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Old 11th March 2019, 05:53 AM   #1
Roboramma
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Common Cosmological Misconceptions

I thought this recent blog post by Sean Carroll might be interesting to some. In it he goes through 19 items "True Facts About Cosmology, or Misconceptions Skewered":

https://www.preposterousuniverse.com...ions-skewered/
A couple of good ones:
Quote:
4.The Big Bang might have been the beginning of the universe. Or it might not have been; there could have been space and time before the Big Bang. We donít really know.
5. Even if the BB was the beginning, the universe didnít ďpop into existence.Ē You canít ďpopĒ before time itself exists. Itís better to simply say ďthe Big Bang was the first moment of time.Ē (If it was, which we donít know for sure.)
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Old 11th March 2019, 07:54 AM   #2
theprestige
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"Correcting" one lay explanation with another lay explanation doesn't seem gain us much.

It's not like the guy who was saying "pop into existence" can now explain why he doesn't in any meaningful way. Any more than he could explain why he did in the first place. Unless you're teaching physics to grad students, one description is probably as good as the other.
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Old 12th March 2019, 09:59 PM   #3
Robin
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I have been saying for a while that, semantically, there is a difference between "the Universe has a beginning" and "The Universe began to exist".

I am not sure it is particularly useful, scientifically speaking.
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Old 12th March 2019, 10:13 PM   #4
The Great Zaganza
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6. There actually is a teapot floating around between Earth and Mars, as a result of one of Tesla's less known experiments.
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Old 12th March 2019, 10:28 PM   #5
arthwollipot
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I have been saying for a while that, semantically, there is a difference between "the Universe has a beginning" and "The Universe began to exist".

I am not sure it is particularly useful, scientifically speaking.
"The universe began to exist" is a bit of a honeypot for creationists, actually, since the wording of the Kalam cosmological argument is that "everything that begins to exist has a creator".
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Old 13th March 2019, 05:18 AM   #6
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I’ve read a number of astrophysicist Brian Greene’s books, and recently heard an interview with him. The interviewer asked.... “What is it that you’d really like to know; what mystery would you like to be solved?”

Greene said “What started the whole thing.” That we can trace the natural history of the universe pretty well from microseconds after the “beginning”, we don’t know what caused those conditions, or whether the universe is singular or just one of many, etc.

Not that there’s any lack of hypotheses....
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Old 13th March 2019, 05:46 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
6. There actually is a teapot floating around between Earth and Mars, as a result of one of Tesla's less known experiments.
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Old 13th March 2019, 07:45 AM   #8
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"Misconceptions" are a strange thing to mention in the title, for mostly a list of things most people never say or think anything about and aren't likely to have ever even heard of.

But anyway, this pair from the same list was interesting; 18 mentions, but does nothing to convey the magnitude of, a problem that 17 treats as insignificant-to-non-existant:
Quote:
17. We have a perfectly good, and likely correct, idea of what dark energy might be: vacuum energy, a.k.a. the cosmological constant. An energy inherent in space itself. But we’re not sure.
18. We don’t know why the vacuum energy is much smaller than naive estimates would predict. That’s a real puzzle.
In other words, conceptually, it would seem as if vacuum energy (predicted by uncertainty principle & observed in small lab experiments like the Casimir Effect) would make a good explanation for dark energy (pushing galaxies apart), but the amount we measure in Casimir-like lab experiments isn't enough for the cosmic effect. But this isn't the kind of little error you just dismiss as close enough and think your underlying idea was probably still right but just needs some adjustment or a more accurate test or something like that. It's literally the worst numerical prediction in the history of science, with the needed quantity being 10Ļ≤⁰ times what we got. That's a number 120 digits long; 81 digits more than the digits of π it would take to describe the observable universe's circumference in terms of the size of an atom. Item 17 in this list just used the phrases "perfectly good, and likely correct" to describe the wrongest wrong science has ever wronged, and 18 indicated that the author is aware of this but choosing not to show how severe the discrepancy is.
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Old 13th March 2019, 08:15 AM   #9
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Seems like the article creates more misconceptions than it clears up.

This is the worst kind of "science" article. What I would call an "I ******* Love Science!" article. Basically a specialized clickbait. Someone who didn't understand any of this stuff would read this article and still not understand anything, but they would think they did, because some truthy-sounding guy on the Internet told them he was clearing up their "misconceptions".
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Old 13th March 2019, 08:25 AM   #10
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A good example, I think, of why trying to convey cosmology (or indeed pretty much anything in science) in a "Tweet-length form" list is A Bad IdeaTM. Doubly so if you declare that the list is/contains "some true facts about cosmology".

For example:
Quote:
13. Dark matter exists. Anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background establish beyond reasonable doubt the existence of a gravitational pull in a direction other than where ordinary matter is located.
14. We havenít directly detected dark matter yet, but most of our efforts have been focused on Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. There are many other candidates we donít yet have the technology to look for. Patience.
It's hard to know where to start to unpack the "untrue facts", mention the not listed "true facts", etc.
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Old 13th March 2019, 10:03 AM   #11
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We have detected dark matter directly. Neutrinos are dark matter. There must be other forms which we haven’t detected because there aren’t enough neutrinos to account for that mass, but one particular form is quite well established.
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Old 13th March 2019, 01:41 PM   #12
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Here's a particularly misleading "true fact":

"Anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background establish beyond reasonable doubt the existence of a gravitational pull in a direction other than where ordinary matter is located."

No. The angular power spectrum has a feature that is consistent with the existence of CDM (Cold Dark Matter; note that neutrinos cannot be CDM, they are "hot"), but it says nothing at all about where it is located. In fact, other observations seem to show that there's very little CDM "other than where ordinary matter is located".

More: "a gravitational pull" assumes GR, the best theory of gravity we have, to date. Nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that there's serious work being done on alternative theories of gravity, and in some of those, CDM has nothing to do with "matter".

More generally, almost the whole list has the underlying "GR" assumption. Not stating this explicitly - especially when it can be said in "Twitter length form" - is A Really Bad OmissionTM.
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Old 13th March 2019, 02:57 PM   #13
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Given the actual state of cosmology, most of the list comes across like this:

20. There aren't really six Infinity Stones. Some theories require there to be as many as fourteen.
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Old 13th March 2019, 08:48 PM   #14
Ziggurat
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Given the actual state of cosmology, most of the list comes across like this:

20. There aren't really six Infinity Stones. Some theories require there to be as many as fourteen.
Great, now you spoiled Avengers 5 for me!
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Old 14th March 2019, 10:23 PM   #15
Robin
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Quote:
The early universe had a low entropy. It looks like a thermal gas, but thatís only high-entropy if we ignore gravity. A truly high-entropy Big Bang would have been extremely lumpy, not smooth.
It has always seemed reasonable to me that the early universe had low entropy because, hey, entropy increases right? I am pretty sure that is the somethingth law of something or other.

But then I read in Stenger's summary of "God, A failed hypothesis"

Quote:
A god who miraculously and supernaturally created the universe fails to agree with the empirical fact that no violations of physical law were required to produce the universe. It also fails to agree with established theories, based on empirical facts, which indicate that the universe began with maximum entropy and so retains no memory of a creator.
Maximum entropy? Not just high entropy, but "maximum"?
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Old 15th March 2019, 06:07 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
It has always seemed reasonable to me that the early universe had low entropy because, hey, entropy increases right?
With increasing volume it does.
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Old 17th March 2019, 02:05 AM   #17
Roboramma
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Maximum entropy? Not just high entropy, but "maximum"?
I think if you don't account for gravity, then, yeah.
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Old 17th March 2019, 11:16 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
"Correcting" one lay explanation with another lay explanation doesn't seem gain us much.

It's not like the guy who was saying "pop into existence" can now explain why he doesn't in any meaningful way. Any more than he could explain why he did in the first place. Unless you're teaching physics to grad students, one description is probably as good as the other.


Ummm... no?

There was time before.

There was no such thing as time before.

Both are layman explanations. Only one can be correct.
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