Friday, June 13, 2008

"Inflation Deflated?"

That title wasn't written here, but news has reached this week's cover of New Scientist that the old theory may be in trouble. In the late 1970's Alan Guth and others suggested that the early universe expanded at warp speed, many times faster than light. Though it solved problems with the Big Bang, inflation would violate both the First Law of Thermodynamics and Relativity's stipulation that nothing moves faster than light. The trouble with inflation was even subject of the editorial:

Why the Best Theories Aren't Always Right

"The theory has inspired a generation of experiments and observations that have hugely increased our understanding of the universe. Questioning and replacing long-held ideas is what science does best."

For decades inflation has served as a useful step. No one has a clue what could make the universe expand faster than light. The multitude of theories rely on mysterious "scalar fields" or "inflaton potentials." None of these fantasies has ever been observed in nature. Though it has been good for theorist's careers, inflation can not be proven. Humans can not time travel to the first 10^{-33} seconds, and no human experiment can approach the titanic energies near the Big Bang.

We can search the Cosmic Microwave Background for signs of inflation. At a conference in Cambridge last December, physicist Benjamin Wandelt showed evidence of non-gaussianity in the CMB. Inflation predicts that the CMB should be the same at all scales and in all directions. Discovery of non-gaussianity would be evidence that inflation is leaking. Wandelt's preliminary results have reached the critical pages of Physical Review Letters v. 100, 181301, Evidence of primordial non-gaussianity (f) in the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe Data at 2.8$\sigma$

"But it has its flaky side too. Michael Turner of the University of Chicago compares it to a patchwork of duct tape repair. 'It might last for 10 years, but it won't last forever,' he says."

The magazine also quotes Paul Steinhardt, one of the original architects of inflation who has abandoned ship and is working on cyclic universes. Neil Turok, who works with Steinhardt on alternatives to inflation, has recently been named head of Perimeter Institute. More and more big scientists are expressing their doubts. The PLANCK spacecraft to be launched next year will examine the CMB with much greater accuracy, possibly finding evidence that drives nails in the coffin.

New Scientist concludes with an optimistic note:

"Why would this be good news? Because we might then be forced to go back to the drawing board and conjure up a deeper, more satisfying theory. this could be based on existing alternatives to the inflation and cyclic universe ideas--theories that invoke a varying speed of light or modified gravity..."

Did someone say speed of light? We are winning this game! Questioning and replacing long-held ideas is what we do. (Attacking new ideas is what children with computers do.) It is a painfully long process, but eventually the mass of scientists will drift this way.

On the plane from Washington, one of the movies was STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT. Mr. Worf's line to the Borg: "Assimilate this!"

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Kea said...

Oh, I read this nice article yesterday at a news stand (causing me to miss my bus). I really like the bandaged balloon pictures.

8:49 AM
robert d said...

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Suppose instead the antithesis. Nothing can travel slower than the speed of light. What differences would one expect to observe?

Life is Good,

d

9:06 AM
nige said...

"Why the Best Theories Aren't Always Right" - New Scientist editorial, http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg19826592.900-editorial-why-the-best-theories-arent-always-right.html

Thanks for quoting this classically absurd New Scientist editorial headline! It's a great title, telling us a lot about the thinking of the editor.

Personally, I think that a scientist should hold the viewpoint that the best theory is the correct theory.

As soon as you start believing that theories which are not right are the best theories, you enter the "doublespeak" world of delusion discussed by George Orwell in 1984.

Notice that the New Scientist editorial tells the lie:

"When Copernicus showed that the observations fitted more elegantly with a theory in which the Earth went around the sun, Ptolemy's work became redundant."

This was debunked by Arthur Koestler in his 1959 masterpiece of research, "The Sleepwalkers".

Koestler counted the number of epicycles used by Ptolemy and by Copernicus (both needed epicycles, since they used perfect circles to describe orbits, not ellipses which were only discovered long after Copernicus by Kepler who used Brahe's detailed observations to work out the orbit of Mars).

Koestler found that Ptolemy used about 40, and Copernicus used 80.

This is hardly the "elegant" simplicity that the New Scientist editorial claims; it is ugly complexity.

The reason was that Copernicus was only partly right; he wrongly used many epicycles (twice as many as Ptolemy) because he missed out the fact that planets go in elliptical shaped orbits, rather than lots of circles within circles.

Copernicus' circular orbits with circular epicycles (within the circular orbits) was proposed in 1500 AD. Kepler discovered that Copernicus's model was wrong in all the mathematical details when he discovered circa 1610 that the planets move in ellipses. It was only on the back of Kepler's three accurate laws of planetary motion (based on new observations by Tycho Brahe, the astronomer who had lost his nose in a sword duel), that Newton was able to come up with three general laws of motion, ending the medieval era for physics.

The New Scientist editorial continues:

"Questioning and replacing long-held ideas is what science does best. Copernicus could not have happened without Ptolemy."

This is ignoring Aristarchus of Samos, who came up with the solar system of Copernicus (minus some of Copernicus's false epicycles) in 250 BC, some 1750 years before Copernicus!

I can't believe that the editor of the New Scientist really believes that a false theory doctrine was helpful. It wasn't. Copernicus failed to publish until he was on his deathbed. If it hadn't been for Ptolemy's rubbish, progress would have happened a lot faster.

E.g., when you read Ptolemy's Almagest (published in 150 AD) - you can find Ptolemy's Almagest together with Copernicus and Kepler in volume 16 of Encyclopedia Britannica's series from 1952, "Great Books of the Western World" (volume 11 in that series is also vital reading for scientists) - you see that Ptolemy made slighting attacks against the solar system theory.

Ptolemy declared that if the solar system was right, the Earth would need to be spinning on its axis daily, which isn't true because clouds near the equator would be flying across the sky at an immense speed (over 1000 miles/hour). Notice that Ptolemy was writing this in 150 AD, over 1500 years before Newton wrote down the three basic laws of motion.

So Ptolemy had no basis for claiming that the solar system was wrong because clouds should be left behind by the Earth's spin. It was completely junk "debunking" - he was using speculative guesswork to deduce a false "prediction" from the solar system, then claiming that because the false prediction is in disagreement with nature, the solar system must be wrong!

This is very similar to some of the crackpotism that occurs when the Fatio or LeSage gravity mechanism is discussed: physicists want to ignore mechanism or to pretend that there is no basis for it so they falsely claim that any exchange radiation which mediates forces would heat up objects like ordinary heat radiation, or that exchange radiation would cause drag and slow things down. These objections are insubstantial because in any quantum field theory, forces are caused by the exchange of field quanta. This has been established in the accurate tests of quantum field theories of electromagnetism, the weak interactions and the strong force. The field quanta don't cause objects to heat up, despite the fact that all of these interactions have a much higher coupling than gravity does! The objectors are confusing real/observable radiation for the exchange radiation (which has extra polarizations, e.g. a the field quanta of electromagnetism have four polarizations rather than the two polarizations of observable photons), so they aren't the same thing. Gauge bosons don't cause objects to heat up, they just cause fundamental forces. Nobody in the mainstream objects to exchange radiations in the Standard Model, including electromagnetism which is a long-range, inverse-square law like gravitation, so they shouldn't try to ridicule a basic mechanism using such hypocritical, unethical and ignorant nonsense.

The physical mechanism of New Scientist's editorials in the universe is to slow down the development of physics by defending ignorance.

For the editor to defend Ptolemy by saying that Copernicus required Ptolemy's bigotry and nonsense to bog down physics for 1350 years (150 AD - 1500 AD), is like saying that Churchill and his supporters really owe a debt of gratitude to Hitler because World War II wouldn not have been won without Hitler causing the initial problem. While a moron might be swept along by such an argument, anyone sensible will raise the point that although World War II wouldn't have been won without dictators, the world would have been better off not having the war at all!

Ptolemy's Almagest is the most evil work ever written, due to not just ignoring the correct model, but ridiculing it for false reasons and not properly analysing it (the correct solar system model, albeit with circular orbits not ellipses, had been published by Aristarchus of Samos in 250 BC but was lost when the library of Alexandria burned down, because it hadn't been copied due to mainstream ignorant bigotry such as that spread by people like Ptolemy).

I recommend the book by Robert R. Newton, "The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy", John Hopkins University Press, London, 1979.

9:57 AM
nige said...

In his book 1984, published in 1949, Orwell actually uses astronomy to illustrate doublethink:

'What are the stars?' said O'Brien indifferently. 'They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.' Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O'Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection: 'For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?'

The editor of New Scientist is actually well in tune with O'Brien's doublethink.

10:11 AM
Matti Pitkanen said...

These CMB data are fascinating and provided just what was needed to make progress also at the theoretical level in quantum TGD.

In TGD framework quantum criticality for hbar increasing phase transition replaces inflation: large scale fluctuations are associated with this phase transition, they need not have anything to do with primordiality.

By looking at some basic facts about fluctuations and their anomalies, I realized that symplectic QFT, an analog of conformal QFT, would be a very natural candidate for describing correlation functions of CMB in TGD framework.

Symplectic invariants (areas of geodesic triangles of sphere of last scattering or at most 4-gons) would be the basic functional building blocks of n-point functions. Fusion rules should fix highly uniquely the fluctuation spectrum.

Some basic predictions are non-Gaussianity and the vanishing of n-point functions for short distances between any argument pair (2-point correlation function indeed vanishes).

Also hemispherical asymmetry and the strange evidence for correlations between galactic geometry and fluctuation spectrum could be understood but only if one accepts that gigantic gravitational Planck constants are reality so that quantum measurements is cosmic scales inducing this kind of correlations are possible. The "right-minded" alternative is of course to say that there is some unidentified galactic foreground involved.

Symplectic QFT in much more general sense would form a natural part of quantum TGD besides conformal QFT:s and fusion of these notions is what would be needed.

For details see my blog postings (this and this).

P.S. A comment to Robert: In TGD framework basic dynamical entities are light-like 3-surfaces (analogous but more general expanding light wave fronts) so that in this sense nothing can travel slower than light! Because this motion is otherwise random, one obtains subliminal velocities and massivation as one looks things with a finite resolution.

6:57 PM
Anonymous said...

Hints of "time before Big Bang":

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/
nature/7440217.stm

10:28 PM