Thank you, ST LOUIS for being gateway to the American West, building a great arch, financing Lindbergh's flight and being home to the McDonnell-Douglas plant, among other things. Many pilots have enjoyed the "Viking" takeoff, when an F-15 fresh from the factory lifts off and does an immediate 90 degree climb. Thank you also for reaching the milestone of 1000+ viewings! Welcome, PARIS to the 100 viewings club. I would love to hear from you sometime.
Concerning Steve Irwin, we should all applaud those willing to take risks. Today it is easy to be anonymous hiding behind a computer terminal. Sticking one's neck out invites criticism, slings and arrows. If not for the Steven Irwins, the Jacqueline Cochrans, or the Einsteins the world would not move forward. We need to encourage potential leaders not snipe at them.
When Stephen Hawking first proposed that Black Holes give off radiation, the idea seemed to defy common sense. The moderator of his talk got up and said, "Sorry Stephen, but this is absolute rubbish." Fortunately, others checked Hawking's calculation and the idea was soon accepted. Hawking's startling idea began his climb to fame.
Alan Guth first proposed the inflationary idea to explain problems with Big Bang cosmology, like uniformity in the microwave background and the apparent flatness. Inflation predicts that quantum density fluctuations expanded to form the seeds of structures. Because this idea was couched in the language of particle physics, it was quickly accepted. Now that the older generation is preparing to move on, new ideas are needed. Even the inflationary paradigm is leaking.
To answer Mahndisa's wise question: It is fashionable to say that the Universe is flat, like the Earth. Even the tiniest mass causes it to be curved. If you squeeze a cosmologist, they will admit that it must have begun with a finite topology, like a sphere. Inflation would have expanded a sphere so big that it would appear flat to our experience. Like an insect's view of the Earth, it is only flat if you can't conceive all of it!
It is also fashionable to say that WMAP "proves" inflation. The incredible force that would make the Universe expand at warp speed is still just a speculation. Inflation predicts that density fluctuations are the same at all scales. In fact, fluctuations are virtually zero for angles greater than 60 degrees, disproving inflation's prediction.
The above graph was given to me by Dr. Ned Wright of the WMAP team. As you can see, inflation's predicted spectrum is ruled out by both WMAP and COBE. The red line is a prediction of a Unified Space/Time. This prediction is hard to distinguish from the data points. Lack of large-scale fluctuations shows that the Universe is curved, just as a ship disappearing over the horizon shows that Earth is round.
Some people refused to peer in Galileo's telescope for fear of upsetting their Ptolemaic worldview. A growing number of cosmologists are aware of deficiencies in the "standard model." The WMAP team's latest report concludes: "An alternative model that better fits the low l data would be an exciting development." Time to look at those new models, boys!