Controversy categories

29Aug10

In my reading today and yesterday, I realised that this topic is more simply structured than I thought in my post ‘Which controversies?’. My thoughts on controversies within cosmology are primarily the arguments against the Big Bang theory; the alternative theories. These are actually broken up into easy categories:

  1. Theories starting from different physics to the Big Bang, which has its roots in general relativity.
  2. Theories stemming from different interpretations of observation, such as the plasma cosmology advocated by Eric Lerner (I’ll get to him in the next few posts).
  3. Modifications of the Big Bang theory, such as alternatives to dark energy or dark matter. This is a more specific level of the Big Bang theory, where Lambda-CDM comes in as the current standard model.

Then there’s also the steady-state model, which gets to stand all by itself; it’s special. These categories have been listed in generally chronological order, apart from steady-state, which I can nestle between 1 and 2. Sure, there are still #1 theories being imagined, but #3 theories are far more common in this era of precision cosmology.

The point of all this is that while the Big Bang theory is considered standard cosmology by a great many physicists, there are still disputes between observation and theory that other—non-standard or alternative, whichever you prefer—models attempt to resolve. Controversy!

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2 Responses to “Controversy categories”

  1. 1 Beth

    Why haven’t these alternate theories ever made headlines (that I know of)??
    I would have thought that the Big Bang theory was so overwhelmingly accepted that these alternate theories, even conveyed in so simple a way as “The Big Bang theory may not quite be quite it after all” would draw at least some interest from the general public. Or maybe I just have too much hope for the world…

    • Hi Beth,

      This is exactly what I plan to be writing about!

      In the very little I’ve read of Lerner’s ‘The Big Bang Never Happened’, he notes that in early 1991 there were headlines such as “Big Bang Theory goes Bust” after the discovery of enormous superclusters of galaxies, which were thought to be much too large to have formed in the predicted life of the Universe. There would have been headlines I imagine in 1991/92 and 1998 with the COBE results and with the Universe expansion acceleration results respectively, but they’re both pro Big Bang.

      The problem may be that disputes of this nature are very internal in the field and don’t get much publicity, at least not in Australian newspapers! But the thing is, as much as we’d like the public to be interested in this type of thing, science in general doesn’t get a lot of media attention, perhaps apart from health ‘breakthroughs’ and risks.

      Hope that helps!


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