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Physicist Rob Sheldon checks out astrophysicist Ethan Siegel for ridiculing Nobelist Roger Penrose

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We’ve often noted Ethan Siegel’s riffs on physics at Forbes. In connection with Penrose’s idea that black holes derive from a universe previous to ours, he takes shots at newly minted Nobelist Roger Penrose, leading up to:

Although, much like Hoyle, Penrose isn’t alone in his assertions, the data is overwhelmingly opposed to what he contends. The predictions that he’s made are refuted by the data, and his claims to see these effects are only reproducible if one analyzes the data in a scientifically unsound and illegitimate fashion. Hundreds of scientists have pointed this out to Penrose — repeatedly and consistently over a period of more than 10 years — who continues to ignore the field and plow ahead with his contentions.

Like many before him, he appears to have fallen so in love with his own ideas that he no longer looks to reality to responsibly test them. Yet these tests exist, the critical data is publicly available, and Penrose is not just wrong, it’s trivially easy to demonstrate that the features he claims should be present in the Universe do not exist. Hoyle may have been denied a Nobel Prize despite his worthy contributions to stellar nucleosynthesis because of his unscientific stances later in life; although Penrose now has a Nobel, he has succumbed to the same regrettable pitfall.

Ethan Siegel, “No, Roger Penrose, We See No Evidence Of A ‘Universe Before The Big Bang’” at Forbes

To which, our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon replies,


I know this is a blog, but Ethan is a PhD professor of something, and he is speaking of his betters–Sir Fred Hoyle and Nobel laureate Roger Penrose. But look at the language our supposedly objective scientist is using to describe rival theories:

“While most astronomers and astrophysicists immediately accepted the Big Bang, the strongest proponents of the leading alternative Steady-State theory — people like Fred Hoyle — came up with progressively more and more absurd contentions to defend their discredited idea in the face of overwhelming data.But each idea failed spectacularly. … While science moved on to the Big Bang becoming part of the consensus, i.e., a sensible starting point for future science, Hoyle and his ideological allies worked to hold back the progress of science by advocating for scientifically untenable alternatives.Ultimately, science moved on while the contrarians became more and more irrelevant, with their trivially incorrect work fading into obscurity and their research programme eventually ceasing upon their deaths.”

The politicization of science evidently started before Ethan’s graduate schooling, as Hoyle and his post-doc Chandra Wickramasinghe tell in their biographical writings. In fact, Hoyle deserved the Nobel more than most–for his BB model, his stellar nucleosynthesis model, for his discovery of the C12 resonance line allowing triple-alpha fusion, for his magnetic reconnection work, and not to be forgotten, for his accurate predictions of cometary origins. He never got the Nobel though, and that was purely political–he didn’t like the Big Bang.


Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II.

3 Replies to “Physicist Rob Sheldon checks out astrophysicist Ethan Siegel for ridiculing Nobelist Roger Penrose

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    I love Roger Penrose. I really do. But he’s dead ass wrong about the origin of our universe.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    Although inflation, like the Big Bang before it, had a large number of detractors, it succeeds where all the alternatives fail. It solves the “graceful exit” problem, where an exponentially expanding Universe can transition into a matter-and-radiation-filled Universe that expands in a way that matches our observations, meaning it can reproduce all the successes of the hot Big Bang. It imposes an energy cutoff, eliminating any ultra-high-energy relics. It creates a uniform Universe to an enormously high degree, where the expansion rate and the total energy density match perfectly.
    And it makes novel predictions about the types of structure and the initial temperature and density fluctuations that should appear, predictions that have subsequently been borne out to be correct by observations. Inflation’s predictions were largely teased out in the 1980s, while the observational evidence that validated it has come in a trickling stream over the past ~30 years. Although alternatives abound, none are as successful as inflation.
    Unfortunately, Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose, although his work on General Relativity, black holes, and singularities in the 1960s and 1970s was absolutely Nobel-worthy, has spent a large amount of his efforts in recent years on a crusade to overthrow inflation: by promoting a vastly scientifically inferior alternative, his pet idea of a Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, or CCC.

    Although I certainly do not agree with Penrose’s ‘Conformal Cyclic Cosmology’, Siegel glosses over the fact that inflation itself has some rather glaring deficits in it that also render it untenable as theory.

    Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, who was one of the main founders of inflationary theory, but who is now scathing of it, states that the idea that inflationary theory produces any observable predictions at all,,, is based on a simplification of the theory that simply does not hold true.
    “The deeper problem is that once inflation starts, it doesn’t end the way these simplistic calculations suggest,” he says. “Instead, due to quantum physics it leads to a multiverse where the universe breaks up into an infinite number of patches. The patches explore all conceivable properties as you go from patch to patch. So that means it doesn’t make any sense to say what inflation predicts, except to say it predicts everything.

    Cosmic inflation is dead, long live cosmic inflation – 25 September 2014
    Excerpt: (Inflation) theory, the most widely held of cosmological ideas about the growth of our universe after the big bang, explains a number of mysteries, including why the universe is surprisingly flat and so smoothly distributed, or homogeneous.,,,
    Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, who helped develop inflationary theory but is now scathing of it, says this is potentially a blow for the theory, but that it pales in significance with inflation’s other problems.
    Meet the multiverse
    Steinhardt says the idea that inflationary theory produces any observable predictions at all – even those potentially tested by BICEP2 – is based on a simplification of the theory that simply does not hold true.
    “The deeper problem is that once inflation starts, it doesn’t end the way these simplistic calculations suggest,” he says. “Instead, due to quantum physics it leads to a multiverse where the universe breaks up into an infinite number of patches. The patches explore all conceivable properties as you go from patch to patch. So that means it doesn’t make any sense to say what inflation predicts, except to say it predicts everything. If it’s physically possible, then it happens in the multiverse someplace
    Steinhardt says the point of inflation was to explain a remarkably simple universe. “So the last thing in the world you should be doing is introducing a multiverse of possibilities to explain such a simple thing,” he says. “I think it’s telling us in the clearest possible terms that we should be able to understand this and when we understand it it’s going to come in a model that is extremely simple and compelling. And we thought inflation was it – but it isn’t.”
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....CajrGl0y00

    As the old adage goes, a scientific theory that predicts everything predicts nothing.

    Max Tegmark himself admitted that inflation sabotages our ability to make useful predictions. In fact, he stated that because of inflation “we physicists are no longer able to predict anything at all!”

    WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Infinity – Max Tegmark – Feb. 2015
    Excerpt: Physics is all about predicting the future from the past, but inflation seems to sabotage this: when we try to predict the probability that something particular will happen, inflation always gives the same useless answer: infinity divided by infinity. The problem is that whatever experiment you make, inflation predicts that there will be infinitely many copies of you far away in our infinite space, obtaining each physically possible outcome, and despite years of tooth-grinding in the cosmology community, no consensus has emerged on how to extract sensible answers from these infinities. So strictly speaking, we physicists are no longer able to predict anything at all!
    http://blogs.discovermagazine......OsRyS7cBCA

    Here are a few more criticisms of Inflation theory:

    A Matter of Considerable Gravity: On the Purported Detection of Gravitational Waves and Cosmic Inflation – Bruce Gordon – April 4, 2014
    Excerpt: Thirdly, at least two paradoxes result from the inflationary multiverse proposal that suggest our place in such a multiverse must be very special: the “Boltzmann Brain Paradox” and the “Youngness Paradox.” In brief, if the inflationary mechanism is autonomously operative in a way that generates a multiverse, then with probability indistinguishable from one (i.e., virtual necessity) the typical observer in such a multiverse is an evanescent thermal fluctuation with memories of a past that never existed (a Boltzmann brain) rather than an observer of the sort we take ourselves to be. Alternatively, by a second measure, post-inflationary universes should overwhelmingly have just been formed, which means that our existence in an old universe like our own has a probability that is effectively zero (i.e., it’s nigh impossible). So if our universe existed as part of such a multiverse, it would not be at all typical, but rather infinitely improbable (fine-tuned) with respect to its age and compatibility with stable life-forms.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....84001.html

    One of cosmic inflation theory’s creators (Steinhardt) now questions own theory – April 2011
    Excerpt: Inflation adds a whole bunch of really unlikely metaphysical assumptions — a new force field that has a never-before-observed particle called the “inflaton”, an expansion faster than the speed of light, an interaction with gravity waves which are themselves only inferred– just so that it can explain the unlikely contingency of a finely-tuned big bang.
    But instead of these extra assumptions becoming more-and-more supported, the trend went the opposite direction, with more-and-more fine-tuning of the inflation assumptions until they look as fine-tuned as Big Bang theories. At some point, we have “begged the question”. Frankly, the moment we add an additional free variable, I think we have already begged the question. In a Bayesean comparison of theories, extra variables reduce the information content of the theory, (by the so-called Ockham factor), so these inflation theories are less, not more, explanatory than the theory they are supposed to replace.,,, after 20 years of work, if we haven’t made progress, but have instead retreated, it is time to cut bait.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....wn-theory/

    Moreover, inflation is now contradicted by the latest Planck findings.

    Planck reveals an almost perfect Universe (Disconfirms inflationary models) – video
    Quote at 2:00 minute mark: “What’s surprising in Planck’s latest findings and is inconsistent with prevailing theories, is the presence of unexpected large scale anomalies in the sky. Including a large cold region. Stronger fluctuations in one half of the sky than the other. And less light signals than expected across the entire sky.”?Planck spokesman: “When we look at only the large features on this (CMBR) map you find that our best fitting theory (inflation) has a problem fitting the data.”?”Planck launched in 2009,, is the 3rd mission to study the Cosmic Microwave Background to date. While these unusual features in the sky were hinted at the two previous US missions, COBE and WMAP, Planck’s ability to measure the tiniest of fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background has made these so called anomalies impossible to ignore.”?Planck spokesman: “Because of these features that we are finding in the sky, people really are in a situation now where they cannot ignore them any more. ,,, We’ve established them (the anomalies) as fact!”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2CWaLU6eMI

    Inflationary paradigm in trouble after Planck – 2013
    Anna Ijjas, Paul J. Steinhardt, Abraham Loeb
    Excerpt of abstract: More important, though, is that all the simplest inflaton models are disfavored statistically relative to those with plateau-like potentials. We discuss how a restriction to plateau-like models has three independent serious drawbacks: it exacerbates both the initial conditions problem and the multiverse-unpredictability problem and it creates a new difficulty that we call the inflationary “unlikeliness problem.”,,
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1304.2785v2.pdf

    What is very interesting about many of these ‘anomalies’ in the CMBR (that cannot be explained by the ‘simple’ inflation model of materialists), is that these ‘anomalies’ in the Cosmic Background Radiation strangely line up with the earth and solar system.

    What Is Evil About The Axis Of Evil? – February 17, 2015
    The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Radiation contains small temperature fluctuations.
    When these temperature fluctuations are analyzed using image processing techniques (specifically spherical harmonics), they indicate a special direction in space, or, in a sense, an axis through the universe. This axis is correlated back to us, and causes many difficulties for the current big bang and standard cosmology theories. What has been discovered is shocking.
    Two scientists, Kate Land and João Magueijo, in a paper in 2005 describing the axis, dubbed it the “Axis of Evil” because of the damage it does to current theories, and (tongue in cheek) as a response to George Bush’ Axis of Evil speech regarding Iraq, Iran and, North Korea.
    (Youtube clip on site)
    In the above video, Max Tegmark describes in a simplified way how spherical harmonics analysis decomposes the small temperature fluctuations into more averaged and spatially arranged temperature components, known as multipoles.
    The “Axis of Evil” correlates to the earth’s ecliptic and equinoxes, and this represents a very unusual and unexpected special direction in space, a direct challenge to the Copernican Principle.
    http://www.theprinciplemovie.com/evil-axis-evil/

    At the 13:55 minute mark of this following video, Max Tegmark, an atheist who specializes in this area of study, finally admits, post Planck 2013, that the CMBR anomalies do indeed line up with the earth and solar system

    “Thoughtcrime: The Conspiracy to Stop The Principle” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=0eVUSDy_rO0#t=832

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is an excellent clip from “The Principle” that explains all of these ‘anomalies’ in the CMBR, that strangely line up with the earth and solar system, in an easy to understand manner.

    Cosmic Microwave Background Proves Intelligent Design (disproves Copernican principle) (clip of “The Principle”) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htV8WTyo4rw

    Moreover besides the earth and solar system lining up with the anomalies in the Cosmic Background Radiation, Radio Astronomy now reveals a surprising rotational coincidence for Earth in relation to the quasar and radio galaxy distributions in the universe:

    Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky? – Ashok K. Singal – May 17, 2013?
    Abstract: Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) observations from the WMAP satellite have shown some unexpected anisotropies (directionally dependent observations), which surprisingly seem to be aligned with the ecliptic\cite {20,16,15}. The latest data from the Planck satellite have confirmed the presence of these anisotropies\cite {17}. Here we report even larger anisotropies in the sky distributions of powerful extended quasars and some other sub-classes of radio galaxies in the 3CRR catalogue, one of the oldest and most intensively studies sample of strong radio sources\cite{21,22,3}. The anisotropies lie about a plane passing through the two equinoxes and the north celestial pole (NCP). We can rule out at a 99.995% confidence level the hypothesis that these asymmetries are merely due to statistical fluctuations. Further, even the distribution of observed radio sizes of quasars and radio galaxies show large systematic differences between these two sky regions. The redshift distribution appear to be very similar in both regions of sky for all sources, which rules out any local effects to be the cause of these anomalies. Two pertinent questions then arise. First, why should there be such large anisotropies present in the sky distribution of some of the most distant discrete sources implying inhomogeneities in the universe at very large scales (covering a fraction of the universe)? What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon.?
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.4134?

    What is interesting about these large scale structures of the universe, i.e. quasar and radio galaxy distributions in the universe, (i.e. distributions that reveal a “surprising rotational coincidence for Earth”), is that the tiny temperature variations (in the CMBR) correspond to the largest scale structures of the observable universe.

    How do we know the universe is flat? Discovering the topology of the universe – by Fraser Cain – June 7, 2017
    Excerpt: With the most sensitive space-based telescopes they have available, astronomers are able to detect tiny variations in the temperature of this background radiation.
    And here’s the part that blows my mind every time I think about it. These tiny temperature variations correspond to the largest scale structures of the observable universe. A region that was a fraction of a degree warmer become a vast galaxy cluster, hundreds of millions of light-years across.
    The cosmic microwave background radiation just gives and gives, and when it comes to figuring out the topology of the universe, it has the answer we need. If the universe was curved in any way, these temperature variations would appear distorted compared to the actual size that we see these structures today.
    But they’re not. To best of its ability, ESA’s Planck space telescope, can’t detect any distortion at all. The universe is flat.,,,
    Since the universe is flat now, it must have been flat in the past, when the universe was an incredibly dense singularity. And for it to maintain this level of flatness over 13.8 billion years of expansion, in kind of amazing.
    In fact, astronomers estimate that the universe must have been flat to 1 part within 1×10^57 parts.
    Which seems like an insane coincidence.
    https://phys.org/news/2017-06-universe-flat-topology.html

    Thus, contrary to the presumption of atheists, far from the temperature variations in the CMBR being a product of undirected randomness, the temperature variations in the CMBR correspond to the ‘largest scale structures of the observable universe’ and these ‘largest scale structures of the observable universe’ reveal “a surprising rotational coincidence for Earth”. Moreover, we were only able to discover this correlation between the tiny temperature variation in the CMB and the largest scale structures in the universe via the ‘insane coincidence’ of the universe being fine-tuned to at least 1 in 10^57 flatness.

    In other words, the “tiny temperature variations” in the CMBR, to the largest scale structures in the universe itself, reveal teleology, (i.e. a goal directed purpose, a plan, a reason), that specifically included the earth from the very start of the universe. ,,, The earth, and our solar system, from what our best science can now tell us, is not some random cosmic fluke as atheists had presupposed.

    And as much as it may irk atheists to find this out, the Bible specifically predicted that the earth was purposely intended from the beginning of creation.

    Genesis 1:1-2
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

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