“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.” -Benjamin Franklin

The history of science is rife with stories of cases where a person or team, usually with a lot of clout, reached a conclusion that seemed incontrovertible. When that occurs, we often find that subsequent measurements agree with that conclusion, even if that conclusion later turns out to be wrong.

Recommended speed of light values over time. Adapted from Henrion & Fischhoff (1986).

Recommended speed of light values over time. Adapted from Henrion & Fischhoff (1986).

This was the case for measurements of the speed of light and for the various masses of fundamental and composite particles during most of the 20th century. Could that also be the case for cosmology, and in particular for cosmological parameters like dark matter, dark energy and the expansion rate of the Universe?

Image credit: Planck collaboration / P.A.R. Ade et al. (2013), annotations by E. Siegel.

Image credit: Planck collaboration / P.A.R. Ade et al. (2013), annotations by E. Siegel.

Perhaps, but only to a degree, argues Brian Koberlein. Go read the full story.


  1. #1 Wow
    January 20, 2016

    A better example would be the progression through time of the value of the electronic charge.

    Those closer to the actual value were so much higher than the previously accepted value that they assumed they must be wrong and did not publish or redid until they got closer to the “right” value.

    Which then became the new value to say “Hang on, I must be wrong, it’s well outside the accepted value of e!”, so THEY redid it until it was closer to the “real” value.

    And so the value of e got slowly closer and closer to the currently accepted value.

  2. #2 Mchael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    January 20, 2016

    @Wow #1: One of my favorite pages from the Particle Data Group, showing exactly the effect you’re talking about. You can see “plateaus” where experiments settled on an “accepted” value, before some result kicked that idea aside.


  3. #3 AC
    January 21, 2016

    That was a very click bait-y title for the article, which contained no discussion about the big bang or dark matter.

  4. #4 Dan Milton
    January 21, 2016

    The Forbes “Welcome Page” loops back to itself. How do I get to your blog?

  5. #5 Wow
    January 21, 2016

    You can wait for it to turn up on medium in another four days, see if it turns up on slashdot and read the comments, or wait to read the comments here, the latter two being “not bother to read the article”.

    The summary, now, not even containing a minimal amount of information to think on.

    You can wait for comments of the week which usually has some extra content that you can actually think on, though.

  6. #6 Chris Mannering
    January 21, 2016

    Brian / Ethan, Brian you’re really jumping to answer a bit quick there aren’t you. Do you know what gave rise to 20th Century quantum physics? An anomaly with a light bulb, essentially. Those great geniuses were willing to throw out all their brilliant work by calling out a crisis, over a spectral anomaly in a light bulb.
    This generation and the last complain from one side of their mouths about how everything is so perfect they can’t find anomalies to drive new breakthroughs. And from the other side, hundreds of anomalies has passed massively larger than a lightbulb, and this same generation and the last, just retrospectively explained it all away in very unsatisfactory terms and then bolted something on to the standard model.

    I’m sorry but culture that you’ve been trained and become professional into has had you just do the same thing, and walk away feeling like you’ve done a good job. Thrown out a couple reasonable soundings maybe’s and, I would predict and you will know the answer in private at least, that it all just suddenly didn’t look like a big problem, and not a really a problem at all. It flew out of your head didn’t it?

    The truth we don’t know what’s right or wrong at this point, because since the last 1960’s serious challenges to the expanding universe big bang thing have not been properly answered.

    Ethan’s airbrushing or Walton Arp’s work is a great example. Ethan thinks Arp was guilty of sampling small sizes. That is Ethan buying into what he was told. In fact if Ethan put a scientific hat and went and looked at the stages of what happened, he’ll find – was would you or anyone – that Arp was continually going and getting what he was being asked to get. And the way that went was they stopped publishing him.
    For example, Ethan, you say small samples. I think I can guess the stage you mean. So…small samples. Why was he sampling? Because he previously published a COMPLETE survey of the sky that showed the pairs – yes? – the pairs were correlated with x-ray sources – that have only ever been linked with Quasars…..at 7.5 sigmas.
    But the problem for the community was that those sources were not high redshift. So they had no answer (and no one bothered investigating since) so what they said was “We need hard examples”. So then he went and found examples. So then they said “these are just samples” and statistical correlates (at approx. 7 sigma) we need hard visual spectral evidence”
    So he goes and painstakingly finds visual spectra examples – probably very hard to do because it needs a spectral process frame which would be narrow. But he delivers.
    And do you know what they said? They said it wasn’t there. The guys running the big telescopes said it was there.
    But now it’s getting confirmed by amateurs all over the world, with half metre telescopes.
    And what does it mean, what Arp. We won’t know until scientists pick it up. Which might require the lot of you being thrown out and living in infamy for billions and billions and decades in time.
    And Arp is just ONE of many. Why do you want this.

  7. #7 Wow
    January 21, 2016

    “I’m sorry but culture that you’ve been trained and become professional into has had you just do the same thing, and walk away feeling like you’ve done a good job.”

    It’s always projection, isn’t it.

  8. #8 Chris Mannering
    January 21, 2016

    LOLOLOL – I’m sorry but that had me on the floor Wow.

    Everyone. Ethan. Go back to my last comment to Wow which is about two down the list and I’m pasting what it says on the side if you do this later
    “Chris Mannering on Comments of the Week #93: from interstellar travel to an unknown monster”

    Go and look at what I say to Wow. This guy just sits mirroring. Ethan, you talk the big stuff about fairness. But you allow this abusive person to attack and undermine friendly strangers continuously with impunity. And it has to because you are too lazy to actually analyse a few exchanges start to finish. And Ethan that is immoral and makes a mockery of all your stances on fairness. They may be legitimate, but for you they have to be nothing more than self-serving political correctness. Shame.

  9. #9 Wow
    January 21, 2016

    I suppose ridicule is the only option when you have so little else to go with.

    Your claim is as arrogant as it is asinine.

  10. #10 Chris Mannering
    January 21, 2016

    Well there needs to be an explanation. Currently there isn’t and it’s a large size mystery of this place. No one is anonymous not even in comments.

  11. #11 Chris Mannering
    January 21, 2016

    Maybe the explanation is that Wow is Ethan after all. Seems very unlikely as they are so different and Wow occasionally disagrees with Ethan. But there has to be an explanation – you know what Sherlock said.
    And what is the single question people he abuses ask themselves the most often, the most of them?
    Is he for real?

  12. #12 Wow
    January 21, 2016

    You have made unfounded assertions and want everyone else just to accept them without evidence.

    This is irrational.

  13. #13 Chris Mannering
    January 21, 2016

    The irrationality is worsening somewhat as ….is it me or have your responses been rather unlike the norm? I would definitely predict that your response to the comment before last would be your mirror-spiel followed by the unreal “I’m the victim here” splurge.

  14. #14 Wow
    January 21, 2016

    You still have said nothing in support of your claims, Chris. Indeed you’ve segued off topic entirely.

    Make a claim. Make one that can be held up to scrutiny so that we can weigh evidence for or against then provide your evidence.

    This is called “science”. Try it one day.

  15. #15 Wow
    January 21, 2016

    On whatever you’re wibbling on about, Chris:


    Or should I have said ‘Arp-ing on about”?

    And I take it you meant Halton, not Walton? Funny how your “investigation” hasn’t gotten the right name…

  16. #16 Wow
    January 22, 2016

    “This guy just sits mirroring. Ethan,”

    I also mirror Maxwell on electromagnetic force, pythagoras on geometry, and many others who have, and this is quite important, been correct.

    Is the only allowed discourse disagreement with everyone else? This cannot be so because you act so kttybutthurt when anyone disagrees with you.

    Therefore this must be merely rhetoric to poison the well and assert an unsupported error by insinuation.

    It’s a ad hominem-by-munchausen-proxy, as it were.

  17. #17 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    January 22, 2016

    It is always possible the science is incorrect, but until some better information comes along, these are the theories we have.

    Enjoy the alignment of Merc, Venus Mars, Jupiter & Saturn for the next 2 weeks or so.

  18. #18 Jess
    Middle Nowhere, Vancouver Island
    February 1, 2016

    Great introduction, but where’s the rest of the article where you try to answer the question in the title? I was expecting to hear some justification for skepticism about stuff like Inflation and Dark Energy, but you hardly mentioned any of the conceptual tripwires.

  19. #19 Yaniv Stern
    April 28, 2016

    W against T, reference required. #conspiracyofscience

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