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No. 124: Jul-Aug 1999

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A New Cosmology

In the April 1999 issue of Physics Today -- certainly a mainstream publication, but occasionally daring -- we find a long, technically deep article outlining a new cosmology that jettisons the Big Bang and even redshifts as infallible measures of cosmological distances. It should come as no surprise that the authors are G. Burbidge, F. Hoyle, and J.V. Narlikar. They propose a quasi-steady-state universe to replace the hot Big Bang.

It is easy to itemize narrow, specific problems bedeviling the Big Bang, but the three "boat-rockers" listed above also have an important philosophical bone to pick with modern astronomers and cosmologists.

"The theory departs increasingly from known physics, until ultimately the energy source of the universe is put in as an initial condition, the energy supposedly coming from somewhere else. Because that "somewhere else" can have any properties that suit the theoretician, supporters of Big Bang cosmology gain for themselves a large bag of free parameters that can subsequently be tuned as the occasion may require.
"We do not think that science should be done in that way. In science as we understand it, one works from an initial situation, known from observation or experiment, to a later situation that is also known. That is the way physical laws are tested. In the currently popular form of cosmology, by contrast, the physical laws are regarded as already known and an explanation of the later situation is sought by guessing at parameters appropriate to the initial state. We think this approach does not merit the high esteem that cosmologists commonly accord it."

We have neither the space nor the expertise to lay out before you the details of the new Burbidge-Hoyle-Narlikar cosmology. Suffice that it involves black holes residing in galactic centers performing as "minicreation" centers, thereby replacing the one-time Big Bang creation event.

The aspect of the new theory that amazes the most is the acceptance of the Arp heresy: that some quasars possess intrinsic red shifts not associated with the expanding universe. They write:

"Nonetheless, observations over many years have accumulated good statistical evidence that many high-redshift quasars are physically associated with galaxies with very much smaller redshifts."

So, at least some prominent scientists accept Arp's conclusions.

(Burbidge, Geoffry, et al; "A Different Approach to Cosmology," Physics Today, 52:38, April 1999.)

Comment. "Minicreation events"? Creation is creation, whether the events are big or small!

From Science Frontiers #124, JUL-AUG 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss