“Bjorn Ekeberg and I are on the same page.” he says:
The edifice of the Big Bang has some serious cracks in it. It isn’t that physics models have to be perfect, but this one is so essential to the entire field, there’s a feeling of the ground shifting under the cosmologists feet. You might even say that cosmology wasn’t a field of physics until this model came along.
Compounding the problem is hubris. (Please don’t misunderstand what I say, I’m just the King’s Fool for space science.) Europeans have America envy–the Americans are so much better funded, they get to do everything first–first to the Moon, lasers, computers, biotech, etc. When the European Space Agency is planning a mission, it’s hard for the slower-moving wheels of European parliaments to beat the US to a discovery. Consequently, they like to repeat a US mission but do it better–a better flyby of a comet (Halley, ROSETTA) a better cosmic microwave background telescope (Planck), etc.
And after a spectacular mission, they can then take their time analyzing the data (since there won’t be another for so long). Bit by dribbled bit, the data from Planck has been analyzed so thoroughly and squeezed so hard they’ve gotten blood from this turnip. (Yes, I spent 3 years in Switzerland with the ROSETTA team.) That’s what the 6-digit accuracy on the Big Bang model is all about, which the Europeans proudly call “precision cosmology.”
So not only is the Big Bang model the foundation of the field of cosmology, but the model has been invested with centuries of scientist-man-years, a cultural treasure like the pyramids of Egypt. It gives ESA bragging rights. To suggest that the theory is suffering the fate of Ozymandias:
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone//Stand in the desert…— Percy Bysshe Shelley
Near them, on the sand//Half sunk a shattered visage lies… ”
is not something taken lightly, certainly not by most cosmologists.
Well, how can we tell whether the investment is wasted or not? Surely there is still something valuable, something progressive to be said for sticking with the model?
Ekeberg, being the careful philosopher, knows on which side his bread is buttered. Here’s his take on Ozymandias:
Each new discrepancy between observation and theory can of course in and of itself be considered an exciting promise of more research, a progressive refinement toward the truth. But when it adds up, it could also suggest a more confounding problem that is not resolved by tweaking parameters or adding new variables.Bjørn Ekeberg, “Cosmology Has Some Big Problems” at Scientific American
Let me say what Bjorn can’t–the discrepancies are a consequence of bad metaphysics (like the reason Einstein added the cosmological constant to the model) and are irreparable.
Either the universe has a beginning, or it doesn’t, and if it has a beginning we are not going to escape it with bouncing or multiverses or inflation or wormholes. We must accept the metaphysical consequences of a beginning and move on. Nearly everything that has failed about the Big Bang model has been added because of bad metaphysics, a refusal to accept the consequences of a beginning.
The remaining pieces of the Big Bang model that are failing and which can’t be attributed to bad metaphysics were added from sheer laziness (or to say it more generously) from the limitations of paper-and-pencil calculations and primitive computers. We now have both better mathematical tools and better computers, so neither of these excuses work any longer. Therefore there is no reason to assume isotropic, homogeneous, non-magnetic solutions are the only valid ones.
I am reminded of something I heard from David Eubank, the founder of the Free Burma Rangers who said: “The reason we don’t do the right thing, is often because of pride and laziness; we don’t want to be embarrassed, and we don’t want to give up our comfort.” It is time for cosmologists to be both courageous and brave.
And this is where I part ways with Ekeberg. He has only suggested that the model is wrong, he has not suggested how it can be repaired. He hints at some of the options: Do we add “new physics”, “new particles”, or abandon “old physics”? His comment about adding floors to the model is similar to “new physics” so that he appears not to favor that option. But the alternative, which also appears to be Sabine Hossenfelder’s solution, is to abandon “old physics” and modify the Newtonian gravity paradigm, an approach known as MOND. While only a few have advocated MOND, the response from the community has been pretty vicious.
My solution is none of those things. Rather, I argue we need to abandon all the bad metaphysics that motivated the add-ons to the model. That would be inflation, isotropy, homogeneity, dark energy, “dark matter” in its “new particle” expression, and of course, non-magnetic “gas”. Once all these barnacles are off the model, we can then embrace the difficulties of a fully kinetic plasma (ie. not MHD), a fully 3-D model, and cast about for formulations that can effectively explain the data.
What gets me excited, is that my preliminary research shows that we have some excellent candidate models with nothing more exotic than extremely large magnetic fields. Some would hold that any magnetic field at all is exotic, but I reply that at least we have lots of evidence of astrophysical objects with large magnetic fields, making this assumption far more empirical than “new particles” or “MOND”. In other words, all we need is courage and bravery, willing to face the criticism and the difficulties of non-homogeneous, anisotropic, 3-D models.
What we don’t need, however, is some sort of metaphysical justification for abandoning empirical physics or believing in 5 dimensions and invisible particles. It isn’t our faith in the philosophy of science that needs repair, but our former gullibility that let scientists slip in bad metaphysics.
The hard work of the Planck team is not wasted, because the repairs to the model will make it even more physical, and therefore not just “precise” but also “accurate”. The ground may be shifting in cosmology, but it is finding its true foundation.
See also: At Scientific American: Understanding the cosmology crisis All that said, faith in mathematics is better than faith in a lucky rabbit’s foot because the mathematics might make sense someday.
Rob Sheldon: Here’s why physicists are surprised by the universe’s increased expansion rate The two methods differ in that one is “direct” and the other “indirect”. Clearly one or both of them is making a mistake. Since it is hard to find (and people have looked) a reason why the direct method is failing, the feeling is that the indirect method must have a mistake in its model.
The Big Bang: Put simply,the facts are wrong.
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