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Entry 141, on 2005-03-09 at 14:43:26 (Rating 1, Science)
I'm just listening to a Tech Nation, IT Conversations podcast interview about a new book, "Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe" by popular science writer Simon Singh. I've read some of his books before, and he is a very good writer on these types of subjects. His style is relatively easy to understand, but doesn't dumb down the material too much.
Anyway, I thought I would share the ideas Singh presented, along with some of my own knowledge in this area, in this blog entry to try and explain what the theory is, and why most scientists think it is true.
Currently about 99% of scientists agree with the Big Bang theory, but 1% disagree strongly and think it is fundamentally wrong. I'm not sure what the alternative is. Several modifications to "steady state" type theories have been proposed, but as far as I know these are currently considered unlikely to be true.
The Big Bang theory gained prominence in the early 20th century when Edwin Hubble noticed that the galaxies were receding from each other. This showed the Universe was expanding, and the obvious inference was that it had a zero size some time in the past. By examining the expansion its possible to estimate how long ago the Big Bang must have happened (when the Universe was zero size), and this figure is currently accepted to be around 14 billion years.
Later some radio scientists noticed background noise coming from all directions simultaneously which fitted the model of what would be left over from a Big Bang explosion. The nicest thing about this was that the scientists who first noticed this radio "noise" didn't even know about the Big Bang and its predicted background radiation, yet their measurements fitted the theory very well. Predictive evidence of that sort gives powerful support to a theory.
The third piece of important evidence is the ratio of heavy elements in the Universe, which fits the Big Bang model nicely.
Some details are still controversial. For example, the anisotropy (lack of smoothness) of the microwave background has required a modification to the original theory through the addition of an inflationary phase. Also dark energy and dark matter need to be accounted for, although their presence doesn't actually weaken the theory at all.
One of the ultimate questions of physics and astronomy is what happened before the Big Bang. Singh sounds fairly confident that its just a matter of time before that problem is solved - and there are a few speculative theories around already. I'm not so sure. The way I understand it, time and space itself were created in the Big Bang, so the question of what happened before might not just currently have no answer, but the question itself might not even have any real meaning and be unanswerable!
Comment 1 (160) by Jim Farrer on 2005-12-27 at 12:33:52:
"Before The Big Bang" is the title of a book written by Enrest J. Sternglass, 1923. He headed Westinghouse Laboratory's Apollo Lunar Scientific Station program from 1960-67. It is a really fresh look at all of science. Therefore, no matter how correct it may be, it faces a real challenge to be accepted. His main idea had Einstein's hearty approval.
1. The origin was one electron, in mutual orbit with one positron.
Their speeds along their orbits was ever-so-slightly less than the speed of light. Therefore, their masses have increased to equal the mass of our entire universe.
POINT: AN ELECTRON-POSITRON PAIR CAN HAVE ANY MASS DESIRED, SIMPLY BY
DECREASING THE DIAMETERS OF THEIR MUTUAL ORBITS AROUND EACH
OTHER, WHICH NECESSARILY RAISES THEIR SPEEDS, AND INCREASES
2. This combined 'particle' is unstable, and by a process similar to cell division, it decayed into two such 'particles' (Explained in the book), each particle having half the mass of the future universe.
3. This cell division continued some 250 times, whereupon the new universe, much, much cooler, was able to solidify into our present matter.
4. A neutron is a cube, with each corner occupied by a rotating pair of electron-positron particles. A proton is the same, but with a positron at the center of the cube. The antiproton has a central electron.
5. All the known particles (well over a hundred) have been mapped out by Sternglass.
Since all matter consists of precisely the same number of electrons and positrons, the ugly "PROBLEM" of the "shortage" of antimatter is thus solved.
ID: Intelligent design. Where did the just-demolished Big Bang come from?
Now with this better idea, where did the first electron-positron pair (containing the entire mass of this brand new universe) come from? Where did our laws of physics come form? If any of about a dozen contants were a few percent different, our universe would be unable to survive. How did these constants come to have these precise values? The probablility of this happening by pure chance is next to zero.
Comment 2 (161) by OJB on 2005-12-29 at 23:29:27:
I would need to do some research on this before commenting, but my initial thought is that anything written in a popular science book should be viewed with suspicion.
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