cohesive and experimentally successful account of cosmic history, cosmologists have settled the disputes that once animated their field, such as the old debates between the big bang theory and the steady state theory and between inflation and its alternatives. Nothing in science is absolutely certain, but researchers now feel that their time is best spent on deeper questions, beginning with the cause of the cosmic acceleration.
Although the discovery of acceleration was revolutionary, cosmologists' initial response was fairly conservative. They dusted off an idea of Einstein's, the so-called cosmological constant, which represents a new type of energy -- an example of what is more generally known as dark energy. But many physicists are thinking that a revolutionary discovery calls for a revolutionary response. Maybe the law of gravity works differently on gigantic scales than it does on humble, everyday ones [see "Out of the Darkness"].
Just as a nuclear missile cannot be fired unless two keys are turned simultaneously, the explosive progress in cosmology has depended on multiple observational and theoretical keys being turned at once. Will the rush of new ideas lead to chaos? Will order reemerge? Must the cosmos be "preposterous," as one of the authors of this special report once put it? Or will it start to make sense again?
I remember that when I took an introductory astronomy class in college 25 years ago, my professor explained the Big Bang, etc., told us that the scientists had everything figured out all the way down to a tiny fraction after the Big Bang, and that the only thing they could not explain was that millionth of a second after the Big Bang and the Big Bang itself. Now, they are backtracking. They knew less than they thought.
Wow-- I had no idea that matter was so smart. ;)
Thanks for the ping!
That's OK. Life will get boring once we know everything. ;^)
Correction: they knew less than you thought your professor was telling you.
The radiation varied from place to place in an utterly random way; mathematically, it was as random as random could be.
Order out of chaos, or chaos out of chaos?
It's probably just me, but these sort of conflicting statements make it hard for me to keep from laughing.
Are you made out of matter?
Not really, they can still describe everything right up to the tiny fraction after the big bang. As for their theories on expansion, they remained open-minded and insisted on observation to verify their theories and once observation proved the theories wrong, they abandoned them.
The scientific method is a wonderful thing.
How about a extra-super grand unified theory so we don't leave God on the dock? Does anybody else get sense there are too many words devoted to shrinking the universe?
That would have to be Chaos with initial cap. Chaos is smart matter.
This is just my opinion, but physical theories seem to explain what is know today, but fail eventually at the edges of knowledge. It could be that existence is infinitely deep, turtles all the way down.
It seems to me I have heard words very much like this before. I just can't seem to recall where it was. Can anyone help me?
"Inflation then filled it with an almost completely uniform brew of radiation."
I no cosmologist, but isn't this sentence a tautology? I mean, isn't "inflation" the process of filling something almost completely? So, couldn't this sentence be re-stated as follows:
Something inflated it with an almost completely uniform brew of radiation.
Something tells me that the predicate "filled it" needs a subject, and that it begs the question to say that "inflation" filled anything.
I like to think I'm animate and intelligent. But my wife may have a different opinion.
Yes, yes, but their are kinds of existence, and kinds of infinity. Remember, we need extra-super grand, not just grand.
If there's a theory of everything that includes God, you'd have to call it a super-grand theory. And if you ask, what caused God, it would be extra-super-grand. Capiche?
I thought you said COSMETOLOGY.
Either the author is proposing that the big bang occurred as a (relatively) smaller event in a preexistent universe, or he has been carried away by his own rhetoric.
Maybe every particle of matter is getting bigger at an identical rate, and the effect of this is for everything to appear to be the same size, relative to everything else, while it all expands willy-nilly into empty space.
Thus, if you drop a ball, the ball doesn't really fall. Rather, the expanding earth rushes up to meet the ball.
You must be intelligent. There was once an ancient philosopher who thought that thinking and being are the same thing.
Today's version of A is A: New Orleans last week = New Orleans this week.
And weigh something. What is it that bends the bathroom scales? Animation? Intelligence? No, of course it is the matter. What carries the intelligence, keeps it in one place? Matter has that tendency, to stay where it is. Matter must have the capability of both animation and intelligence, even though latent except for special, temporary, and particular cases--the various individual 'I's that we see around town.
"I no cosmologist, but isn't this sentence a tautology? I mean, isn't "inflation" the process of filling something almost completely? So, couldn't this sentence be re-stated as follows:
Something inflated it with an almost completely uniform brew of radiation.
Something tells me that the predicate "filled it" needs a subject, and that it begs the question to say that "inflation" filled anything."
No not really. Not so much that your analysis of what is said here is so wrong. It's just that what is known as cosmological inflation is explained here in such a hokey and innacurate manner. "Inflation" (as used is cosmologic terms) did not fill anything with anything. This article was written by someone in way over their head, trying to write about something they have absolutely zero understanding of.
Don't give up your day job.
Of course. I'm just suggesting that there will always be work to do.
I was discouraged from a science career by looney teachers who taught that almost everything was known, or about to be.
I rather welcome the current fight over ID. It makes it clear that there are still problems as deep as those that faced 19th century physics.
A metaphor. OK?
"I think it can be generally said that every attempt to explain natural phenomena by the use of mathematical knowledge alone necessitates the recourse to explanatory myths." Jacques Maritain, Philosophy of Nature, p. 7.
How about "A brew of radiation inflated it in an almost uniform manner"?
Does that solve your problem?
Scientific American will never report on the discovery of Halton Arp, Edwin Hubbel's former chief assistant, who found massive evedence in his cataloging of high energy galaxies, that said galaxies were associated with clumps of quasars, seemingly ejected at the galaxies' axial poles. Problem was the red shift of the galaxies in question was half that of the associated quasar clumps, throwing "red shift" into the dustbin of history. Visit his website: http://www.haltonarp.com/ and read his book "Seeing Red" and learn that not only "red shift" but "big bang", "black hole" and "dark matter" are the toad heads and lizard eyes to a witches brew of ad hockery and computer modeling run amok.
You can throw out disk accretion for planetary formation and consider the swept-under-the-rug counter proposition to "big bang", the Steady State Theory of the Cosmos, in which the Universe must be considered at this point to have always been in its present state, with matter being created (quasars are new galaxies!) and absorbed in a manner consistent with "Dirac Sea" (and Tesla resonance theory) quantum physics.
Without disk accretion as the method of planetary formation, astronomy's mouthpiece Carl Sagan no longer has his "billions and billions of galaxies" containing billions and billions of life supporting planets. A statistical analysis of the conditions prevalent on Earth that allow life to emerge will show that the possibility of all the key requirements for life in a satelllite body created by SOLAR ELECTRIC EJECTION is billions and billions to one, and, by extension, we may well be the only living things in all this infinity, the corollary to which is simply: it may take an infinite universe and infinite amount of time to come up with monkeys typing Shakespeare. Six day creation is a no brainer for God, what he really needed was a challenge up to his abilities...
Read more on the Electric Universe hypothesis at: http://www.holoscience.com/home/home.htm. For every standard issue, boiler plate cosmological, archaeological and philosophical theory out there, there are logically rigorous and evidence-supported counter theories. But the "science mafia" won't let you read them in any of the monopoly press. The Internet, for all its sleaze and ranting, is the level info playing field. Follow the links included in the above mentioned web sites and let the adventure begin.
walter alter artist - wiseguy - savant
The assumption is preposterous. We're smart, but never so smart to be smarter than ourselves. There's one way out, of course: you just shrink your universe enough so it fits the size of your "grand theory").
I smell the ghost of Descartes
Say "Hi" to Ted and the Kronia crew for me, Walt.
I think it's both with an amusing emphasis on the latter.
In about a dozen different places, the Bible states specifically that "God stretched out the heavens" or similar variations.
What the Hell was that gibberish?
Simplification is helpful, but not exhaustive. If simplification is identical to being exhaustive, that would be tantamount to saying your grand theory is exhaustive of the universe. This view is not coherent, given that we have evidence that presents use with more than one kind of infinity. We we need to point out here is that the scope of anyone's theory--grand as they may be--is finite. The term unified only unifies the chosen universe.
This is a great point of dispute, running from Heraclitus to Kant. Some of them refused to include matter. Think of it, a grand unified theory, but no cosmology!
The discovery for some of them was that the universe is always larger than the theory.
That's pretty much the way my teachers talked fourty years ago. Science was about to run out of stuff to do.
Just my opinion, but I am not holding my breath.
But assuming we reach a comfortable state of physics, and the levee holds for a couple hundred years, we have a phenomenon known as emergence. We cannot predict the properties of complex things from the properties of their components. We have no theory that explains water based on the properties of hydrogen an oxygen.
Hardly a state threatening unemployment for science.
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