Comments of the Week #71: From the Universe's age to the science of the CMB

"The specific moral is that within the standard model the [cosmic microwave background] temperature is a key parameter in fixing the thermal and dynamical history of the Universe. The measurement of this parameter made physical cosmology much more definite, and the detection of the radiation made the Big Bang cosmology a good deal more credible." -P.J.E. Peebles

The Universe is never going to run out of wonders for us to discover and explore at a deep level, from fundamental truths to how the Universe assembles all its structures. Here at Starts With A Bang, we covered just a slice of it:

There was also a fun piece about the non-native element Technetium over at Forbes:

Plus, payments went through, and we did hit our second milestone goal on our Patreon, where voting on which book chapter we should release to supporters is underway. Want in? (Yes, you do!) Then join and donate today. That said, it’s on to our Comments of the Week!

Image credit: Greg Kochanski, Ian Dell'Antonio, and Tony Tyson (Bell Labs), of the reconstructed mass in a large galaxy cluster. Image credit: Greg Kochanski, Ian Dell'Antonio, and Tony Tyson (Bell Labs), of the reconstructed mass in a large galaxy cluster.

From Denier on my own skepticism: "Is there something you want to tell us? This is a safe place and we all support you, even @Wow. If you are having a crisis of confidence in Dark Matter it is great and beautiful and completely natural. Don’t worry about what anybody else thinks. The people who really care about you just want to see you happy in your own cosmological understanding."

There are a ton of independent lines of evidence supporting the existence of dark matter. I go over them all the time -- including just last week -- and so do others. But for all of it, there are still gaps in our understanding of dark matter. Why does the standard cold dark matter picture fail to reproduce the correct details for the Universe on small (sub-galaxy) scales? Why does MOND work so well for individual galaxies? Why have we not found a WIMP, an axion, a magnetic monopole or a heavy, stable, right-handed neutrino? Why do all our dark matter searches come up empty?

Image credit: Mirabolfathi, Nader arXiv:1308.0044 [astro-ph.IM], via https://inspirehep.net/record/1245953/plots. Image credit: Mirabolfathi, Nader arXiv:1308.0044 [astro-ph.IM], via https://inspirehep.net/record/1245953/plots.

These are real issues with the paradigm of dark matter. But they do not lead me to the conclusion that dark matter doesn't exist, although there are a small minority of scientists who think these obstacles are too great and throw dark matter out.

But if we're being honest about scientific skepticism, we should all have a set of criteria in our heads that -- if they are met -- will lead us to change our mind about any scientific theory, from the speculative (string theory) to the accepted (dark matter) to the "known" (Newtonian gravity). I mean, if you woke up tomorrow and saw the Moon moving from north-to-south across the sky, wouldn't that change your mind about Newton?

It should.

Image credit: E. Siegel. Image credit: E. Siegel.

From EpiPete on my table: "Excel? Really? I’m disappointed! ?"

My SuperMongo license expired a number of years ago, but this was surprisingly easy to generate in... OpenOffice! (In your face, Microsoft Office.)

From RagTag Media on this fun picture (I presume): "Those Ewoks, are awesome bridge builders."

The Ewoks have nothing on the residents of Meghalaya, India. I mean, I see why it reminds you of Bright Tree Village on Endor, but let's take a look at those bridges again.

Image credit: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm, George Lucas, Bright Tree Village, used without permission. :P Image credit: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm, George Lucas, Bright Tree Village, used without permission. :P

The trees are awesome, the forest is awesome, and the engineering is awesome. But that wood is dead. It's still pretty cool, but I think this has one-upped even the imagination of the Star Wars Universe. (Or galaxy far, far away.)

Image credit: Screenshot from Latinoshealth.com. Image credit: Screenshot from Latinoshealth.com.

From eric on Einstein, Edison and "intelligence" of sorts: "[A]bout a quarter of all the power generated that runs through those lines in the US, and a much larger fraction in Europe, comes from the nuclear science field that Einstein helped push forward. Because it wasn’t just relativity he explained/discovered, it was Brownian motion (which was an early direct proof of atomic theory), the photoelectric effect, and mass-energy equivalency. The latter is used by every nuclear physics, nuclear engineering, and nuclear chemistry student in the world, every day, when calculating nuclear reaction dynamics and power outputs."

This is not only true, it's kind of a pet peeve of mine. Not because Einstein's E=mc^2 doesn't underlie all of nuclear fusion and fission (it does), and not even because Einstein's contributions to the practical world -- even if they weren't foreseeable in the 1900s and 1910s -- often go largely unrecognized. It's because the entire fields of nuclear science, nuclear physics, nuclear medicine, and nuclear anything still inspire that feeling of terror in people: that not in my backyard (NIMBY) terror.

Image credit: Business Korea, via http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/. Image credit: Business Korea, via http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/.

If we cared about the carbon content of the environment, we would've switched from coal, gas and oil to nuclear by now.

If we cared about human lives, health and safety, we would've switched from coal, gas and oil to nuclear by now.

If we cared about reducing spills, air pollution and water pollution, we would've switched from coal, gas and oil to nuclear by now.

But humans are notoriously bad at assessing risks, and so we've stuck with these dinosaur fuels (see what I did there, ha ha?) despite unlocking the secrets of the atom. The reality is, we could have a Fukushima-type disaster every year and it would still be better for humanity and Earth overall than what normally happens just from using coal, gas and oil. If only science mattered more than fear when it came to crafting policy.

But I digress.

Image credit: Thomas Edison with his famed light bulb; public domain image. Image credit: Thomas Edison with his famed light bulb; public domain image.

From LdB on Edison, GE, Westinghouse and Tesla: "I agree Tesla had more to do with modern electrical system and more influence on where we are today but the kicker was his idea of how it all worked was ultimately wrong. Proof that sometimes a wrong answer will get you a really long way."

There are different degrees of wrong, and they mean very different things for science depending on how wrong you are (or aren't). For example, it's wrong to say the Earth is flat, but it's also wrong to say the Earth is a sphere. In reality, the Earth is an oblate spheroid, with perturbations to that based on complex geophysics and outside gravitational and tidal effects.

Image credit: National Geodetic Survey, via http://principles.ou.edu/earth_figure_gravity/geoid/. Image credit: National Geodetic Survey, via http://principles.ou.edu/earth_figure_gravity/geoid/.

But saying "the Earth is flat" and "the Earth is a sphere" are not equally wrong. In fact, being wrong in an almost-right way will often get you a lot farther than being right for the wrong reason. That latter case often involves making multiple mistakes that only give you the right answer because the two mistakes work to cancel each other out in that one particular case. If you try to apply that reasoning or approach to other problems, it can lead to immediate disaster.

To circle back to the very first comment this week, that is exactly what you encounter when you run across MOND-enthusiasts talking about "how they predicted the second peak of the CMB before dark matter proponents did." What they omit is that they failed to predict the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, which dark matter grabs in a self-consistent way with all the other data. We're right to doubt something when the evidence conflicts with our predictions, but when a superior suite of evidence comes in, that's what we should be basing our evaluations on.

Image credit: Over The Top. Image credit: Over The Top.

We all make mistakes, but it won't happen again.

From PJ on the changing Universe year-to-year: "‘May the next year be the one where we collectively come together and reach for those greatest distances as one.’
With all the petty bickering going on within this blog, that could be a harder task than not. :("

You'd never know it from the way I write my blog or communicate with the world, but privately, I'm actually a very sarcastic person. (Maybe it was growing up in the 80s/90s in and around New York City?) But when it comes to science, you've got to realize that this is something that is for everyone. Science is the enterprise, process and body of knowledge of all we've ever learned about the Universe, and how we've come to know it. And that's for everyone.

Image credit: J. NASA and Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Image credit: J. NASA and Jeff Hester (Arizona State University).

Whether you believe in things that are unprovable or not, whether you have biases in one direction or another (or none at all, somehow), regardless of your politics or your ideology, the wonders, joys, and knowledge that we've acquired about what the Universe is and how it works -- and maybe even what it means -- is for everyone.

And I think everyone who comes here values that, even if they don't necessarily agree on anything else. And that's okay! I'm happy to contribute even if it's only in that small, single way.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, the GOODS Team and M. Giavalisco (STScI). Image credit: NASA, ESA, the GOODS Team and M. Giavalisco (STScI).

From Gerhard on the aging of the Universe: "I wasn’t aware of the fact that at some critical distance galaxies recede from us faster than light. The thing about the slowing rotation of the earth seems instead to be well known, at least to me."

That was very big of you, Gerhard, to throw in the "at least to me" part. All of the facts that I presented are well-enough known and accepted that the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on these problems agree that this is what is happening right now. The slowing of the Earth's rotation has been known since shortly after the time of Newton, though, while the recession of distant galaxies faster-than-light was only first realized in 1998, and only well-quantified for about a decade. It takes a while for the public to accept changes to their world-view. But I have hope that, in time and with continued exposure, they'll come around on even more fronts.

Image credit: Planck Collaboration: P. A. R. Ade et al., 2013, A&A Preprint. Image credit: Planck Collaboration: P. A. R. Ade et al., 2013, A&A Preprint.

And finally, from Lloyd Hargrove on the science of the CMB: "How do these mapping results differ from what we should detect from such devices if we may assume what they detect is derived at microwave bandwidth from the net vacuum energy of (approaching) infinite electromagnetic sources degrading across (approaching) infinite space?"

The best part about coming up with an alternative theory (like this one) is that if there are sources degrading (or producing radiation over time), it will offer quantitative predictions that are different from the currently accepted theory. In this particular case, the two differences would be a non-thermal (i.e., non-blackbody) spectrum for the relic radiation, and a change in relic radiation temperature that scaled differently than the expected (1 + z) relationship with increasing redshift.

Image credit: P. Noterdaeme, P. Petitjean, R. Srianand, C. Ledoux and S. López, (2011). Astronomy & Astrophysics, 526, L7. Image credit: P. Noterdaeme, P. Petitjean, R. Srianand, C. Ledoux and S. López, (2011). Astronomy & Astrophysics, 526, L7.

But these measurements are pretty robust! They are consistent with the cosmic, Big Bang origin of the CMB and not with the other alternatives. Not only are they inconsistent with the alternative Lloyd presented, but with Tired Light, Steady-State, Plasma Universe, Milne Cosmology, and all other known alternatives. We can keep trying all we like, but until there's an alternative that reproduces the full suite of successes inherent in the standard cosmological models, it's not worth taking seriously.

And that's all for this week! See you back here next week for more wonders, joys, and stories about the Universe.

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"The only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis is comparison of prediction with experience." -Milton Friedman Dark matter is one of the most important components of the Universe today. And yet in the public's eye, almost no one accepts it the way, say, the Big Bang is accepted. But it…

"that not in my backyard (NIMBY) terror."

As with GMOs the problem isn't the physics or the process, but with the exploitation of that for profit, which pretty much ensures that it will fail badly and the ones most responsible and those who benefitted most from the gains will either evade the costs altogether or meet no more than everyone else, including those who benefitted not at all.

Nuclear we KNOW is run to fail. See TEPCO and the backlog of unsourced waste. See the catalogue of errors and leaks at Windscale et al that WERE KEPT FROM THE GOVERNMENT AGENCY.

With GMOs, look at thalidomide and BSE. Non genetic changes causing genetic errors or catastrophe, and "junk dna" that actually DOES SOMETHING. See also HSPs and their actions when stressed: genetic damage.

So nuclear we know enough to know we're shit at using it with our capitalist system. The problem isn't nuclear, it's humans.

With GMOs we know we REALLY DON'T know enough. Junk dna should never have crossed someone's mind. The fact we did was why we had thalidomide and BSE.

"If we cared about the carbon content of the environment, we would’ve switched from coal, gas and oil to nuclear by now."

Ballcock.

Look at the cost overruns of nuclear. Not due to nimby, but due to the contractors failing to live up to their contract and producing a product not safe enough to run.

Now look at the roll out of renewables. Ahead of schedule, able to produce whilst still being built, and build up is a lot faster.

Yet still suffers from NIMBY, so that can't be a factor.

"we could have a Fukushima-type disaster every year "

Here's an idea. How about we DON'T have one at all?

"...not even because Einstein’s contributions to the practical world — even if they weren’t foreseeable in the 1900s and 1910s — often go largely unrecognized..."

This is a very important point. You've had people responding on some other posts that no money or time should be spent studying anything that doesn't have an immediate application. This point about Einstein's work should be one of the first responses to that particular bit of anti-knowledge foolishness.

"What are we getting in return for the Climate change: Hoax that Costs Us $4 Billion a Day?"

Wow. All you can manage is repeat the title of a hack job by a political rag.

They're talking bullshit. Just letting you know.

With GMOs, look at thalidomide and BSE. Non genetic changes causing genetic errors or catastrophe

What on earth are you going on about? Neither causes "genetic errors."

What on earth are you going on about? They cause genetic errors.

The DNA assembles proteins and prions will change ones created by DNA in the wrong form. A genetic error.

Thalidomide changed the chemistry available to the foetus and the DNA coded things up incorrectly. Genetic errors.

But, fine, if you don't like the name, use another one.

The DNA assembles proteins and prions will change ones created by DNA in the wrong form. A genetic error.

That, by definition, is not a "genetic error." There are (autosomal dominant) familial prion diseases, in which PRNP is mutated. BSE (and, by extension, vCJD) involves no miscoding of PrP.

Thalidomide changed the chemistry available to the foetus [sic*] and the DNA coded things up incorrectly. Genetic errors.

What "things" would those be? Look, I'm not going to go fetch a copy of PMID 26043938 for your convenience. There's no particularly compelling evidence of heritability. It's neither genetic nor epigenetic.

One thing that thalidomide certainly does is to inhibit angiogenesis. Do you see where this might be a problem with limb development? Now, one can speculate about intercalation of the thalidomide molecule into ITGB3 as a mechanism for the inhibition (e.g., PMID 10799645), but that's about as close as you're going to get, and I don't know how Stephens has been faring with that.

Try this review, which is open-access (so is Ref. 25, with registration).

Moreover, neither of these items has the slightest thing to do with GMO crops, which you gratuitously added your indignation over nuclear power.

But, fine, if you don’t like the name, use another one.

It's not my fault that your knee was jerking so badly that you couldn't be bothered to think about whether you had the slightest idea what you were (purporting to) talk about.

* There's no etymological basis for this affectation, which I believe has been formally abandoned in the literature, etc.

^ "gratuitously added to"

"That, by definition, is not a “genetic error.” "

OK, then, what is the "definition of genetic error" that makes that so?

PS you DO know I've given you permission to use your own words.

"It’s not my fault that your knee was jerking so badly"

It's not my fault you have a hard-on for GMOs that you're desperate to look for reasons for "anti-GMO" to be wrong that you whine and bitch.

Genetic outcomes in error.

Damage caused by genetic information.

Errors causing damage because not all the results of genetics is determined by the genes.

"neither of these items has the slightest thing to do with GMO crops"

They show that "this gene codes for this" is oversimplified and in the past led to some horrific problems. Which simplification is what all GMO fluffers propose when it comes to "GMOs are safe and will save the world unless radicals stop us!!!!".

Dumbass.

"^^ Oh, look, a primitive script."

Well, I guess genetics is wrong too. Hell, given Mendelev is even older than the conversation in the link you gave, it must be even more wrong, right?

Or was that an empty claim providing nothing other than insinuated fallacy?

Don't waste your time Narad. The almighty "wow" is never wrong! How dare you try to correct him!?

The rest of us, however, are more than happy to listen to you (and anyone else not named wow).

Just in case it wasn't clear, that first sentence was complete sarcasm.

wow reminds me of Boris Grishenko from Goldeneye. Poor guy

Aaaawwwww. Butthurt baby cries.

But of course, Wow must ALWAYS be wrong, and his arguments NEVER add up, because, well, he's a MEANIE!!!!

AC now pouts, stamps foot, goes off to terrorize a three year old.

But we all know how much insightful and topical information AC has posted.

0% so far.

So much for the desire to read important stuff. Better to complain, isn't it, AC.

re narad.

foetus - Wiktionary
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/foetus

foetus (plural foetuses) ... community, whereas foetus is still commonly used in Commonwealth nations.

Yeah, I know, to 'merkins the usa is the only bit of the world that matters.

A bit like

Gweilo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gweilo

The term gweilo or gwailo to describe white foreigners was popularised during ... In Northern parts of China, the term "west ocean ghost

But they also, like the USA, call themselves a democratic republic. Just as accurately.

So you and they have a lot in common. Not to mention their production of most of the crap you buy.

re narad.

foetus - Wiktionary
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/foetus

foetus (plural foetuses) ... community, whereas foetus is still commonly used in Commonwealth nations.

Yeah, I know, to 'merkins the usa is the only bit of the world that matters.

A bit like the Chinese and Gweilo. But you both have a lot in common.

Yeah, I know, to ‘merkins the usa is the only bit of the world that matters.

You didn't understand the words "no etymological basis," did you?

The digraph was a hypercorrection, perhaps based on a failure to understand the difference between Greek and Latin roots. That is, it's not like 'paediatrician'. There is no Latin diphthong.

A bit like the Chinese and Gweilo. But you both have a lot in common.

Once again, it's not my fault that you you apparently feel no need to figure out what you're putatively talking about or even to attend to the explanations that you've been presented.

"You didn’t understand the words “no etymological basis,” did you?"

Nope, I did understand them. They had as much relevance as the colour of your cat, however.

But I guess you have to find SOMETHING to claim is wrong about my comments, and this is just the best you can come up with, right?

'merkins. So full of shit, they can't see past it.

“That, by definition, is not a “genetic error.” ”

OK, then, what is the “definition of genetic error” that makes that so?

You yourself observed that the PrPᶜ is produced normally:

The DNA assembles proteins and prions will change ones created by DNA in the wrong form.

What is "the definition" by which you turn this into a "genetic error"? I'm talking about sequence changes. Given that you required six separate comments and failed to address any of the references that I dug up for you, I'm getting the impression that you failed to successfully process the comment in its entirety.

PS you DO know I’ve given you permission to use your own words.

No, I somehow missed the "granting" of this incoherent "boon." If this is the best you have to offer, though, I have a good sense of what the next one may be.

"You yourself observed that the PrPᶜ is produced normally:"

So what happened to "“no etymological basis,”"?

Gish galloping away, Nads.

And what does telling me what I myself observed do OTHER than gallop off on another tangent? The damage isn't done to prions. But your genes don't code the shape correctly and that is damage caused genetically.

But first, lets stable one horse at a time before you go running off after another.

“You yourself observed that the PrPᶜ is produced normally:”

So what happened to ““no etymological basis,””?

I have already noted your apparent difficulties with reading comprehension.

Gish galloping away, Nads.

And, clearly, usage.

And what does telling me what I myself observed do OTHER than gallop off on another tangent?

This "tangent" would be what, exactly?

The damage isn’t done to prions. But your genes don’t code the shape correctly....

Congratulations. You have managed not only to contradict yourself, but also to double down on the I-have-no-idea-whatever-what-I'm-babbling-about front. The intercalation bit clearly sailed right over your head, but you've now managed to bizarrely assert that prions are actually retroviruses or something.

Are you familiar with the First Law of Holes?

"I have already noted your apparent difficulties with reading comprehension."

In which alternative reality did you note that?

Here, I'll show you again:

foetus (plural foetuses) … community, whereas foetus is still commonly used in Commonwealth nations.

This is why I want to get one horse stabled and the door locked before you go gish galloping away on another swaybacked pony.

So, read above, and explain to me how foetus is some fatal error in English comprehension.

So, read above, and explain to me how foetus is some fatal error in English comprehension.

OK, it's not just that you can't read, you also can't think.

*plonk*

"OK, it’s not just that you can’t read, you also can’t think."

Nope, again.

Here, AGAIN, is the bit you need to be able to read:

foetus (plural foetuses) … community, whereas foetus is still commonly used in Commonwealth nations.

foetus (plural foetuses) … community, whereas foetus is still commonly used in Commonwealth nations.

===

If you disagree with the above, where is your disagreement based on? If you can't point out where you disagree with that, why don't you agree? If you do agree with it, why don't you say?

"Are you familiar with the First Law of Holes?"
Nope, Wowzie is not.
Narad, when conversing with Wow, you should keep in mind that every village has it;s idiot.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 10 Aug 2015 #permalink

"Nope, Wowzie is not."

How do you know this? It's projection again, isn't it, raggie.

And that makes you this village's idiot, then.

The facts fit.

Narad, when conversing with Wow, you should keep in mind that every village has it;s idiot.

Thanks for the reminder to add you to the killfile.

Narad, since you're still reading and posting, can we continue with seeing to the claims you've made.

First; about foetus.

Do you disagree that that is the definition? If no, why do you disagree with the dictionary definition as being correct? If yes, why not?

The definition says that foetus is a correct spelling. No different than your region's wish to misspel "colour".

Do NOT go "Oh, there's no etymological reason" because there's no NEED for one. Spellings were decided around the world by common usage, not by looking at dead languages and going "Well, latin didn't have a dipthong" because, guess what, English alphabet doesn't have an accented "e".

Your refusal to engage in this is proof that you were making shit up as wrong because you hated the messenger and wished to poison the well against them so that you would not have to give reasons for your defence of GMOs.

Continued refusal to engage indicates confirmation.