Cosmologists Dragged Kicking and Screaming to the Anthropic Principle

Those who view science as a dispassionate, logical pursuit of the truth should savor the emotions in two articles by Tom Siegfried about cosmology in Science this week.1,2  He reported on the passionate rivalry between theoretical physicists who embrace superstring theory as the eventual “theory of everything” and those who oppose it because of its […]

Theory Battles Observations in Near-Field Cosmology

Which is more important in science: a consistent model, or a good fit with observations?  Clearly both would be the ideal.  A report in Science1 this week revealed that astronomers are having trouble holding the two together.  The problem is especially acute for near-field cosmology that deals with nearby galaxies.     It may seem […]

Paper View:  Why SETI Hears Only a “Great Silence”

Enrico Fermi posed a curious question in 1950: “Where is everybody?”  If life emerges on planets as a consequence of evolution, there should be other intelligent civilizations out there, and some of them must have colonized other worlds.  He thought there must have been plenty of time for galactic colonizers to achieve technologies far beyond […]

The Universe Is Made Out of… Fudge!

[Guest article]  According to the July issue of Astronomy magazine, the Universe is comprised mostly of fudge – or at least fudge factors, anyway.  The article by James Trefil from George Mason University describes the current thinking among astrophysicists as to the eventual fate of the universe.  Since the Big Bang, there has been an […]

Paper View:  Cosmic Questions, Personal Implications

A good question provokes good thinking.  It stimulates the imagination and inspires reasoning about profound issues.  It focuses attention on problems, calls for clarification of assumptions, and leads to good follow-up questions, too.  Such a good question was asked in four simple words by Sean M. Carroll1 (U of Chicago, Enrico Fermi Institute) this month […]

Unconstant Constant Could Challenge Basic Physics

“Shifting constant could shake laws of nature,” said Mark Peplow in Nature.1  “From the speed of light to the charge on an electron, the fundamental constants of physics had been assumed to be immutable,” he continued.  “But that comfortable assumption is being challenged.”  The latest challenge is ratio of the mass of a proton to […]

More Hints at Early Origin of Stars, Galaxies

Several articles this month showed further evidence for a growing realization in astronomy: stars and galaxies were already mature at the beginning of the universe (see, for instance, 09/21/2005 entry).  Some recent examples: Spitzer Clusters:  JPL issued a press release stating that the Spitzer Space Telescope, on a “cosmic safari,” found evidence for clusters of […]

Spiral Galaxies Wind Up Into Blurs In Short Cosmological Time

Cosmic billions of years received another challenge.  Sky and Telescope reported on a announcement by Michael R. Merrifield (University of Nottingham, England), Richard J. Rand and Sharon E. Meidt (University of New Mexico) in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that they measured the velocity of gases in the spiral galaxy, M77, and found […]

Big Bang Threatened by Axis of Evil

“We thought we knew all about the Big Bang – but a blip in the cosmic afterglow is threatening our ideas,” reported Marcus Chown in The Independent.  The “Axis of Evil” he speaks of is not North Korea and Iran, but a newly found polarity in the cosmic background radiation that is not explainable by […]

ID Film Takes Hollywood

Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard is a top tourist attraction in Tinseltown.  It features dozens of handprints of famous movie and TV stars, from Lucille Ball and Bill Cosby to Mickey Mouse.  This venue of many a blockbuster and glitzy opening night seemed hardly a place for naturalistic cosmology to take a thrashing, but […]

Cosmologists Can’t Escape Conclusion of Design

Geoff Brumfiel of Nature1 decided to investigate the growing fracas over the anthropic principle (see 12/18/2005 entry); i.e., that our universe appears to be more than a coincidence.  In a piece called “Our universe: Outrageous fortune,” he looked at the views of Leonard Susskind and his few critics. For two decades now, theorists in the […]

Choose You This Day: Multiverse or I.D.

If Leonard Susskind is right, cosmologists are escaping the conclusion of intelligent design (ID) by backing into a radically speculative idea: a near infinity of universes.  Susskind, a theoretical physicist from Stanford, just published a book, Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design (Little, Brown 2005), that explores current cosmological thinking about […]

SETI vs. Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design proponents have often pointed to the similarity between what they are doing and what SETI is doing.  For example, SETI is attempting to detect evidence of intelligence in coded signals from space, and design biologists are detecting evidence of intelligence in the DNA code.  Seth Shostak, Director of the SETI Institute, decided to […]

Grown Man in the Stellar Crib: Now What?

The cover of Science News has a strange cartoon explained on the inside in an article by Ron Cowen: Imagine peering into a nursery and seeing, among the cooing babies, a few that look like grown men.  That’s the startling situation that astronomers have stumbled upon as they’ve looked deep into space and thus back […]

Another Record Distant Galaxy Found

The Spitzer Space Telescope found a “positively gigantic” galaxy at a time the universe was supposedly only 800 million years old – just 5% the assumed age of the universe – according to a press release from Jet Propulsion Lab.  For the galaxy to be this big that far back, it must have “bulked up […]
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