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In one way, cosmology more like the social science than like physics—says cosmologist

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Dr D. SloanCambridge’s David Sloan, working on a project called “Establishing the Philosophy of Cosmology,” tells +Plus Magazine, that what he does for a living is “calculate how likely it is that the Universe exists,”and he goes on to say some interesting things about cosmology in general:

But what exactly do we mean by a “universe like ours”? The pragmatic way to answer this is to say it is a universe that results in observations like those we have observed in our own. Data like the cosmic microwave background radiation (the CMB) has dramatically shaped the picture we have of our own Universe. And any universe “like ours” should also generate the same observations we see in the CMB and other data sources. One complication though, is that we only have our Universe to look at, we don’t have any alternative examples to compare to, or probe for information.

“One of the things that cosmology has that’s different from the rest of physics, and actually puts us much more in line with, say, the social sciences, is that we can only really do natural experiments,” says Sloan. “We can’t design a universe. We can’t build a machine, put some initial conditions in, fire it up in a lab and see what happens. We can only observe the Universe as it is.”

This is a similar situation to astronomy, but with one significant difference: “Astronomers don’t get to build stars and see what happens, they can only observe them. But they have lots and lots of stars to look at. In some sense, we have precisely one data point: the one universe we live in. And as anyone who has done GCSE science will tell you, one data point is pretty terrible for doing science.” More.

Hey, he’s playing our song.

Consider:

Hank Campbell on Cosmos: Multiverse is just postmodernism with some math

and

Mathematician complains Wikipedia is promoting “pseudo-science” of multiverse

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG

Well, it’s nice we all agree on something. 😉

Science-Fictions-square.gif See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).

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One Reply to “In one way, cosmology more like the social science than like physics—says cosmologist

  1. 1
    jstanley01 says:

    In a singularity like ours,” hahaha…

    But what exactly do we mean by a “universe like ours”? The pragmatic way to answer this is to say it is a universe that results in observations like those we have observed in our own.

    Pragmatic, yes, and tautological too!

    So the truth comes out. The multiverse theories aren’t being concocted to scoot out from under ID, particularly, but because a lot of cosmologists engaged in their daily tasks are BORED.

    I guess I can understand how 8/40/50 of squinting at fire and ice and rocks from untold zillions of kilometers away, whilst keeping track of the strange but codeless buzzing noises registering on the geiger counter — with the prospect of thirty or forty years of same stretching out beyond the horizon — might get tedious.

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