I shall simply have to plead ignorance on this one, but I was surprised nevertheless that I hadn't seen a competing explanation of the universe quite like this before. "How can it be that I've not heard a peep about something so ostensibly groundbreaking?" I wondered. Well, I haven't yet busied myself with reading any sort of refutation of this theory, and it's even harder yet to find follow up on the massive potential of such a description of the universe as this. As it stands, however, I can't help but predict that it was unable catch a lot of traction with cosmologists, but I'm wondering if anyone out there is/was familiar with this and can provide further information?
As an aside, what do we think about this idea, metaphorical plot holes and all? Clearly it doesn't address some of the protracted and lingering complexities that the BBT does, and yet it explains other core issues that the BBT does not. My interest has been piqued, but as much as I'd love to see big bang cosmology fall to the superfluous wayside - thus silencing men like William Lane Craig momentarily - I don't think I'll get too excited just yet.
A side note on the history of non-standard cosmology.
Fred Hoyle, who coined the term Big Bang to describe an expanding model of the universe, was not himself a proponent. He favored a steady state model and spent much of his research life supporting it. Hoyle—a brilliant scientist, and an author of science fiction, but an unpleasant man—was responsible for the notion of nucleosynthesis of heavier elements in stars, a discovery for which he deserved the Nobel Prize, but was denied it perhaps due to an earlier conflict with the Nobel Committee. An famous expository paper on this nucleosynthesis is available online:
Hoyle devised an interesting steady state model which agreed well with observations of the time—the late 1940's—and considered the Big Bang model, which at that time did not fit observation, to be utter nonsense. However, as observations improved and cosmic background radiation was found to confirm Big Bang predictions, the majority of cosmologists lost interest in the steady state model.
Hoyle's view was supported by several other distinguished scientists—Fowler and the husband and wife team of Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge—and he continued to pursue evidence for his kind of model into the 1990's. He also continued to excoriate those who disagreed with him, often in childish and unpleasant ways. He wrote a book, A Different Approach to Cosmology, with Geoffrey Burbidge and Jayant Narlikar, but it was not well received in the cosmology community.
Hoyle's own original steady state model was not without difficulties. One principal one was how to maintain a steady state with galaxies moving away from each other. Hoyle's answer was that matter was constantly being created in the universe to fill in the spaces and maintain density. He made enough modifications to his theory that it is known now as a quasi-steady-state model.
A more detailed recent historical review of quasi-steady-state models is available at:
Hoyle was a prolific author. He embraced many unorthodox ideas outside of physics, often in a combative manner. He believed life originated outside the solar system and came to earth rather than starting here. He thought diseases such as flu could come from outer space during periods of sunspot activity. Whatever it was—heavier elements, primitive life, or influenza—to Hoyle's mind it came from outer space. Although he was an atheist, he believed in some kind of intelligent design. Hoyle had a long and distinguished career, winning many honors and producing many students. He died in 2001 at the age of 86.
I was going to say ... speaking of bias, it seems that many people love the idea of a cyclic universe or a universe eternally the same.
I don't know what real evidence did support the steady state model, what reason to believe in it besides the esthetic appeal.
Wikipedia has a 1972 quote from Steven Weinberg:
The steady-state model is so attractive that many of its adherents still retain hope that the evidence against it will disappear
And people keep on trying to make cyclic-universe models.
Sensitive souls who don't like loud noises or bright lights, are freaked out by the Big Bang :)
I don't know what real evidence did support the steady state model, what reason to believe in it besides the esthetic appeal.
In a sense you're right. I don't know if you would call it aesthestic, but one of the motivating ideas was the so-called cosmological principle (or sometimes the Copernican principle)—that we are not in any way, spatially or temporally, situated in a special place in the universe at least as far as large scale structures are concerned.
Believing that the universe had a beginning places us after the beginning, a special place in time. This cosmological principle was taken as an axiom.
In the Big Bang model helium is produced in the so-called primordial nucleosynthesis. In the steady state model, like the heavier elements, it is produced all the time in the stars and the resulting radiation is the CMBR.
Finally—and again I don't know whether to call this aesthetic—the steady state model needed only General Relativity and no singularity was required. That probably had enormous appeal.
Wouldn't the steady state model assume that maximum entropy could never be achieved in a system such as this? I see a problem with the idea of nucleosynthesis if heat death isn't necessarily a given. I don't absolutely accept the BBT (though it currently makes the strongest case), but for my dollar's worth, the steady state model belongs in the dark ages. I'd love to see newer and improved work done on it, though. Like Tom, I feel that it's pretty evident that a majority of the funding goes to BBT research, but then again maybe if it so far has offered the widest variety of explanations, that is precisely how it should be on our limited budget?
If only our species hadn't such a proclivity for violence, we could create governments who fund scientific research with the same zeal that has manifested enough warfare tools to wipe us out hundreds of times over.
*Interesting factoid, Costa Rica has no military whatsoever. It was abolished, sometime in the 40s I believe, following their civil war.
Mathew, a Coast Rican-related factoid arising from our decades-long military domination of Central America:
During Reagan's presidency I heard from Americans who opposed that domination that that our CIA funded a Costa Rican newspaper.
These same Americans also opposed our training right-wing military leaders for our allied rulers in Central and South America at the School of the Americas in Georgia.
Many Americans wanted the School closed. They protested and were arrested there.
I don't know the answer to your question, but it does seem that for a pure steady state universe satisfying the perfect cosmological principle, there couldn't be any increase whatever in total entropy through time—every local increase would have to be matched by a decrease or else a total increase would have to be reversed. It seems to make the whole universe a perpetual motion machine.
There are people who try to explain this. Here is one, an author who finds the standard cosmological model a piece of science fiction that is totally untestable and unfalsifiable.
He argues that long-term fluctuations from equilibrium are allowed in a steady state universe. (This online journal seems to cater to relativity deniers and may have gone out of business as a regular publication.)
The steady state model was abandoned because it didn't fit observations as well as the BB theory.
When the recession of galaxies was discovered, the steady state model was changed to include continuous matter creation. Since matter-energy is conserved so far as we know, this would imply strange new physics that for some reason isn't seen on earth. Matter-energy conservation is very fundamental, so this seems like a giant kludge. Like the theory would have died a natural death, with the discovery of recession of galaxies - but people who were dedicated to it kept it on artificial life-support.
If you're going to hypothesize matter appearing out of nothing, I guess you might as well hypothesize that it appears with very low entropy, and avoid a conflict with the Second Law that way.
...I feel that it's pretty evident that a majority of the funding goes to BBT research,....
Politics is often mean and idealists suffer the most. I didn't follow the action in Congress and don't know if the lobbyists for BB funding opposed funding for alternatives.
Their doing so would explain why the recently-reported research on an alternative comes to us from overseas.
There is a precedent for such meanness. If you follow the news about medical uses for marijuana, you perhaps know the feds provided almost no funding for research. For the little research they did allow they ordered the use of an inferior grade of marijuana, which would bias the results.
The recent posts here move me to inquire.
Like Tom, I feel that it's pretty evident that a majority of the funding goes to BBT research, but then again maybe if it so far has offered the widest variety of explanations, that is precisely how it should be on our limited budget?
What Hoyle and others interested in alternative cosmologies complained about was the difficulty of getting time on telescopes, but that has been a problem for everyone working in astronomy. Telescope time is limited, expensive, and there is never enough for all researchers who want it.
The STSI serves the entire astronomical community and is managed by a consortium of universities—AURA. I don't know what their process is for deciding on proposals, but I am familiar with the process at Fermilab, where the entire process was in the hands of scientists.
On another side of this issue, you would be amazed at the incredible number of people devoted to "alternative" science. There is no university science or mathematics department or refereed journal that does not regularly receive numerous papers from amateur scientists intent on showing all the experts wrong. There is a whole community devoted to the mistakes of Einstein, people who know for certain that relativity is wrong. They even publish their own online journals these days.
Most of these people are harmless nuisances, wasting their time on ideas disposed of long ago. Their main fault is not knowing enough. When their attempts to gain attention are rebuffed, they customarily resort to charges of bias.
The largest group charging systematic bias in the science community is probably the Free Energy set. While details vary, the essential charge is that scientific discoveries of new ways of producing energy free of charge have been surpressed by governments and large corporations. Thus knowledge of enormous benefit to mankind is kept from being used. At times they have even been able to gain some influence with members of the House.
Occasionally a real scientist will become convinced of an idea his colleagues don't accept—such as free energy— and may become a fanatic on the subject. I know personally of two cases where very bright people ruined their careers by maintaining untenable positions. And I know of one case where a Nobel laureate savaged a colleague who later turned out to be correct.
If you are a very bright person who has excelled in science, it is an extremely difficult thing to admit that you have been mistaken. In fact this is an almost universal human characteristic in my experience.
The evidence for a hot dense contracted state in the past seems to be quite strong. There's the recession of galaxies; the microwave background; and abundances of various nuclei resulting from hot Big Bang nucleosynthesis.
From what I've been reading, no serious cosmologist disputes that.
Before the Big Bang nucleosynthesis era, what happened is disputable. Whether inflation happened is uncertain. And there are lots of ideas about what happened even earlier "before" the Big Bang.
All the same, physicists do keep thinking of all variety of innovative ideas. There are theories where the speed of light changes; where the fine structure constant changes over time and may vary over the universe, etc. etc.
It's just bizarre to claim that theoretical physicists are blind groupthinkers. They're known for dreaming up wild ideas! String theory is an extravagant flight of the mind.
Some people dislike the Big Bang theory - well tough, the Big Bang is what the evidence favors. Scientists have to follow the evidence.
So just get used to the idea of a kooky singularity, a wild poof starting off our universe. The universe would be much poorer if it followed people's preferences. The reality of it, loop quantum gravity or whatever loopy kooky thing is going on at the start of the Big Bang, is guaranteed to be astounding and wonderful.
Sorry—the two links are the same. The second one should be: