Monday, January 13, 2014

On the Big Bang

As one who believes in supernatural creation, I sometimes chuckle when I read books on modern cosmology.  Einstein’s Telescope is one of those books.  Early on in the book we are assured of the veracity of the Big Bang Story.    The author claims that three strong lines of evidence give us this assurance:

1.       The Expansion of the Universe
2.       The ratios of light elements Lithium, Deuterium and Helium from early nucleosynthesis from protons and neutrons.
3.       The Cosmic Background Radiation

However, I know from other books on the subject that, in order for these three lines of evidence to be consistent with observations, new, speculative entities have been invented.  

First, the idea of “dark energy” had to be invented to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe.  According to the latest big bang calculations, 72% of the mass-energy of the universe is dark energy.  Unfortunately, nobody has found it nor are there any good candidates for what it is.  Yet, secular cosmologists believe in it because “something” is causing the universe to accelerate outward.  Hmmm.

Second, “cold dark matter” had to be invented to explain the ratios of the light elements as well as the apparent mass of galaxies.  You see, for the math to work out, the big bang requires that 23% of the mass-energy of the universe be made up of this cold dark matter, which is mass that doesn’t absorb or emit heat or light.  Extra mass, which we can’t see, is required to explain the speed at which galaxies rotate.  For many years, scientists believed this mass was normal “baryonic” matter, like black holes or burnt out stars, which couldn’t be seen by telescope.  However, if all that mass was normal matter, that extra matter would drastically change the ratios of the light elements formed according to big bang cosmology.  The observation would no longer match the theory.  So, to keep that cosmology alive, scientists infer “cold dark matter”, an exotic entity which is very common but never been detected.  Hmmm.  Cold dark matter also helps to explain how matter could begin to clump together in the early universe, which otherwise looks very smooth according to the cosmic background radiation measurements.  It’s very useful stuff.  If they could only find some. 

It is hard to see how the ratio of light elements is evidence for the big bang when “cold dark matter” has to be invented to rescue it.

The book Einstein’s Telescope is about the search for dark matter and dark energy, so I thought it would be interesting.  Indeed.

Finally, the “inflation” epoch was invented to solve the horizon problem, that is, the uniformity of the Cosmic Background Radiation.  Again, this inflation epoch is unproven but it is needed to explain why the background temperature is the same in every direction.  Not only is this “inflation” unproven and unprovable, the inflation theory actually says that, for at least a moment, the universe expanded many times faster than the speed of light.  Hmmm.  That sounds more than a little speculative.  Friends, maybe the background temperature is the same in every direction because we are near the center of the universe.  Oh, no.  That would make us special, and we can’t have that.

As you can tell, I’m more than a little skeptical about the strong lines of evidence for the “big bang”.  Yes, there is good evidence for the three lines themselves, but the observations could be caused by something, or someone, else.  As Michael Disney, a British Astrophysicist, put it,

In its original form, an expanding Einstein model had an attractive, economic elegance. Alas, it has since run into serious difficulties, which have been cured only by sticking on some ugly bandages: inflation to cover horizon and flatness problems; overwhelming amounts of dark matter to provide internal structure; and dark energy, whatever that might be, to explain the seemingly recent acceleration. A skeptic is entitled to feel that a negative significance, after so much time, effort and trimming, is nothing more than one would expect of a folktale constantly re-edited to fit inconvenient new observations.” (from “Modern Cosmology: Science or Folktale?”, American Scientist, 2007)

And they think we have faith!