In 2004, Dr. Simon Singh wrote a book entitled, Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About It. On page 265 of that book he attributes a quote to Dr. Lev Landau, a Nobel Laureate in physics. According to Singh, Landau said:
Cosmologists are often in error, but never in doubt.
Regardless of whether or not Dr. Landau actually said this, it is an insightful statement. Most cosmologists have absolutely no doubt that the Big Bang Model is an accurate description of the history of our universe. When that model seems to contradict observational data, rather than doubting the model, they add something to it in order to force it to be in compliance with the data.
For example, in 1998, some observational data indicated that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This didn’t agree with the current interpretation of the Big Bang Model, which suggested that the rate of universal expansion should be decreasing, since gravity should be attracting all sources of mass to one another. As more and more data supported the acceleration, cosmologists started to rely on dark energy, a mysterious form of energy that counteracts the effects of gravity.
In the currently-accepted form of the Big Bang Model, just under 70% of all the energy of the universe is dark energy. Cosmologists don’t know anything about it, but most of them have no doubt that it exists, because it forces the Big Bang Model into compliance with observations. Since they have no doubts about the Big Bang Model, they have no doubts about the existence of dark energy. It’s just that simple.
Now, of course, I am happy to entertain the notion that nearly 70% of the universe is made up of a form of energy that we have absolutely no understanding of. I am also happy to entertain the Big-Bang-required notion that about 25% of the matter in the universe is in one or more forms of “dark matter,” which once again is matter we know nothing about. In other words, I am happy to entertain the Big Bang’s conclusion that only 5% of the universe is made up of the energy and matter that we have been able to analyze. However, those percentages should lead any reasonable person to doubt the model upon which they are based. Unfortunately, there is little doubt among cosmologists.
Recently, I ran across two studies that should lead to even more doubt. Both studies reference a mystery: inconsistent values for the Hubble Constant. In the Big Bang Model, the universe is expanding, and the rate of that expansion can be characterized by this constant. The larger the constant, the faster the universe is expanding. However, two different high-precision measurements provide different results. Based on the characteristics of observed supernovas, the Hubble Constant is supposed to be 73.24 +/- 1.74 km/(sMPc). The “+/-” part is the error bar, which indicates precision. The smaller the error bar, the more precise the measurement. However, analysis of background radiation that seems to be coming from everywhere in the universe indicates that the Hubble Constant should be 66.93 +/- 0.62 km/(sMPc).
Now error bars aren’t perfect. All they say is that the value should lie within the range given by the error bar. However, notice that if you subtract two error bars from the first value of the Hubble Constant, you get 69.76. If you add two error bars to the second value, you get only 68.17. So even if you double the error bars, you can’t get the two values to agree. Of course, I am skeptical of the error bars to begin with, but remember, most cosmologists have no doubt, so they think the error bars are completely accurate.
How are they supposed to reconcile these values? According to their model (which is true, no doubt) they should be the same. That’s where the two studies I recently read come in. The first study says that the problem lies in an assumption made about dark energy. Currently, cosmologists think that dark energy had a constant contribution to the expansion of the universe throughout its history. The study says that if you allow that contribution to vary, you can understand the discrepancies between the two values of the Hubble Constant.
The second study doesn’t refer to dark energy at all. Instead, it uses observational evidence to indicate that the earth (indeed, the entire Milky Way Galaxy) exists in a part of the universe that is unusually sparse when it comes to matter. Well, the first Hubble Constant measurement I listed is based on the assumption that over large distances, the universe is pretty uniform. This is called the cosmological principle, and despite the fact that observations demonstrate that it cannot be correct, most cosmologists have no doubt that it is, because it is a fundamental principle of the Big Bang Model. So this study says that the first value I reported can be ignored, because it is based on an assumption that is wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not “poking fun” at these studies or trying to say that they aren’t valuable. Obviously, the more data we have, the more we can try to understand the universe. What I am “poking fun” at is the unwavering faith of cosmologists. In order to fix a problem associated with the Big Bang Model, we either add more complexity to something that has already been added to fix the Big Bang Model (dark energy), or we ignore the cosmological principle, which is fundamental to the Big Bang Model. But none of this can lead to any doubt in the Big Bang Model itself!
Fortunately, not all cosmologists are so fervent in their faith. There are those precious few cosmologists who are willing to doubt the Big Bang Model and explore other possibilities when it comes to the history of the universe. Despite the fact that such cosmologists can be under a lot of pressure to conform, I pray that they continue to follow the data and not wed themselves to the currently-fashionable model.