Further to “Search more widely for dark matter, astrophysicists say,” the two hitches being that it may not exist, or it may not be discoverable: Some at Ars Technica think the lopsided universe is telling us we need new theories. In general, our universe is “incredibly regular” except for irregularities like the stars and ourselves but
it also contains a few mysteries: on very large scales, the cosmos seems to have a certain lopsidedness. That slight asymmetry is reflected in temperature fluctuations much larger than any galaxy, aligned on the sky in a pattern facetiously dubbed “the axis of evil.”
The lopsidedness is real, but cosmologists are divided over whether it reveals anything meaningful about the fundamental laws of physics. The fluctuations are sufficiently small that they could arise from random chance. We have just one observable Universe, but nobody sensible believes we can see all of it. With a sufficiently large cosmos beyond the reach of our telescopes, the rest of the Universe may balance the oddity that we can see, making it a minor, local variation.
Some, however explore the view that the lopsidedness points to something we don’t know. They focus on the fact that
some of the largest fluctuations—covering one-fourth, one-eighth, and one-sixteenth of the sky—are bigger than any structure in the Universe, therefore representing temperature variations across the whole sky.
In those large fluctuations he temperature variations are both larger than expected and highly aligned with each other, which is not what theory would predict. In the absence of further information, these variations are generally ascribed to theories around inflation.
Judging from the article, it comes down to a question of whether this is a real problem or something that someone needs to be a problem. For example, we read,
Yoho told Ars, “The general consensus in the field I’m sure would be that dark matter and dark energy are more pressing issues. But if it turned out that these large angle anomalies were due to primordial physics and not a statistical fluke or systematic errors (two big ‘ifs’, granted), the impact of the results would huge since there is no way for [the standard cosmological model] to account for that behavior. And that’s the kind of thing that us theorists have a field day with.”
Ah yes, the standard model again. The standard model is widely critiqued today not because of its occasional problems—or because of the normal skepticism of science—but because it provides support for a universe that many in science don’t like (one with theistic implications, courtesy the Big Bang and fine-tuning).
The new Cosmos series’ Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for example, argues for a multiverse without any good evidence, as does Wikipedia and National Geographic because the people involved very much want to believe in a cosmos of cosmoses that has no theistic implications. Not because there is any evidence that such a collections of contradictory cosmoses exists. Unless, of course, you think that the fact that you can imagine it adds to the likelihood that it exists.
Who knows, the standard model may be wrong and may be replaced a century from now. But we should be appropriately cautious when dealing with th criticism offered by supporters of farflung cosmologies whose only real merit is lack of theism and only real demerit is lack of evidence, or even coherence in some cases.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
See also: Mature galaxies found from when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old (Fifteen years ago, such galaxies were not predicted to even exist.)
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