Dismissing Inflation

On rare occasion the ICR manages to publish articles on recent news items in an approximately timely manner. Today’s DpSU, “‘Smoking Gun’ Evidence of Inflation?” by Jake Hebert, is one example, attempting to counter the rather inconvenient announcement of evidence supporting the cosmological hypothesis known as inflation.

While quicker than is typical for the ICR, Hebert is by no means the first to comment on this issue. Discovery Institute cdesign proponentsist Stephen Meyer was quoted as saying that

…it’s really odd for people from a Creationist perspective to deny a theory that says the universe began out of nothing physical.

Naturally, many of his fellow creationists have a decidedly different view. Continue reading

Another Piece in the Puzzle

One of the cosmology news stories from earlier this month involved data from the South Pole Telescope which helped show that the period of reionisation – which is when galaxies first began to form – happened over a shorter timespan than previously thought. They found that it was complete as early as 750 million years after the big bang:

The data provide new constraints on the universe’s first era of galaxy formation, called the Epoch of Reionization. Most astronomers think that early stars came to life in massive gas clouds, generating the first galaxies. The energetic light pumped out by these stars is thought to have ionized the hydrogen gas in and around the galaxies, creating “ionization bubbles” millions of light years across that left a lasting, telltale signature in the cosmic background radiation (CMB). This relic light from the early universe is visible today everywhere in the sky and was first mapped by UC Berkeley physicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot, founder of the BCCP.

“We find that the Epoch of Reionization lasted less than 500 million years and began when the universe was at least 250 million years old,” Zahn said. “Before this measurement, scientists believed that reionization lasted 750 million years or longer, and had no evidence as to when reionization began.”

Continue reading

Our Weird Universe

Better instruments have gotten us better data, but it's still not enoughPerhaps the most hypocritical of the arguments used by the Institute for Creation Research that we’ve encountered recently is the claim that the use of what Brian Thomas called “rescuing devices” mean that an argument can be dismissed apparently out of hand. That is to say, should a scientific theory commit the heinous crime of adjusting itself to fit the evidence, it must be flawed.

What makes this hypocritical, of course, is that that kind of thing describes young Earth creationism in a nutshell – we saw an example of that in the very next article. But Thomas did have a point: the classic example of Ptolemy’s model of the solar system shows that modifications to a theory can be a sign of a failed paradigm, but in the same way that not all people who have their ideas dismissed are Galileo, if a theory changes to fit the evidence that doesn’t meant that it’s broken and does not describe reality.

It’s a question of balance between dogma and unfalsifiable pseudoscience, though it’s not properly a spectrum as creationism tends to manage both simultaneously. In his August Acts & Facts article (yes, there’s a point to this post), Jake Hebert asks “Why Is Modern Cosmology So Weird?” The answer, according to him, is that it’s the fault of “ad-hoc” additions to the Big Bang to make it work. And you can probably guess his conclusions from there. Continue reading

Remember That Sky Map?

Here it is again:3D Sky Map

Yes, Brian Thomas is today using a similar study, which (apparently) shows that the “Universe’s Matter Is Too Clumpy“. Amusingly, the study’s primary author’s name is Shaun Thomas, which is going to make this rather difficult… Brian Thomas says:

[Shaun] Thomas and his colleagues used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which represents an unprecedented “zoom out” view of the universe, to analyze the 3-D distribution of hundreds of thousands of galaxies. Seen from such a great distance, and assuming a naturalistic origin, matter should appear to be twice as smooth (i.e., evenly distributed) as it actually is. However, the matter is “clumpier than astronomers expected.”

With his source being this article from Wired Science.

About that “twice as smooth”… Continue reading

3D Sky Map and the Latest in DpSU’s

I would hope that you are all aware of the recent (ish) map from the 2MASS Redshift Survey. If not, take a look:

Click Through For a Much Bigger Version

Astronomers Unveil Most Complete 3-D Map of Local Universe

According to Brian Thomas, ‘Science’ Writer at the ICR, this map “Shows Big Bang Even More Unlikely“. This article is a borderline Type AE (see the Terminology page) in that Mr Thomas takes a study and bends it to suit his message, but it also has elements of Type Io as he also goes and talks about other things only sometimes related.

What does Mr Thomas think are the problems with the Big Bang in the light of this map? First, here is his description of the event:

The most popular nature-only explanation of the origin of the universe is the Big Bang, which proposes that all space, time, and matter were once densely packed into a tiny volume. For some unknown reason, this nugget exploded, yielding elements in ever-expanding space that eventually self-organized into such structures as stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.

This isn’t a very detailed description, but we’ll live. See WP for a much better one.

[A] problem with the Big Bang is the horizon problem, which is the question of why temperature is so remarkably uniform throughout the universe when light has not had enough time since the Big Bang to travel throughout space and evenly distribute radiation.

Ah, the (former) horizon problem. I wonder if Mr Thomas has ever heard of Inflation?

Also, the Big Bang should have resulted in equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but the real universe is dominated by matter.

This is genuinely an unsolved problem in physics, and somebody will (I’m pretty sure) get a Nobel for this, but not for running around claiming it proves God and creationism. Basically, there are people spending their careers trying to discover what the differences between matter and antimatter really are, and whether their could be some small bias in favour of matter. Did you here about the CERN antimatter thing? Only now are we getting a good look at the actual particles, a nice change from near pure theory.

the First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Big Bang beliefs violate this law by positing the appearance of matter from no prior material.

You understand that creationism is exempt from such things by the ancient scientific principle of Goddidit.

At the very earliest parts of the Big Bang process, the general rules of the universe were a bit f**ked, as it were. It’s not unbelievable that thermodynamics did exist at the time, although I doubt that’s the solution here. It’s more a case that thermodynamics just doesn’t apply here – the Big Bang is the beginning of time, so it’s not a case of more matter being added to the the universe, as it was already there… Something like that, anyway. Go ask a physicist…

The Big Bang also violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics—which states that some orderliness is always lost when energy or matter are converted to other forms—by positing the creation of orderliness in the form of stars, galaxies, and galactic clusters, all with insufficient cause.

Is cause a quantifiable physical quantity now, like Force and Mass? 😀

But in all seriousness, this is not a valid criticism either. I once saw a video demonstrating planetary accretion on the ISS, using rice as a substitute for the rocks. I can’t find the source, but here’s a link to somebody else who evidently has, in order to prove my sanity. Basically, what happened is that there was a whole to of rice floating randomly in a bag, as they would under zero-g conditions. Over time, however, their minute gravitational attractions caused them to accrete into clusters. You might also know that if you have a group of different sized objects (or was it weights? I can’t remember. I haven’t been five for some time now… Basically, I’m talking about small pieces of sandstone in my personal experience.) and you roll them down a slope, they organise themselves out. Are these violations of the Second Law?

No. What is happening in all cases is that gravitational potential energy is being lost, and is turned into waste energy. This more than makes up for the organisation of the substance, whether it be rice, stone or hydrogen. There is no loss of Entropy and therefore no violation of the Second Law.

Now onto the actual study:

About 20 years ago, the first results from three-dimensional maps of sections of the sky showed unforeseen mega-structures. In stark contrast to the random and even distribution of stars that a Big Bang would have produced, galaxies are instead grouped into clusters and superstructures.2 And the galactic clusters, tendrils, and voids exhibited in the new 3-D map serve as a blatant reminder that this universe is not random.

Like prior star maps, this [new] one shows huge, intricate structures in space that simply should not exist unless they were put there on purpose.

They’re still random, just not quite white-noise random. This kind of thing is actually predicted by Inflation as I alluded to to above. You might be wondering about how the universe can be both homogeneous and contain mega-structures. Basically, the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is largely uniform, but after a certain level of detail is no-longer so. As the CMB was influenced by the density distribution of the early universe, we see similar pattens in the universe today. Said density distribution and it’s consequences is what is predicted by Inflationary Theory. As an aside, while the CMB was a successful prediction of the Big Bang itself (which raises the question of how, if the Big Bang did not happen, people theorising that it did predicted exactly what is observed), Creationists have never offered a convincing idea as to why it’s there and has the correspondence it does with the observed reality. And no, as you might have worked out, Goddidit doesn’t cut it. I want something funny, like lunar bukkake.

And that’s it, really, apart from the obligatory Biblical quote. Today, however, it isn’t even relivent, being merely a longwinded title for God:

he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)

Till next time…

The Universe Has a Centre (apparently)

I shall begin with their existing “Evidence for Creation”. I’ll skip “Evidence for God” and “Truth”, as I’m not interested in that kind of argument (it should be evident that the ICR, unlike the Discovery Institute, make no attempt to hide their fundamental reliance on scripture) and I’ll leave “from Nature” for later. First and foremost are their (rather amusing) articles about evidence from Science that apparently back them up. Let’s bore down the tree and see what we get…

We find ourselves at an article announcing that The Universe Has a Centre. Now, you may think that I’ve given myself an easy one to do, but I assure you that it’s a direct drop from Evidence from Science, via The Physical Sciences and The Universe was Created. And no, it’s not the shortest article there, amazingly.

The article begins:

Our solar system appears to be near the center of the universe. Galaxies look the same, and are moving away from us in the same way, in all directions. The cosmic microwave background radiation comes to us very uniformly from all directions. These and other data strongly indicate we are located at a very special location by design.

There are a lot of problems with even this opening paragraph. Ignoring the statement that “Galaxies look the same” (if so, I wouldn’t be able to purloin nearly as good desktop backgrounds from Phil Plait’s blog), we come to the claim that everything is “moving away from us”, like the big bang happened right where we are standing, or thereabouts. While it is true that everything appears to be moving away from us, with the things that are further away moving faster than the closer ones, the inference from this that we are therefore at the centre of the universe is flawed. Imagine that the space time continuum is, rather than a trampoline, the surface of a balloon. “In the beginning”, as it were, said balloon was not inflated. Imagine the balloon has random dots on it, which represent places that you could stand and observe the universe from. As the balloon is inflated, keep your eye on one of the dots (if you’re going to do this for real, I recommend a pump, or alternatively a friend – I am not responsible for any eye strain caused by this little demonstration. Indeed, considering that it comes from Simon Singh’s Big Bang even the demonstration isn’t mine. Preform at your own risk). You will see all the other dots nearby retreat from it, with the further away dots moving the fastest. But this doesn’t mean that the point you put your eye on is the centre of this pocket universe. Rather, if you consider the universe to only include the rubber, it has no centre. Taking this to the real universe, we see all the galaxies rushing apart as a consequence of the expansion of the universe, and all the other galaxies see the same thing.

As for the microwave background radiation, it can be said that if the Big Bang happened anywhere, it happened everywhere. Because of this and the inflationary expansion of the universe, we see the CMB radiation coming at us from all directions, more or less uniformly, as they say. But this doesn’t show that we’re in a “very special location by design”.

You will remember that they say that we are near the centre of the universe. An interesting point is that by near, we are talking tens, if not hundreds of thousands of light years. If their little non sequitur was correct, our galaxy might be “near” the centre of the universe, but we are not at the centre of the galaxy. Not even close. Therefore, it might be assumed that the universe was created not for us, but for Trantorian aliens. A sobering thought…

Next Paragraph: (2 of 3)

Instead of accepting the obvious, recent models of physical cosmology assume the earth is not special and that everywhere in the universe the exact same observation of receding objects would be seen. Instead of a universe with an age measured in thousands of years, this assumption leads to billions of years.

Are they really trying to use Occam’s Razor on science? To continue a little from above, here is why having the earth (or Milky Way) not be the centre of the galaxy is the simplest choice: If we were really at the centre, and everything they say is true, somebody standing in the Virgo cluster of galaxies (say) would still see everything rushing away from them, in the same way that while a car may appear to you to be rushing away from you, to the occupants of the car, you’re travelling away form them. In short, “recent models of physical cosmology” are only assuming that you too are driving a car.

 In contrast, creation cosmologies explain the data better by starting from biblically-based axioms: the cosmos has a unique center and a boundary for its matter, beyond which there is at least some empty space; and on a cosmic scale of distances, the earth is near the center.

As you may have noticed, the ICR are basing their ideas on the bible, and are bending scientific observations to fit. A word to the wise – you’re supposed to do things the other way around.

Next up (in the archives series), a slightly longer article on… lots of things. Fine Tuning features prominently, for some reason. We’ll demolish that bridge when we come to it, as they say…