Whether “we have got it all wrong” was the topic of a recent physics thinkpiece:
A provocative paper published today in the journal Nature Astronomy argues that the universe may curve around and close in on itself like a sphere, rather than lying flat like a sheet of paper as the standard theory of cosmology predicts. The authors reanalyzed a major cosmological data set and concluded that the data favors a closed universe with 99% certainty — even as other evidence suggests the universe is flat.Natalie Wolchover, “What Shape Is the Universe? A New Study Suggests We’ve Got It All Wrong” at Quanta
Competitive researchers, of course, disagree:
However, the team of scientists behind the Planck telescope reached different conclusions in their 2018 analysis. Antony Lewis, a cosmologist at the University of Sussex and a member of the Planck team who worked on that analysis, said the simplest explanation for the specific feature in the CMB data that di Valentino, Melchiorri and Silk interpreted as evidence for a closed universe “is that it is just a statistical fluke.” Lewis and other experts say they’ve already closely scrutinized the issue, along with related puzzles in the data.
“There is no dispute that these symptoms exist at some level,” said Graeme Addison, a cosmologist at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the Planck analysis or the new research. “There is only disagreement as to the interpretation.”Natalie Wolchover, “What Shape Is the Universe? A New Study Suggests We’ve Got It All Wrong” at Quanta
From our physics color commentator, experimental physicist Rob Sheldon, also the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent, vols 1 and 2, . He thinks overspecialization plays a role in some of these problems:
One of the difficulties of modern science is that it discourages generalists, people who know a little bit about everything. Galileo was a generalist, Newton was a generalist, Einstein not so much, and anyone born in the 20th century, not a chance.
Specialists can know their field very, very well. When they go to scientific meetings, they can even have a working knowledge of related fields. But astronomers do not go to geology meetings, and atomic-molecular-optics physicists do not go to cosmology meetings. As a result, they know no more about these other fields than the average interested layman. They read Scientific American, they read the intro articles in Science or in Nature, and occasionally thumb through the highly-condensed scientific letters in the back. This is where the gatekeeping of SciAm or Nature becomes so important because it tells these specialists what are the latest “approved” theories in fields distant from their own.
The result, as everyone here knows, is that all biologists know that Evolution doesn’t work in their specialty, but they believe it works generally for the other specialties. Every astronomer knows about the problems of Lambda-CDM model in their specialty but believes it works in the other specialties. This article discusses how the LCDM model fails to predict the “blurriness” of the 3 and 4-point correlations in the Planck data set. But the model works for baryon-acoustic-oscillations (BAO), they said. However, when you read the BAO literature, you find that 4 free parameters in the LDCM fit the first 4 peaks perfectly but miss the fifth. Indeed, in the big bang nucleosynthesis the 4 free parameters in the LCMD model fit the first 4 species perfectly but miss the 5th. Likewise the “lambda” of LDCM is the “anti-gravity” or “dark energy” term that won Adam Riess a Nobel prize in 2011, but only worked for his selected set of 75 supernovae, and doesn’t work for the expanded set of 1000+ since then, and certainly not for this CMB data set. But then, it was never intended as a theory to explain supernovae data, it was intended as a free parameter for the LCDM model to get those “good predictions”. As this Nature paper concludes,
“…the flat ΛCDM model, de facto, does not seem any longer to provide a good candidate for concordance cosmology…”
See also: Slapping Sabine Hossenfelder isn’t going to solve physics’ problems. But the frustration some feel about the situation they are in tells us a lot.