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An open letter to the closed minds

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  1. Sep 29, 2004 #1
    http://cosmologystatement.org/

    i searched the forum in detail, and couldn't find any discussion about the subject. I am sure that the users of the forum dont have closed minds. please read the text.
     
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  3. Sep 29, 2004 #2
    I used to kinda go along with the whole Big Bang doubter scene- but when you look- you find that Big Bang is like Scott Peterson's guilt: we may have a lot of conjecture and circumstantial evidence- but that evidence is so telling and corroborative that it is alomost as good as proof-

    if the Big Bang didn't happen- then why did he have all those empty bags of concrete stashed in his shack?
     
  4. Sep 29, 2004 #3

    Garth

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    The statement has been discussed on these Forums and one or two of us have already signed the statement.

    See the threads:
    Galaxy motions -> hidden superstructure (DM!) https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=42712&page=2&pp=15
    and
    Is cosmology in constant trouble? https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=43015
     
  5. Sep 29, 2004 #4

    Nereid

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    If enough people are interested, I'll see if I can construct a thread - from the existing posts - which captures the discussion on this statement.

    Personally, I think the discussion in the older threads (thank you Garth) is good enough.
     
  6. Sep 29, 2004 #5

    Chronos

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    Actually, this letter was discussed in another thread, but, as a sidebar. It makes a number of ill-founded assertions. The opening statement, in fact, sets the table. The alleged hypothetical entities, in particular inflation and dark matter have considerable observational evidence that has nothing to do with BBT. Inflation, in fact, was observed prior to BBT and is what led to the initial BB hypothesis. This initial hypothesis predicted the existence of the CMBR, which was not discovered until years later and it very closely matched the BBT prediction. This is what made BBT the preferred theory. It predicted something never before seen and the prediction was right on the mark. Scientists are suckers for that sort of thing.

    The discovery of dark matter was made based on observation of galactic rotation and clustering. It was obvious there was not nearly enough ordinary matter to account for the gravitational effects observed. Without DM, Newtons laws of gravitation bite the dust, not BBT. BBT did not predict DM, DM refined BBT by giving a better estimate of the average matter density of the universe which gave us a better idea of whether it was fated to continue expanding forever, or would someday reverse gears and collapse.

    Dark energy, for which there is no direct observational evidence per se, is somewhat hypothetical. It is based on the observed rate of expansion [the hubble acceleration] and average mass density. The fact is, however, even without a Big Bang [BB], you still need something akin to dark energy to explain way the universe looks the way it does. Of course there is also the matter of primordial nucleide abundance, which was also predicted by BBT before it was observationally confirmed.

    No other model really even comes close to providing a better predictive model than BBT. Before diverting a disproportionate amount of resources to test less likely or already discredited models, does it not make more sense to first look for the fatal flaw in BBT? Every experiment designed to test BBT is designed to see if it fails. Some would argue it already has, but, all such assertions are still arguable. No one objects to further study where holes in the theory are suspected and no one has said BBT is so thoroughly proven there is no point in wasting money to look for the fatal flaw.

    Moral of the story: If you go looking for money to beat a dead horse or go where no researcher has gone before, you should expect it to be a hard sell.
     
  7. Sep 29, 2004 #6

    Garth

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    Chronos - I assume that when you say,"Inflation, in fact, was observed prior to BBT and is what led to the initial BB hypothesis,” you actually mean Hubble red shift? To proceed from Hubble red shift to Hubble flow to expansion of the universe is a logical step based on GR, however it is not inflation. Inflation refers to an explosive exponential expansion by a factor of 10^60 in 10^(-33) sec, something quite different and not demonstrated in a laboratory by the discovery of the required Higgs boson.

    Dark matter is well established as a gravitational effect. However, change the gravitational theory to MOND for example and it disappears. On the other hand if it is accepted that it is there (as I do) the question is, "What is it?" According to BBT it is not baryonic but something exotic and undiscovered even after thirty years of intensive research. However, in the freely coasting model (also well discussed elsewhere on these threads) it can be explained by ordinary baryonic matter.

    Dark energy is not only completely unknown: quintessence? varying cosmological constant? (surely a contradiction in terms), leaky higher dimensions? But it has also been readjusted to fit with the changing tide of newer observations. SSC as a freely coasting cosmology does not require DE at all.

    As an alternative the freely coasting model not only predicts the correct primordial abundance but also gives the DM value for baryonic density and a high primordial metallicity. [You will find that there is debate about where the observed IGM metallicity has come from - it is taking some time for the penny to drop that it might actually be primordial but there you are.]

    Therefore the standard LCDM model may not be so securely established as is generally thought and the encouragement of alternative approaches, especially in such a 'remote' field as cosmology, ought to be the practice of good science.
    Garth
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2004
  8. Sep 29, 2004 #7

    Chronos

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    All good points, Garth. I would have been surprised had you not brought them up. I tend to equate inflation with expansion mainly because alternative cosmological models often dispute the notion the universe has been expanding throughout its history. There is considerable evidence against that proposition. There is considerably more room to argue whether the universe has expanded uniformly [freely coasting model] or experienced epochs of accelerated expansion [BBT]. Without a guest appearance by a Higgs boson, the door remains open.

    Most agree that DM is out there. How much and what it is made of is not known. Non-baryonic matter seems a logical choice, despite the difficulty in accepting we cannot yet explain what it is. Perhaps there is a lot more regular matter [dust, planets, brown dwarfs, black holes] than we think. Perhaps the matter density is less than we think. Of course, if you get rid of DM, you don't need nearly as much as that dark energy stuff either, which is even more mystifying. I would not be grief stricken to see either one of them go, but for now, it is the lesser of evils. MOND has its virtues, but, still carries too much baggage to be palatable.

    The high primordial metallicity predicted by the freely coasting model is tantalizing. The BBT bandwagon is also interested in primordial metallicity. This is a study both sides should be able to agree is worth pursuing.

    There is no good reason for anyone to feel smug and secure with the current [BB] model. Plenty of work remains to be done. If I were a closet alternative cosmologist, I would request a grant to study a BBT prediction that is not well established [and which I secretly suspect will be disproven]. Of course I would not bother to mention my suspiscions until the study was complete and I had ironclad data and analysis. All too often researchers lose credibility [read grant money] when they jump the gun and publicly confront their peers with faulty data or unsupported conclusions. It is usually easier to remodel a house from the inside than it is from the outside.
     
  9. Sep 29, 2004 #8

    turbo

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    Yes, I have signed the statement, too. I hesitate to identify myself, because I could easily become fodder ("ignorant fans") cited to disprove the statement, and that would be wrong.
     
  10. Sep 30, 2004 #9
    i am sorry, i missed them but i think this subject deserves an independent thread.
    i am an undergrad. i am interested in cosmology, taking some courses, but of course my knowledge is not enough to make a comment on the statement. but from my point of view the most important part of the text is:

    "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"
     
  11. Sep 30, 2004 #10

    Chronos

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    Permit me to break this down in segments.

    1] The development of alternative cosmological models has been more severely hampered by the lack of observational evidence in their favor, to put it politely.

    2]Indeed, people who have made a career out of collecting honest observational evidence and drawing cautious conclusions have little patience for those who lack the discipline, understanding, or tolerance to respect them.

    3] Doubt and dissent is not tolerated? Have you read any papers lately? Doubt and dissent is rampant. The concordant model gets slam tested more often than the hinges on a bedroom door.
     
  12. Sep 30, 2004 #11

    pervect

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    I also think the letter is "off-target". The big bang has a lot of experimental support, in spite of what the letter writers claim. This includes cosmic microwave background radaition, galactic recession & redshift, isotope abundances, and more.

    There are a few (a very few) dark-horse candidates for theories that are not the big bang theory.

    One that springs to mind is the cyclical theory

    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/astro-ph/0404480

    At this point, unfortunately, the theory does not seem to be making any clear testable predictions for things we can observe. So it may be interesting from a philosophical or theoretical viewpoint, but the real test of a theory is its predictions.

    Going back to the letter:

    Basically the tone of the letter seems strident, as does the tone of the people promoting it on this website ("An open letter to closed minds", yes, that's a good way to win friends and influence people, uh-huh).
     
  13. Sep 30, 2004 #12

    turbo

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    I would argue that it is dark matter that carries too much baggage. Mond is an ad-hoc modification of Newtonian dynamics that very neatly describes anomalous galactic rotation and correctly predicted the behaviour of a class of bodies whose rotations had yet not been measured. It is a simple model that carries no baggage. We just have to find out why it works and what mechanism causes the effects that it predicts.

    On the other hand, DM cannot be seen and there are no logical candidate constituents. Even worse, DM must obediently distribute itself in every instance where it is needed. For instance, to explain the rotational curves of a spiral with a pronounced central bulge, the halo of DM surrounding the galaxy must be practically empty and hollow out to the point where it is required to drive the rotation of the arms. Every individual galaxy needs its own special distribution of DM, and that distribution must be put in by hand to explain its rotation. Now that is baggage.
     
  14. Sep 30, 2004 #13

    Garth

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    The statement may seem strident and indeed can be criticised for that, however as I said on a different thread there are one or three respectable cosmologists, Bondi, Gold and Narlikar for example, who have signed the statement, but why?
    To those who get hot under the collar about such dissent may I suggest that outside the standard model community the landscape does appear different and just as the LCDM crowd cannot understand why their hard and thorough work is questioned, others puzzle over why clear doubts about the "invisibility" of Inflation DM and DE are not more readily entertained. I personally have had a paper rejected by a referee for simply questioning their existence. (Subsequently accepted elsewhere much enhanced by that referee’s comments!)
    Garth
     
  15. Sep 30, 2004 #14

    Nereid

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    OK, except that even Milgrom (its author) freely admits that it can't possibly be anything more than a stop-gap; it's inconsistent with GR (even within the solar system, so turbo-1's idea re large, dispersed masses doesn't help), and inconsistent with plenty of well-established observations (e.g. lensing, intra-cluster motions).
    Not so! There are probably hundreds of papers presenting 'logical candidates', from LSSPs, to more exotic beasts, depending on the authors' favourite extensions of the Standard Model (as in particle physics, not cosmology) or solution to the GR+QM problem.
    :grumpy: To repeat what I've said elsewhere, several times, this is really stretching things! If you read the papers carefully, you'll see that there are rather few DM boundary conditions/initial assumptions (e.g. feels only gravity, collisionless, distributed in a way consistent with CMBR data), the rest follows from the equations - including the galaxy radial profiles - into the halos, the cluster distributions, the sheets, etc. For sure there are challenges, and for some individual galaxies the model fits are poor (to say the least). Let the debate continue, vigourously, about how 'good' DM science is, but don't dismiss the large body of diverse observational data which is quite consistent with the theory (LSS, weak and strong lensing, galaxy motions in clusters, cluster IGM temperature and density distributions, CMBR, ...)
     
  16. Sep 30, 2004 #15

    Nereid

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    Just to add a few words about DM candidates, non-observation 'locally', etc.

    In a recent post in sci.physics.research (to which PF has links), Arvind Rajaraman pointed out that the estimated amount of DM in the solar system (based on standard cosmological models) is so small as to be undetectable (gravitationally). IF DM interacts with baryonic matter only through the gravitational force, then its non-detection in the solar system - 'despite 30 years of trying' - is no mystery.

    IF DM is some mix of exotic particles, it's non-detection on Earth is also no mystery; almost all the zoo of such candidates are way beyond the puny capabilities of even the most powerful accelerators on Earth to produce. However, there is an abundance of good observational data to show that there are sites in the local and distant universe which could produce high energy exotics by the billions of tonnes (probably per second) without breaking into a sweat (thank goodness none of them are within 1000 ly of us :smile:). And if your friendly neighbourhood GRB or quasar can make a trillion tonnes of exotics in one shift, the very early universe (<0.1s) would likely be teeming with them.

    Case settled? Far from it! Lots and lots of work still do be done, and the universe will likely turn out to be, yet again, even queerer than we imagine.
     
  17. Sep 30, 2004 #16

    russ_watters

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    My personal opinion of the statement itself is that it starts off sounding reasonable and as is common for the against-the-mainstream types, it eventually turns to bitterness and conspiracy theory. In the letter, they go so far as to call support for the BBT dogmatic. Such hyperbole is not helpful.

    Frankly, I find the tone bitter and confrontational and the argument an unscientific strawman:

    Despite what it implies, no scientist worth his salt would say the BBT (or any theory, for that matter) is so set in stone that it can't be challenged - but the challenge has to be reasonable. IMO, the letter falls into a classic trap of challenging the existing paradigm with nothing. Newton's gravity was known to be flawed long before Einstein came around, but was it discarded? No. It was used with the understanding that it was flawed because it was the best they had at the time. It wasn't discarded until its replacement was developed. The BBT works well enough that it isn't going to be discarded outright unless someone can come up with a well-developed alternate theory that works better.
     
  18. Sep 30, 2004 #17

    turbo

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    As you know, I have been following work relating to the zero-point energy fields for a number of reasons. 1) It is all pervasive 2) the potential energy is tremendous 3) the energy of the virtual EM particle field may not be expressed unless the fields experience local alignment (virtual pairs preferentially aligned).

    If the gravitational infall rate of particles and their anti-particles are NOT equivalent, then we have a perfect mechanism for aligning the pairs, and creating gradients in the ZPE EM field. If gravitation arises from the interaction of massive bodies with the ZPE EM field, (Sakharov, et al) then DM may not be necessary.

    You often ask what what kinds of experiments do we need to do to satisfy the developers of non-standard cosmologies. Number One for me is a critical measurement of the gravitational infall rates of matter vs anti-matter.
     
  19. Sep 30, 2004 #18

    Garth

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    Number One for me is Gravity Probe B - followed by my 'space interferometer'!


    Garth
     
  20. Oct 1, 2004 #19

    Chronos

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  21. Oct 1, 2004 #20

    Nereid

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    Other than money for tea and biscuits (and maybe to develop routines so your favourite computation-intensive analyses of the TB of data from your favourite free, publicly available observational and experimental results can be run on BOINC), what's stopping you?

    Wrt whether hydrogen and antihydrogen behave the same way, at least in the gravitational field near the CERN facility, aren't there proposals to perform just the tests you consider to be of #1 importance? More generally, what barriers (other than £ or € or $ for coffee and doughnuts) do you face in writing a proposal for your #1 experiments?

    To underline why the letter is - nay, has - generated far more heat than light, consider this: "Today, virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology are devoted to big bang studies." My open challenge (in one of the other threads) for examples of how $big€budget experiments preclude work on non-BBT cosmology produced ... no, you dear reader, please guess; better, tell us how you think the design of the Kecks, VLT, Gravity Probe B, the Hubble Space Telescope, AMANDA, CANGAROO, the LHC, LISA, Planck, BOOMERANG, Spitzer, and all the others, and all the expensive instruments attached to them (ACS, GMOS, Suprime-Cam, ATLAS, CMS, ...) hinders any research into BBT alternatives?

    Of course, funding for €billion space-based experiments and observatories is scarce, and there are far more excellent proposals than €€, so those who make the decisions are under intense pressure to fund only proposals which are capable of addressing the big questions, and of addressing them in as open a way as possible. So, if someone comes along with a proposal to spend $2billion on a mission that could test plasma cosmology's core ideas - AND NOTHING ELSE - what sort of ranking do you think this would get? (I'm not saying that there has been such a proposal, just making a point).

    So, IMHO, when you start to ask concrete questions about the actual content of this New Scientist letter, you conclude that the authors must have a severe case of the grumps. One might even say (as one of our PF members did, IIRC) that the letter is more an indication of ideas with no legs, of limited imaginations, and of whining.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2004
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