Thursday, October 27, 2005

Two Against the Big Bang

Before the Big Bang gained prominence as the theory, it was just one theory that explained how the universe came to be -- or more accurately, where all the hydrogen and helium came from. The was another theory, the steady state theory -- or view -- of the universe. With the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, predicted by the Big Bang theorists, steady state theory went to the grave -- or as mentioned in the Discover magazine article, Two Against the Big Bang, still on that journey to the grave.

There are still two die-hard supporters of the steady state view of the universe -- and knowing who they are, it is hard to believe they are so easily dismissed by their fellow scientists. Margaret Barbidge and Geoffrey Barbidge are in their 80s, and are still practicing astronomers who don't believe the Big Bang theory has answered all of the questions.

The Burbidges claim to fame is pretty significant. They (along with contributor William Fowler; but Fred Hoyle, the pioneer of nucleosynthesis and also a contributor, did win) took home the Nobel Prize in Physics for their 1957 work, the Synthesis of the Elements in Stars, where they detailed how nuclear reactions in stars "rip apart the basic building blocks of matter and put them back together again to create new and complex elements." Their work is a significant piece of the puzzle that is our universe.

So when the Burbidges question the completeness of the Big Bang theory to explain the universe, you'd think their arguments would carry some weight. Unfortunately, because the Burbidges haven't thrown in the towel, and still see steady state as a viable theory to explain the universe, they have been marginalized -- and for what? For really claiming that maybe we still don't have all the answers.

Steady state theory suggests that the universe may not actually have a beginning -- no point source that went "bang" -- but that new matter may be created from multiple sources, at many times, during the life of the universe. This universe has always existed. The Burbidges believe that quasars may be a potential source for the new matter created in the universe that their theory espouses. According to Big Bang theorists however, quasars are from the early universe, and does not exist in the universe today -- proving that the universe hasn't always been the same, but is changing. The Burbidges argue that the high redshifts exhibited by quasars is due to them moving faster than the expansion of the universe -- they believe that quasars are being expelled from galaxies -- which would put quasars nearby.

At the heart of this argument that the Burbidges continue to have with their peers, is how scientific progress should be made. The Burbidges believe that science should first observe, then theorize to explain the observation -- they don't think that theories should come first then a search made to find an observation to back it up. That is why the holes in the Big Bang theory, resulting from observations, are being plugged by theorectical dark matter and dark energy theories. Maybe we don't know everything yet -- and with this I have to agree with the Burbidges -- and maybe the steady state theory is wrong -- but until we know that the Big Bang does explain everything, maybe steady state shouldn't be forgotten.

Related reading:


  1. Neither theory explains the origins of the universe but the Big Bang models it down to 10^-33 seconds. That's pretty darn good by any standard. For my money, steady state was relegated the way of Lamarckian biology with the discovery of CMB and the red shift.

  2. I felt happy with this article.I felt sorry that the most of the gaints of astrophysics supporting steady state theory passed away.
    I am also supporter of Steady State theory.
    Due to my personal troubles I am not able to mingle with scientific community.
    I have written some books. If any body is interested and affordable please read these books and develop the theory of steady state concept.
    1 Kodukula, S. P.: Heart of the God with Grand proof Equation - A classical approach to quantum theory (ISBN 978-0-557-08995-6),Raleigh,North Corolina (2009)
    2. Kodukula,S.P.:Cosmological focus on Particle Physics and Genetics(ISBN978-0-557-07724- 3)., Raleigh, North Corolina (2009)
    3. Kodukula,S.P.: Double Relativity Effect & Film Theory Of the Universe (ISBN 978-0-557- 07712-0), Raleigh , North Corolina (2009)

    From INDIA


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