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The “Science” of the Big Bang
Astronomer Halton Arp has called it “ science by news release,” and some of the most disturbing examples come from statements “confirming” the validity of the Big Bang.
Many critics of modern theories in the sciences have noticed that science editors (newspaper, magazine, and television) appear to have lost the ability to separate fact from theory. When discussing the trademarks of popular cosmology, such as the Big Bang, the science media incessantly report that new discoveries confirm them—even when such reports are far from the truth.
One reason for this pattern is simply the momentum of archaic beliefs. But it is also apparent that good news is essential to the funding of exotic projects.
At the heart of conventional cosmology lies the dogma of an electrically neutral universe governed by gravity alone. Without the benefit of this dogma, the Big Bang hypothesis could never have achieved its present prominence. And it is here that we see most clearly how, under the necessities of funding, scientists are eager to “confirm” a theory that, according to many critics, has already failed. Editors, in turn, desiring to retain valued relationships with the spokesmen for established science, only rarely dig deeper than the latest news release delivered to them.
In popular discussion of the Big Bang, the most frequent statement made is that discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) “confirmed” the hypothesis. But this interpretation requires a gross distortion of history.
In 1964 physicists Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, while working on a new type of antenna at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, detected an unexplained noise. By removing all other potential sources of noise, they determined that it was the cosmic microwave background, with a calculated temperature of 3.5 K. For this discovery they received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978.
Later, in 1992, based on COBE satellite data, a team of scientists reported a refined [or revised] temperature—2.73 K— for the cosmic microwave background.
So how did various scientific institutions deal with the
One would certainly think from such pronouncements that the Big Bang theory had predicted the temperature with a reasonable degree of accuracy. But George Gamow, credited with the prediction from Big Bang assumptions, estimated 5K in 1948. In the 1950s he raised that estimate to 10K, and by 1961 he was predicting 50K.
Robert Dicke’s microwave radiometer was key to the discoveries of Wilson and Penzias. In 1946 Dick predicted a microwave background radiation temperature of 20 K. Later he revised the predictions to 45 K.
When the COBE satellite measured it to be only 2.7K, the Big Bang proponents claimed victory.
But the fact is that predictions by other theorists, who did not base their estimates on the Big Bang, were a good deal closer. Based on the study of narrow absorption line features in the spectra of stars, astronomer Andrew McKellar wrote in 1941: "It can be calculated that the ‘rotational temperature’ of interstellar space is 2 K."
The first astronomer to collect observations from which the temperature of space could be calculated was Andrew McKellar. In 1941 he announced a temperature of 2.3K from radiative excitation of certain molecules. But World War II occupied everyone's attention and his paper was ignored. In1954, Finlay-Freundlich predicted 1.9K to 6K on the basis of "tired light" assumptions. Tigran Shmaonov estimated 3K by in 1955.
In 1896, Charles Edouard Guillaume predicted a temperature of 5.6K from heating by starlight. Arthur Eddington refined the calculations in 1926 and predicted a temperature of 3K. Eric Regener predicted 2.8 in 1933.
In the course of two decade’s Gamow’s predictions were the most inconsistent and included the single guess farthest from the mark. One must keep in mind as well that the “temperature” of interstellar space does not give you the energy density of the universe. The “temperature” is the square root of a square root of energy density. So as a measure of the energy of the universe, Gamow's estimate of 50 degrees K is 12,000 times too high.
(It should be noted that, in 1956, Gamow adjusted his prediction to 6 K, which is certainly better than his worst guess, but others were considerably closer without reference to the Big Bang.)
So what are we to think of the well-publicized statements noted above, by those invested in the Big Bang hypothesis? It is for good reason that critics have called this response “science by news release”—a convenient cover for the fact that Big Bang cosmology failed to anticipate any of the landmark discoveries of the space age.