Saturday, August 23, 2014

Exotic Theories Part 3: Inflation Cosmology

The Big Bang model of the universe is a theory brimming with difficulties – I mean difficulties beyond the obvious, “where did all the matter come from” and “what caused it to begin expanding.” The problems I'm talking about are a little less obvious but still very substantial. Please note too that these aren't my objections to the theory. These are objections raised by secular scientists and discussed in this Wiki article.

The Horizon Problem: If we looked toward the eastern sky, we could see galaxies that are estimated to be 10 billion light years away. We could see the same thing in the western sky. So if one galaxy is 10 billion light years away in one direction and another is 10 billion light years in the other, then they would be 20 billion light years apart from each other. Are you with me so far? OK. Now, secular scientists date the universe to be around 13.8 billion years old. Assuming that is true, the light from the “eastern” most region of space has not had enough time to reach the “western” region. Even though we can see both ends, they should not be able to see each other because their light could not have traveled the 20 billion light years of distance between them in only 13.8 billion years. Are you still with me? OK. Here is the problem: everywhere we look, the universe appears to be homogenous.

If I dropped an ice cube into hot water, the cube would melt and the water would cool a little. Eventually, it all becomes the same temperature. That's homogeneity and it always happens eventually once the two things begin to interact. It seems to have already happened in the cosmos. The cosmic background microwave radiation, for example is the nearly the same everywhere we look. But how could the entire universe have evened out so uniformly if all the regions have not had enough time to interact?

The Flatness Problem: Matter produces gravity. Objects in motion have kinetic energy. When the supposed Big Bang happened, matter began to expand. Once the expansion began, kinetic energy would have carried the matter forward while gravity would have been slowing the expansion. Let me see if I can explain it in lay terms.

If the rate of expansion were too slow, gravity would have quickly pulled everything back into a Big Crunch. If the expansion were too rapid, the matter would have accelerated too quickly for stars to form. From the very beginning there must have been a perfect balance, a “fine tuning,” between the expansion and the slowing or else the universe could not exist as it is now. The precise balance of 1 is represented by the value Ω. The margin is so narrow as to be incredible. This illustration helps visualize a too fast or too slow expansion.

Missing Magnetic-monopoles: The Big Bang would have been a hot event, or so I'm told. Such an event should have produced magnetic-monopoles (a magnet with only one pole). Now, I confess the physics behind this prediction is a little beyond my understanding. Monopoles themselves sound a little “exotic” to me and when we consider that we've never observed such a thing, I'm not sure why anyone would predict there should be many of them. But the fact that there haven't been any found sure has cosmologists concerned. Failed predictions are usually evidence against a theory and the fact that the Big Bang predicts magnetic-monopoles yet none have been found should raise more than a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, scientists confidently stand by their model and seek a new theory that explains this lack of evidence!

Enter now Inflation cosmology! To help smooth out some of these serious difficulties in the Big Bang model, it was suggested in the 1980s that in the very early seconds after the initial expansion, the universe when through short period of hyper-expansion where it figuratively exploded from about the size of a grape to trillions of miles across in just a fraction of a second. They say such an event would solve a few difficulties.

First, they suppose that the homogeneity we observe occurred prior to the hyper-expansion, while all of space was still close together. When inflation occurred, it carried the homogeneity out with it.

Concerning the flatness problem, the inflation supposedly forced the value of Ω to that fine-tuned balance of 1. One web site compares it to a how a balloon smooths out as it inflates. I'm not sure how well the analogy describes the solution but, as the article says, most cosmologists are satisfied with it.

Lastly, cosmologists use inflation to solve the missing magnetic-monopoles problem. According to them, inflation was not only a rapid event, it was a cooled event. That is, as the inflation began, the super hot Big Bang cooled during the inflation epoch by about 100,000 times to just under the temperature where the monopoles would form. How convenient.

So what is the evidence for all of this? We'll, it's pretty much like the evidence for Oort cloud – they simply need it for their theory to be viable. It's a sort of fudge factor to get around some of the serious difficulties they know exist with the Big Bang. What caused inflation? They don't know. What stopped the inflation? They don't know. Why was it cool? They don't know. How did it reheat? They don't know. Actually, the idea of inflation is even less credible than the Oort cloud. In the case of the Oort cloud, at least we know that icy bodies exist in the universe. We've never seen an event like the inflation epoch and there's nothing in physics that would otherwise suggest such an event could or should occur.

I think scientists have become numb to what's credible. After all, once you accept the idea that all the universe could literally poof into existence out of nothing, then why couldn't there also be an imaginary event like inflation that immediately followed it? Once again, this isn't a case of going where the evidence leads. They know the Big Bang happened in spite of all its difficulties. Even the most serious problems with the theory could never cause them to even question it. Rather, it would only spur them to become more and more creative in explaining how it happened regardless. How could the Big Bang ever be disproved if scientists are allowed to invent exotic theories to explain away any objection?

Monday, August 11, 2014

How Petty

I'm taking a quick break from my series to relate something that happened to me personally.

I've been super busy with work lately. I had a person quit so I'm having to cover his shift until I can get someone trained. I'm scheduled 55-60hours each week for the next month or so. It sucks. Anyway, I got off about 8:30PM this evening and stopped by Red Box. It was my plan to do nothing else but relax, sit on the couch, and watch a cheap movie. I rented “Heaven is Real.” I hadn't watched it in the theaters because, frankly, it didn't look that interesting. It's sad that so many Christian based movies have cheesy dialogues poorly read by mediocre actors. I hate spending $10 only to be mildly entertained. However, I'm not adverse to spending $1 to be mildly entertained to I thought watching this particular movie would be an okay way to spend a couple of hours.

So, I change my clothes, heat up a cup of noodles, and pop in the DVD. Immediately I noticed a distinct whirring sound which I knew wasn't good then received a “disc cannot be played” error. I popped out the DVD and looked at it. The poor thing had been scratched to pieces. It's not unusual for discs to have scratches but this one was far worse than your typical left-it-on-the-top-of-the-entertainment-center type of scratches. They were deep and went in every direction. In other words, it was intentionally scratched.

Now, I can't help but thinking that the movie was vandalized because of its subject matter. Some militant atheist out there hates the idea of a movie actually talking about heaven like it's a real place so he rents the movie, defaces it, and returns it knowing that it can no longer be watched. How petty.

I guess it doesn't surprise me that an atheist would do this. I will grant that there are some atheists who would have a problem with destroying someone else's property but I know that there are plenty of them out there who wouldn't see a problem with it at all. Let's face it, if a person doesn't believe there is an absolute moral authority, then why should he care if he breaks something that's not his?

Oh well. I guess he's made a statement though maybe not the one he intended. He's shown me what I already know to be true. Some atheists are hypocrites. Some atheists are amoral. Some atheists are whiners. Some atheists are petty.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Exotic Theories Part 2: The Oort Cloud

What do you know about comets? When I was young, I used to think that comets hurtling through space were similar to meteors entering earth's atmosphere; I pictured it as a fiery ball with a long tail of flames. Comets were cool! I know now that comets are made of ice and the long tail we see is actually ice particles being blasted away from the body of the comet as it passes near the sun. Eh, maybe not as cool as a fireball.

The fact that comets lose some of their mass each time they pass near the sun has a bearing on the age-of-the-earth debate. Obviously, if a comet becomes smaller with each orbit of the sun, eventually it must disappear all together. Also, each time a comet comes near the sun, it also risks collision with a planet or the sun itself which would end its life immediately. Simple reason, then, forces us to acknowledge that comets can only exist so long. Their long tails are a visual testimony of their short livedness. Eventually, they will either exhaust all of their matter or crash into a planet. If our solar system were really billions of years old, they should all be gone by now. End of story.

One very famous comet is Halley's comet which passes by our sun once every 75 years. It is consider a “short period,” one who's orbit takes less than 200 years. Since Halley's orbit is only 75 years, in just one million years it would have passed by the sun more than 13K times! No one believes that is possible and I'm not suggesting that's what secular scientists believe. Actually, secular scientists believe the maximum life span of Halley is about 40,000 years. If the universe is less than 10,000 years old, this isn't a problem at all. However, it doesn't comport well with the idea that the solar system is millions or billions of years old. If the solar system is really billions of years old, why are there still so many short period comets left? In order to rescue their theory, secular science must find a source that can replenish comets as they are exhausted. After all, since there still are comets, and we know that most of them can't have been circling the sun for billions of years, these comets had to come from somewhere more recently.

One possible source that had been suggested is the Kuiper belt, a region of space beyond the planets known to have several, small, icy bodies orbiting about 4½ billion miles from our sun. It has been suggested that on occasion, these objects would collide with each other and get knocked out of orbit, fall toward the sun, and become comets. However, the Kuiper belt has a very round and stable orbit. Most people consider its orbit to be too stable to be a source for short period comets.

Overlapping the Kuiper belt is another group of icy bodies known as the “scattered disk.” The objects in this disk have a much more elliptical orbit which could be described as “dynamic.” They consider this to be a far more likely source for short period comets.

Whether or not the Kuiper belt or the scattered disk are viable sources for short period comets could be debated. I will grant this, though: we can observe these regions of space. We've never seen an object ejected from these regions and become a comet but at least we know these regions are there.

The point is moot though because even the secular scientists themselves are not proposing that Halley's comet, or similar comets known as “Halley-family comets” came from either of these sources. They are claiming there is still another source. They've dubbed this 3rd source, “the Oort cloud.”

According to Wikipedia, “The Oort cloud,... named after Dutch astronomer Jan Oort, is a spherical cloud of predominantly icy planetesimals believed to surround the Sun at up to 50,000 AU” [bold added]. Note the use of the word, “believed.” As we read through the entire Wiki article, we see a lot of other conditional descriptions; words like “conjecture,” “thought to be,” and “hypothesized” abound. The Wiki article is brimming with “facts” about the Oort cloud – things like it's composition, size, origin, location, etc. It's amazing that we can know so much about something that we've never seen and really aren't sure even exists!

From the second paragraph of the article, we read, “Although no confirmed direct observations of the Oort cloud are made, it may be the source of all long-period and Halley-type comets entering the inner Solar System, and many of the centaurs and Jupiter-family comets as well.” Interesting, huh? It sounds to me like an admission that the existence of the Oort cloud was born solely out of the need for a source of comets. I take that back. They're not implying any such thing. They are admitting it outright. Also from the article, under the heading, “Hypothesis,” we read the following:

In 1932, the Estonian astronomer Ernst Öpik postulated that long-period comets originated in an orbiting cloud at the outermost edge of the Solar System. In 1950, the idea was independently revived by Oort as a means to resolve a paradox: over the course of the Solar System's existence, the orbits of comets are unstable; eventually, dynamics dictate that a comet must either collide with the Sun or a planet, or else be ejected from the Solar System by planetary perturbations. Moreover, their volatile composition means that as they repeatedly approach the Sun, radiation gradually boils the volatiles off until the comet splits or develops an insulating crust that prevents further outgassing. Thus, Oort reasoned, a comet could not have formed while in its current orbit, and must have been held in an outer reservoir for almost all of its existence.

You can read it for yourselves. The Oort cloud was hypothesized seemingly for no reason other than the need for a source of comets! It about as scientific as saying comets are made by unicorns. We might not see unicorns making comets but since there are comets they had to come from somewhere, right? So the comets themselves are scientific proof of the existence of unicorns!!

Most people agree that science is founded upon observations. Here, we are talking about a hypothetical source of comets that cannot be observed so their belief is the Oort cloud is no more scientific than my belief in God. The existence of the Oort cloud is simply necessitated by a belief in an old universe. It's akin to a faith belief except they see it as more plausible because it's a “natural” explanation rather than a supernatural one.

There's nothing within the understanding that God created the universe that disqualifies the possibility of an enormous cloud of icy bodies orbiting so far away that we can't see them. But it's precisely because we can't see it that makes the entire thing seem suspect. I'm withholding judgment until we have real evidence. Until we actually find such a thing, the entire Oort cloud seems like nothing more than an exotic theory.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Exotic Cosmology Part 1: The Balloon Model of the Universe

Imagine for a moment a very large, flat meadow of grass with a crowd of people standing in it. You are somewhere in the crowd. Through just simple observation, it would not be hard to guess where you are in the crowd. If all the people are on one side of you and no one on the other, you would be on the very edge of the crowd. If there were more people on one side than the other, you would be toward the edge. If there were about the same number of people everywhere you looked, you would be closer to the center. It's not hard, right?

As we look around in the universe, we observe about the same number of stars no matter which direction we look. Just as in my crowd analogy, it would be very reasonable to conclude from this observation that we are somewhere near the center of the universe. Of course, the universe is very, very large and since we cannot see the edge of it in any direction, it makes it hard to be sure that we're in the center. It would be like being in the ocean with no land in sight; you would really have no idea if you're in the middle of the ocean or just outside sight of the shore. To really know we're in the center, we'd have to have more information.

In the mid-19th century, Dutch physicist, Christian Doppler noticed that sound waves changed frequency relative to the observer when the source was in motion. He dubbed this phenomenon, “the Doppler Effect” and believed it would apply to all waves including light and radiometric waves. In the beginning of the 20th century, we were able to observe this phenomenon in the light from distant stars. The light from the stars was “redshifted” indicating that the light wave was being stretched and that the star was moving away from us. As we began to survey more and more stars, we realized that the stars uniformly seemed to be moving away from us at a constant speed.

The implications of what was being observed was huge. Obviously it meant the universe was expanding but more than that, the general movement of the stars directly away from us further seemed to confirm our position near the center of the universe.

To help visualize this, let's go back to my crowd analogy for a moment. If everyone in the crowd – including you – began running away from the center, you would notice a couple of things. Someone running right next to you at the same speed would barely seem redshifted at all. However, someone who was running in the opposite direction would be moving away from you very rapidly so would appear highly redshifted (see my illustration). If we were anywhere else but the center of an expanding universe, this is how the redshifts of different stars should appear to us.

Now imagine you were in the center of the crowd and everyone was running directly away from you. As they got further away from you, they would also move further away from each other, but each runner's redshift in relation to you would be approximately the same. This is exactly what we observe. So the simplest explanation (and most secular scientists claim to prefer the simplest explanation) is that we occupy the unique position of the center of the universe.

In this enormous universe, the odds of us coincidentally being in the center are mind numbingly small. I'm not sure how to describe how impossible it seems. I read one source that estimates there are 1 septillion stars (1024). So that would mean the odds of our star being in the center would be 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. It would seem impossible if we believed were here by mere chance.

If God had intended us to be in the center of the universe, then the remote odds of it happening randomly don't matter. However, scientists, because of their bias toward natural explanations will not allow themselves to consider that we're here by design. Still, accepting that we occupy this special place by mere coincidence is too incredible to believe. So what is the solution?

Scientists have put forth a model of the universe where there really is no center – or rather everywhere is the center. Space is like a flat surface that is being stretched. All points on the surface would be moving away from each other. They also suggest there is no edge to the universe. Instead, space is curved like the surface of the earth and if you started in one direction and headed in a straight line, you would eventually end up where you began. In other words, no matter where you are in the universe, we would observe exactly the same things that we observe on earth.

To help visualize this strange explanation, many people have compared the universe to the surface of a balloon painted with stars. As the balloon expands, all the stars would move away from each other at about the same rate. Also, any point on the balloon would have the same amount of surface surrounding it so no particular point is the center. It's actually a very clever analogy that paints a vivid picture of the theory it attempts to explain. And the theory seems to cleverly explain how we can look like we're in the center of the universe yet not really be in the center.

No matter how clever the analogy, there is still one, huge, nagging problem I see with it – namely, the balloon really has three dimensions. To believe that the universe somehow exists on an immensely curved plane resembling just the 2D surface of a balloon seems a stark contrast to everything else we experience. It seems an unnecessarily complicated solution, especially when we know a much simpler explanation exists.

In my crowd analogy, if I saw the same number of people on every side of me, I would conclude that I was close to the center. I could test that theory by walking to the edge and seeing if I was right. However, if I had no way to walk to the edge, I would simply have to trust my conclusion as being reasonable. What I believe is unreasonable is if I suggested there really is no center to the crowd and if I tried to walk to the edge, I would eventually end up where I started. Such an idea seems insane. Yet scientists would have us believe that is the correct way to view our universe.

Does the universe have an edge or not? Does the universe have a center or not? The problem with either theory is that we can't really test it. There's no way we could fly to edge of the universe to see if it's there. We can't stand back from the universe and see if it resembles the surface of a balloon. We can only picture the universe based upon we can observe from the earth. What I'll do instead is appeal to what seems the most reasonable explanation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Use of Exotic Explanations to Perpetuate Flawed Theories

In his reply to a recent post, a frequent visitor to my blog, Steven J, mentioned epicycles. It reminded me of another practice often engaged by scientists, namely the use of “exotic” explanations employed to prop up flawed theories. For people not familiar with epicycles, let me give you a thumbnail description of what they are. In the geocentric (earth-centered) model of the universe, Ptolemy used the notion of epicycles to explain the apparent motion of planets. If a planet simply circled the earth, it should appear to move across our sky in a straight line at a steady speed. However, the planets seemed to move at different speeds and sometimes even seemed to move backward. Ptolemy suggested planets also made smaller orbits around an invisible point called the deferent. It wasn't a terrible idea, really, and it seemed to explain the motions of the planets very well. After all, we could see the planet moving and sometimes it really seemed to be moving backward so the epicycles were “observed”. However, we've since learned that the planets don't circle the earth. What looked like changes in speed was caused by the differences in relative speed between us and the other planets. Epicycles and deferents did not even exist at all!

In a similar fashion, people once believed in a fiery element they called phlogiston. Objects that would burn easily were believed to be rich in phlogiston and objects that didn't burn easily were had little phlogiston.  As an object burned, the phlogiston was released into the air and the object was turned to ashes.  But if it was the phlogiston that allowed the object to burn, then why did objects considered rich in phlogiston not burn in an enclosed space? To explain this, it was suggested the air could only hold so much phlogiston and once the air was completely saturated, it could not receive any more, thus the object could not release any more and so would stop burning. Again, the theory seemed to explain reasonably well what was being observed but we've since learned that it is the oxygen in the air that allows objects to burn. Phlogiston did not even exist at all!

Things like epicycles, deferents, and phlogiston were the symptoms of flawed theories. They seemed to smooth out problems with the theories but the real problems laid in the theories themselves. Yet as long as the underlying theory persisted, more and more fanciful sub-theories had to be invented to keep the failed theory afloat. You might call it the “fudge factor.”

So where am I going with all this? Well, when it comes to secular theories of cosmology, I've seen a lot of same behavior among scientists. There are several crazy, er... I mean, “exotic”... explanations that have been invoked in order to hammer down stubborn difficulties with their theories. Actually, I'm only using the term “exotic” to be nice. These theories are so insanely ridiculous that I suspect that deep down even their most staunch proponents don't sincerely believe them. They merely cling to them because without them their entire worldview completely fails.

There are several crazy ideas put forth by the long-age scientists. If I wrote just a couple of paragraphs on each one, it would make one very long post yet would still not give each idea enough explanation. What I thought I would do instead is make a short series where I spend a few paragraphs discussing each one. Here are some of the ideas I intend to discuss:
  • The “balloon model” of the universe
  • Hyperinflation cosmology
  • Dark matter/energy
  • The Oort Cloud
If I think of some other, extreme examples, I may include them too but at the very least, I will include these. Keep checking back!!