Cosmology in the 21st Century (Synopsis)

“Every generation of physicists solves some old puzzles and finds some new ones.” -Dr. Kendrick Smith

A century ago, no one could have envisioned the Universe we have today. From a Universe governed by Newton's and Maxwell's laws, consisting only of the Milky Way and the objects within, who could have imagined the new forces, interactions, particles and discoveries that the 20th century brought with it?

Yet not only are we here today, but there are a whole new set of unanswered questions as we barrel down along in the 21st century! What will the 2000s bring, as far as cosmology goes?

Image credit: Perimeter Institute. Image credit: Perimeter Institute.

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Here’s where many scientists think Cosmology is in the 21st century:
“The discovery of thousands of star systems wildly different from our own has demolished ideas about how planets form. Astronomers are searching for a whole new theory.”

“The findings have triggered controversy and confusion, as astronomers struggle to work out what the old theory was missing…”

“The field in its current state “doesn't make much sense”

“… researchers continue to nurture their mess of models, which have grown almost as exotic and plentiful as the planets they seek to explain. And if the current theories are disjointed, ad hoc and no longer beautiful, that is often how science proceeds…”

http://www.nature.com/news/astronomy-planets-in-chaos-1.15480

By See Noevo (not verified) on 03 Feb 2015 #permalink

@See Noevo #1: I wonder if your abilities at Biblical exegesis are as poor as your abilities at scientific exegesis. Conflating "models of planetary formation" with "cosmology" is about as foolish as confusing Exodus with Esther.

It is most assuredly true that the wonderful, awesome range of planetary systems we have discovered in the past two decades throws a lot of cold water on our previous models, based on a sample of one. That doesn't have anything whatsoever to say about cosmology, physics, or anything else you might choose to disbelieve.

By Michael Kelsey (not verified) on 03 Feb 2015 #permalink

Discovery of a structure that’s takes “lumpiness” to a whole new level. A bridge too far?

“'Even travelling at the speed of light, it would take 4 billion ... years to cross. This is significant not just because of its size but also because it challenges the Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein.”
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130111092539.htm

By See Noevo (not verified) on 03 Feb 2015 #permalink

“Inflation is dead, long live inflation! The very results hailed this year as demonstrating a consequence of inflationary models of the universe – and therefore pointing to the existence of multiverses – now seem to do the exact opposite. If the results can be trusted at all, they now suggest inflation is wrong, raising the possibility of cyclic universes that existed before the big bang.”
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26272-cosmic-inflation-is-dead-lo…

By See Noevo (not verified) on 03 Feb 2015 #permalink

I may not be sufficiently up-to-date. What might be the newest Big Bang Band-Aid besides dark matter/dark energy?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 03 Feb 2015 #permalink

See Nowt, given YOUR theory is based on a universe where your lord wrote down where he was born IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES at THE WRONG TIME, and the ad-hoc mess of rationalisations to make it all fine and STILL the Word of Gawd (tm), do you REALLY think you're in any condition to make judgement calls here?

Give me the location of a blog you frequent that talks about god and let me return the "favour" and post about how god is dumb and science rulz where science isn't invited.

Will there be a VoD (Video on-Demand, for later viewing)? If so, where would we find the link?

@3: did you bother to read the article you cite? From the last paragraph, it appears that the authors consider their finding to mean we need to revise our estimates of the size of the universe (up), not that the cosmological principle is wrong like you imply. IOW, you appear to be cherry picking.

As for your new scientist article, its out of date. This is not my field, but AFAIK the latest analysis of the data is that the signal is most likely due to dust. So, not evidence of inflation, but not evidence against it either. Given your new scientist citation is five months old and google searches for "bicep 2" put the newer results up at the top of the search (and, well, you chose to cite new scientist rather than some more serious source), I expect you were cherry picking here too; though cherry picking articles rather than quotes from articles in this case.

For readers of Ethan's posts, such as myself, who read because we enjoy learning, would someone please explain why/how the comments from See Noevo have any connection with the Bible or religion.

Sorry to be incredibly thick, but I was under the impression that the journals Nature and New Scientist were dedicated to science rather than to popular opinion. However, I do take Science Daily articles with a large pinch of salt!

As an outsider, it seems to me that the messenger (See Noevo) is under attack and the message(s) have been totally ignored.

@8: I think our post crossed in transit. I hope my post gave you what you asked for (i.e., a refutation of the message).

See Noevo is one of the creationist trolls currently infesting Evolution blog. They deny a lot of science there as well.

@Pete A #9: "See Noevo" started posting science denialism stuff in Ethan's blogs a week or so ago, but he's been (as dean noted) doing anti-science creationism elsewhere for a while.

As you can tell from the postings here (wonderfully, in response to a blog with no content, just an advertisement!) he cherry-picks partial quotes to "support" his anti-science position, without bothering to read or understand the articles in question.

Also, New Scientist isn't a journal. It's a British science-popularization magazine, about on a par with Discover here in the U.S. It does have some very good pieces, but it also tends to present more speculative stuff with an undeserved air of certainty and hype.

By Michael Kelsey (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

I may have answered my own question from #5. A newer Big Bang Band-Aid may be COLD dark matter:

“Dark matter is an aspect of the universe we still don't fully understand. We have lots of evidence pointing to its existence… and the best evidence we have points toward a specific type of matter known as cold dark matter (CDM). One big downside is that we have yet to find any direct detection of dark matter particles. In fact, many of the likely candidates for dark matter have been all but eliminated. Another is that cold dark matter doesn't agree with our observations of dwarf galaxies. Now a new paper presents a solution …. [But] … It should be noted that just because this modification works, that doesn't mean it is the solution.”
http://phys.org/news/2014-09-theory-dark.html

As the cosmologists might say,
“When in doubt, modify, modify, modify the model.
But never abandon the model, if it’s all you got.”

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

But never abandon the model, if it’s all you got.”

By all means propose another model, and we'll consider it. Alternative hypotheses are welcome. The floor is yours.

But you won't, because the first rule of goddidit club is that you don't talk about goddidit.

Eric #14 tells me:
“By all means propose another model, and we’ll consider it. Alternative hypotheses are welcome. The floor is yours.”

I don’t have another scientific model.
But I DON’T NEED another scientific model in order to know that YOUR/THEIR model smells like a P O S.

But I guess some scientists just want SOMETHING to cling to. Even if it’s mushy and odorous.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

But I guess some scientists just want SOMETHING to cling to. Even if it’s mushy and odorous.

Insults aside, you have indeed characterized an important part of the scientific method: we continue to use the best available explanations for phenomena to guide our studies and help us make decisions, untill better explanations come along. Even when the best available theory has holes in it. You caught us: we use imperfect models.

Its worked pretty well so far. Or so we tend to think. Again, if you have a system for research and development better than "use the best supported hypotheses and theories to help guide research, until some better theory comes along," please feel free to share it. The floor is yours.

Eric #16 says “…we continue to use the best available explanations for phenomena to guide our studies and help us make decisions, untill better explanations come along.”

His citing of “help us make decisions” brought to mind two questions:
First
“Help us make decisions” about what? Are these decisions that will have any practical impact our daily lives?

Second
Related to the First, what is the purpose of MODERN cosmology?
OLD cosmology, even ancient cosmology, at least had practical benefits for navigation and tide and temperature predictions.

But what’s the purpose of modern cosmology?

I don’t buy the argument that it’s just to learn. Nobody
advocates, or should advocate, spending untold man-years and billions of dollars just to learn more about something that has no impact on our daily lives.

Whatever could be the purpose?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

@See Noevo #13
Read on Wheeler-DeWitt equations and Quantum information theory.
Some good stuff there

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

To Ragtag Media #18:
Is QM part of modern cosmology?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

See Noevo #19
Naa, Physics where the visible is made from the invisible

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

I don’t buy the argument that it’s just to learn. Nobody advocates, or should advocate, spending untold man-years and billions of dollars just to learn more about something that has no impact on our daily lives.

I think that's the first time you've publicly admitted the reason for your ignorance.

To Ragtag Media #20:

OK. I thought we were talking about cosmology.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

To dean #21:

Can you name one way modern cosmology has helped us in our lives?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

I don’t have another scientific model.

Indeed you don't.

But I DON’T NEED another scientific model

You do if you want anyone to give a flying monkey's tonker about your posts.

Your call.

Can you name one way modern cosmology has helped us in our lives?

We don't have to. If you don't like cosmology, bugger off.

Maybe Wow #24 can answer.

What’s the purpose of modern cosmology?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

@#25 See Noevo
What is the purpose of a Mosquito? You see, there are purposes in the macro that are beyond our understanding, but that does not mean they do not have a purpose.

Perhaps cosmology is to simply teach mortal men about microwave ovens (microwave back ground) and how quickly God can cook or phase shift things from one state to another as we pop microwave popcorn today.

One moment in time we have cold kernels suspended in gelled oil state of bland and 2 minutes later thanks to microwaves we have lively hot butter pop corn treat.

We perceive it's smell and enjoy it's taste even though it may not even be real.
Does it matter?

I say simply appreciate each moment of time you can because from our human perspective, time is the most precious thing we have.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

@Laurie #7

If it was a public lecture, it should be available at Perimeter's youtube channel soon.

@See #19
QM is most certainly part of cosmology. From CMB to Hawking radiation...just to name the most obvious ones.

As for what good did cosmology ever do to us? ... well for one, it showed us how heaven's work, how they started and most importantly, it showed us that there is nothing "godly" out there, just pure science and physics. Unless a day comes when Hubble images a horn carrying angel raining brimstone on some exoplanet with a t-shirt saying "god sent me", cosmology is ok.

And besides, the burden of proof for whatever you believe in is not on science or physics or cosmology... it's on you and your likeminded buddies. You know.. rent an auditorium, hold a conference and invite all the supernatural beings you can find, and you'll convince the world they are really real. Is there a problem with that? Surely you can't say they don't exist... and besides.. there are plenty of examples in bible of supernatural beings doing all sorts of funky things with humans... so come on.. let's have then all attend and there will be no need to diss science anymore. If you can't bring one angel to hold a talk and convince me his real, then there's slim chance of convincing me his boss exists.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

@ See
"I don’t buy the argument that it’s just to learn. Nobody
advocates, or should advocate, spending untold man-years and billions of dollars just to learn more about something that has no impact on our daily lives."

Surely you can't be so one-dimensional as to not know how technical and human progress works. But ok..

- you have the guys that think about big questions (these would be the cosmologists...)
- then you have the guys who think and invent NEW things to test and answer those questions
- then you have ppl build those NEW things
- then they share all that "useless" knowledge with EVERYONE, so now ALL can build those new things
- then EVERYONE says "hey! there are very USEFUL things here".. such as carbon fibers, or lasers or solar panels or hey.. transistors or chips.. you know.. all the things that have no impact on our daily lives
- not to mention all the jobs they create, families, better education etc etc...

But like I said.. i doubt you don't get that. The world has moved along time ago from living in a tent or the biggest problem being how to navigate a wooden boat. So, you know... you can believe anything you want, but cosmology and physics have proved their benefits along time ago.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

To Ragtag Media #26:

I doubt the average Millenial, or the average anyone, has any knowledge of, or concern for, MBR when they nuke their frozen entrée.

What consumer products will, say, multiverse theory or cold dark matter, assist with?

“We perceive it’s smell and enjoy it’s taste even though it may not even be real… time is the most precious thing we have.”
Time is the most precious thing we have? Is time real, Ragtag?
Are you for real, Ragtag?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

Sinisa Lazarek #27 responds:
“As for what good did cosmology ever do to us? … well for one, it showed us how heaven’s work, how they started…”

See my #1 above.

“… and most importantly, it showed us that there is nothing “godly” out there…”

I think you’re getting warmer.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

To Sinisa Lazarek #28:
As I asked Ragtag, what consumer products might multiverse theory or cold dark matter assist with?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Feb 2015 #permalink

What’s the purpose of modern cosmology?

Whatever we make of it, dearie.

What was the purpose of your question?

@31
"As I asked Ragtag, what consumer products might multiverse theory or cold dark matter assist with?"

Never was any civilization's progress and advancement been driven or motivated by better consumer products. Not in 2000 BC, not now. If you really think the world should only care about more ergonomic toothbrushes or branded clothing... oki doki.. then you're just a troll since about 100x more cash and manhours are spent on that then are spent on cosmology.. so it's no threat.
What are indirect technological benefits for everyone in the long run.. i written before.. sorry if you don't understand. i.e. couple of centuries ago when someone started looking into electricity and structure of atoms etc. there was some troll just like you asking what possible use that is. At that time.. none.. When first battery was invented as a result.. again, there was no use for it... Give it a century or two and whole world depends on it. Same as research into DM or DE or whatever... will have benefits we can't even grasp today, but someone in the future will be thankfull for it.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

SL, See Nowt let its cat out of the bag in #30: It wants to claim that science's sole purpose is to pretend there is no god, despite there totally being one, really.

SN @17:

“Help us make decisions” about what? Are these decisions that will have any practical impact our daily lives?

Accurate scientific theories help us reduce waste and increase the efficiency of research and development. They are also a pratical necessity: since we don't have inifinite time and resources, we must prioritize research proposals. That prioritizing requires us to make some initial decisions about what factors in an experiment are likely to matter and which ones won't. That in turn requires a hypothesis or theory...and the more accurate your theory is, the less time and money will be spent studying factors that actually don't matter. That also means that accurate theories are more likely to lead you to good solutions to material problems, and they will probably lead you to those good solutions faster.This goes for all of science, not just cosmology.

So yes, it makes a huge impact on your life. The theory of evolution gives you better and more effective flu vaccines. The theory of relativity makes your GPS work better. Thermodynamics gave you refrigerators and heat pumps. Computer development only followed Moore's law for decades because there were people using theories about solid state materials to identify faster materials solutions.

what is the purpose of MODERN cosmology?

Are you asking why cosmologists do it, or are you asking what practical benefits we derive from it (another phrasing of the second: why does the government fund it)? If the first, then I'm guessing in many cases the answer really is that they do it to learn more, to discover new things about the universe. Discovery like that can be an incredibly personally fulfilling occupation. Yes, you should "buy" that as a motivation, I think a lot of people have it.
If you're asking about the second, well...the value of basic research is very hard for most people to see. That's because practical applications from the work typically come decades after the theoretical discoveries and we never really know which bit of basic reserch is going to yield some practical benefit later on. Yet, basic research has supplied the foundation of most modern advances and it is a far better long-term benefit-producer than simply trying to build new widgets using known principles. Its so important for producing future benefits that (IIRC) modern pharmaceutical companies today invest more in basic research, as a percent of their research, than the government does. About 3x as much, IIRC. Do you understand what that means? It means the most successful venture capitalists, the ones who regularly put their money and livelihoods on the line and do a better job of assessing profit than you or I do, have valued basic research about three times as much as your average "yes but what does cosmology produced for me lately" taxpayer. That should stop and make you think: our government's problem isn't too much money used for science that doesn't have an immediate benefit, its too little.

The big point is, basic research is a statistically good benefit, even when we can't see the immediate value from a specific basic research project.

As for specifically what practical goods have come out of cosmological research in the recent past, well...just off the top of my head, that would include all the technology development associated with advanced telescopes, optical materials, and some of the algorithms associated with searching and analyzing large data sets. That would probably (but I'm not sure) include much of the technology we used to analyze and track the weather and climate, since that's very similar tech just pointed down instead of up. It would also include most of our tests for relativity, which is a pretty big deal.

As I asked Ragtag, what consumer products might multiverse theory or cold dark matter assist with?

Right now? None. 50 years from now? Who knows. Moreover that question kind of misses the point. Basic research writ large pays off big time, even though we don't know beforehand which basic research wil pay off. If we knew that, it wouldn't be called "research." So we do cosmology as part of our basic scientific research endeavour, knowing that including it will mean we are less likely to miss some future, unknown, big payoff.

You really sound like the student who says "Carnot cycle? I don't see why we have to study that, it doesn't do anything for us in our day to day life" as you reach for that cold coke from the fridge. My advice is: don't be that guy. He's pretty ignorant.

Wow #32 responds to my question (What’s the purpose of modern cosmology?) with
“Whatever we make of it, dearie.”

Now, Wow, that’s a silly answer, because it addresses only what, if anything, we do with the results (or fall out) from the endeavor. But your answer fails to address why we’re engaging in the endeavor (cosmology) to begin with.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

To Sinisa Lazarek #33:
Thank you for answering my question. We have no idea how multiverse theory or cold dark matter would help us in our daily lives.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

Getting back closer to the title of this article “Cosmology in the 21st Century”, it’s fair to say that, among other issues,

1)Astronomers are searching for a whole new theory of planetary formation, due to recent discoveries which have caused controversy and confusion in the scientific community.

2)Although one of the key assumptions of the Big Bang Theory is that matter and energy are homogenous (i.e. no lumpiness), lumps of astronomers have discovered a lump that’s 4 billion light years across.

3)Cosmic inflation theory is unsettled, if not yet fully deflating.

4)While dark matter and dark energy are said to comprise over 90% of the universe, no one has seen them and no one knows what they are. And, for some reason, neither is found on planet earth.

5)Multiverse Theory is considered to be science, not science fiction, by the science community.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

SN,

I believe you are being purposefully obtuse. The point of research is NOT that we can put it to use to create some new technology, but rather that pure scientific research forms the foundation for technological advance.

Even if this were not so, however, I would still think we should support basic research. The purpose of it is that we are humans, and one of the main things that makes us human is curiosity about the world around us. Questioning why things are the way they are is a quintessential human activity. Your religious beliefs are in this regard very similar - you believe what you do because people in the past have sought explanations for why the world is how it is. The fact that you accept untestable beliefs for which there is no evidence is what differentiates your beliefs from the findings of basic scientific research, but the purpose of both is the same - finding out about the universe.

In case you are not just being deliberately obtuse, let me give you an analogy. Suppose you hired a contractor to build you a house. You specify all kinds of things about it: where you want windows, what type of floors you want, the location of skylights, etc. You go to the building site where your house is being erected and you see that the contractor has dug a hole in the ground and is putting concrete in the hole. You ask him "what's the purpose of this hole? I didn't ask for a hole; I hired you to build a house for me. Why are you digging this hole?" Obviously, the contractor cannot just start by putting in your floors, windows and skylights, etc. He must lay the foundation first. You seem to be asking scientists to jump right to the windows and skylights (technological advances) without bothering to lay a foundation (basic research).

I believe you are being purposefully obtuse.

If you look at his other comments around Scienceblogs you will change "obtuse" to "dishonest" in a New York minute.

it addresses only what, if anything, we do with the results

Yes, it does.That's the answer to your query. What's it for? Whatever you want to make of it.

that’s a silly answer

Nope, it was an answer you didn't want. Its silliness is not proven by your remaining statements.

Wow #43,
OK. The purpose of modern cosmology is to get results and maybe do something with them

By See Noevo (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

Does anyone want to add to my #39?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 05 Feb 2015 #permalink

@45: sure, I'll give it a try, though I'm not a cosmologist.

1) I think what you think of as "whole new theory" and what cosmologists think of as "whole new theory" may be very different here. It sounds like you are expecting some sort of Kuhnian paradigm shift. Nope. Its still going to be particles pushed around by gravity, what will likely change is (these are illustrative examples only) our understanding of mass dristributions or the strength of the solar wind in the initial formation period or something like that. This is a common issue that actually crosses many academic disciplines: what people in outside a discipline see as a minor tweak in parameters, insiders will call 'momentous change in thinking.' Every person does this: to a football fan, some trade may be a huge deal. To someone who doesn't follow the sport, it won't be. Basically the same perception issue is happening here.

2) The CMB is heterogeneous on exactly the scale most inflationary models predict it should be. The large scale structure you mention is unexpected. Yes, we will have to figure out what it means! Or even before that, whether that observation is even correct rather than being an instrumental artifact or systemic bias in our observation method (both still open possibilities). That is one of the joys of science: our theories change as we learn more. Sometimes a wierd measurement shows us we've been making a measurement error and points us to more accurate ways of measuring. We're okay with that.

3) AFAIK inflation is still considered by the cosmological community writ large to be the leading contender to explain the large scale structure of the universe. But frankly Ethan would be a much better judge about that than me.

4) Correct we don't fully understand DM and DE. Your 'found on earth' comment is not even wrong: what we do know about them tells us that we would never be able to measure DE operating on scales of the size of the Earth, so we don't even bother to try. We seek to measure it through observations of the movements of objects thousands of lightyears (or more) apart. Which is okay, because we can in fact do that. Detecting DM: we might be able to see some particles moving through the Earth eventually, but the cross-sections are so low that this is a very difficult thing to do. It could take years more on detector refinements and years more on data collection to see it. Again, we're okay with that.

5) "Multiverse theory" is something of a misnomer, IMO. There are no scientific theories that are exclusively about multiverses. There are some inflationary hypotheses that predict multiverses, but they should be called inflationary hypotheses or inflationary models because they aren't really at the level of theories and they are really more about describing how this universe expanded the way it did. The fact that the expansive mechanism also predicts multiverses is pretty cool and interesting, but its not what's going to drive the eventual acceptance or rejection of those inflationary hypotheses.

Earlier I noted that old/ancient cosmology at least had practical benefits for navigation and some other things. But I had no idea how old navigation by the stars could be. Certainly, these simians used the stars in crossing the seas:

“The new fossils indicate that monkeys first arrived in South America at least 36 million years ago. The discovery thus pushes back the colonization of South America by monkeys by approximately 10 million years, and the characteristics of the teeth of these early monkeys provide the first evidence that monkeys actually managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Africa.”
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150204134121.htm

By See Noevo (not verified) on 07 Feb 2015 #permalink