This cosmic balancing act caused many theorists to search for a reason, a cause that would remove the “fine tuning” of the Big Bang. Guth’s solution was to have the Big Bang operate like a giant pressure cooker whose lid has just been forcibly removed. All the water, all the spinach in the pot would instantly boil, creating a volcano of spinach dripping off the ceiling. This is what physicists demurely call a “spontaneous phase change.”
Guth wants spacetime in the very early Big Bang to spontaneously boil and expand faster than the speed of light, which would have the side benefit of making everything “flat” afterwards, everything covered in an equal amount of spinach. Nearly all cosmologists accepted this model in one form or another, preferring it to the increasingly disturbing “fine tuning” argument employed by advocates of intelligent design among others.
But Guth’s speculation has proved hard to demonstrate. Numerous theoretical problems have sent it back to the drawing board, and it is now in its third or fourth iteration. One theorist bemoaned that the inflation model now needs tuning also, perhaps as great as 1 part in 10^100, making the cure worse than the disease. So it seems as if the model will die a death of a thousand cuts if we don’t give it a data transfusion soon. That is why so many people are seeing this BICEP2 result as Nobel Prize material, because it not only rescues the favored model of cosmologists, but also saves the jobs of a thousand people at two national labs who are having to justify their expensive failure.
Giberson offers in response,
The initial response from the Discovery Institute, the headquarters of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, maligned the motivations of the cosmologists searching for the gravity wave, claiming they found more theologically friendly models of the Big Bang “disturbing,” and wanted to refute them. The recent discovery of the gravity waves—after years of searching—is being trumpeted by the scientific community because it “saves the jobs of a thousand people at two national labs who are having to justify their expensive failure.
Actually, it is true that modern cosmologists “found more theologically friendly models of the Big Bang ‘disturbing,’ and wanted to refute them.” They have, to their credit, never made any secret of it. So much more honest than pretending there is some big science problem that urgently requires discrediting the Big Bang. It’s not surprising they would celebrate a minor reprieve from facing reality.
The drive to tack the multiverse on, like party streamers tacked to a parade float, tells us something about that.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology) for more on how we got to where a cosmology for which there is no evidence is somehow considered a model of science.
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