Fragments from a profile in the Boston Globe:
Guth (rhymes with “truth”) has had opportunity to trot out some version of that line for more than three decades now, ever since he came up with his revolutionary prequel to the Big Bang theory.
PERHAPS YOU WENT TO SCHOOL WITH someone like Alan Guth, a child so preternaturally gifted that the teachers didn’t know what to do with him.
[Actually, News went to school with children the teachers were worried would end up in slam, but never mind.] We also learn,
A little while later, as we walk through a different building on campus, an emeritus professor spots Guth and flags him down. “You know that when you win a Nobel, you lose a year of your life,” the man says. “So get ready.”
How did he get cred?
What made it so was the Princeton professor’s identification of the “flatness problem” with the Big Bang theory. The flatness refers to the geometry of our continually expanding universe, where its mass density and expansion rate remain exquisitely balanced. If that balance tipped even slightly in either direction, the universe would either fly apart or collapse on itself. Yet because the universe has been expanding for 14 billion years, even slight variations in the beginning should have become exaggerated by now, to disastrous effect. Dicke pointed out that for our universe to look anything like it does today, at one second after the Big Bang, the number describing the balance would have to have been within 15 decimal places of one, lying in the minuscule interval between 0.999999999999999 and 1.000000000000001.
Yet the Big Bang theory offered absolutely no explanation for how that exceedingly precise balance might have come about. It would seem crazy to assume that it was just a coincidence.
For Guth, the recent gravitational waves find, if it holds up, is confirmation of, you guessed it, a multiverse:
At this point, Guth’s thinking on the multiverse remains just theory and is by no means universally accepted in the physics world. But it’s already drawn influential backers, and even those who haven’t fully signed on yet find themselves intrigued. “It’s a very attractive picture, very plausible, and it leads to very interesting consequences,” says Steven Weinberg, the Nobel laureate whose talk at Cornell helped inspire Guth. “But we don’t have any way now of confirming those theories.”
Then again, that’s what people said about Guth’s revolutionary idea 35 years ago. So whether it takes 10 years or 50 years or 100 years for the evidence to emerge, the people who design the museum exhibits probably shouldn’t get too attached to their current signs presuming a single universe. More.
For one thing, the cool people at the Boston Globe are backing the multiverse, so there’s that.
So the multiverse is just theory and they are positioning this guy for a Nobel anyway on the basis of a disputable finding that may or may not support his theses?
Wait a minute, his name rings a bell, and not because it rhymes with “truth”:
Multiverse cosmologists are now so culturally secure that they no longer need confidence in their own assertions. Andrei Linde confessed, after offering a defense of multiverse thinking, “One can easily dismiss everything that I just said as a wild speculation,” a prospect that does not trouble him much. Leonard Susskind reportedly told Alan Guth, “You know, the most amazing thing is that they pay us for this,” and Nobelist David Gross (the fellow who “hates” the Big Bang) has admitted about string theory, “We don’t know what we are talking about.” But they do know what they are not talking about, and that is enough. More.
If this Globe puff piece is prophetic, it’ll say a lot about cultural decline at the Nobel. For now we’re calling it no.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
Follow UD News at Twitter!