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Space Science

Pristine Big Bang Gas Found 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the drill-baby-drill dept.
New submitter cekerr sends this quote from Discovery News: "U.S. scientists have found two interstellar clouds of original gas, which contain only original elements created moments after the universe's birth (abstract). Unlike everything else in the universe, the gas clouds have never mingled with elements forged later in stars. The existence of pristine gas that formed minutes after the Big Bang explosion, some 13.7 billion years ago, had been predicted, but never before observed."
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Pristine Big Bang Gas Found

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 11, 2011 @12:39PM (#38026244)

    Why are you arguing against yourself? Or do you belong to that religion called Atheism that feels superior and must interject all of their thoughts into conversation as if they are priceless artifacts?

    Point being, bringing it up is like drawing attention to non-existent racism. Crying pre-emptive foul only detracts from the purpose of the article.

  • by fsckmnky (2505008) on Friday November 11, 2011 @12:46PM (#38026310)
    Really ... a supreme all powerful all knowing being, if one does/did exist, could certainly have created our entire observable universe, and all the laws of physics, inside a fish bowl on its coffee table for amusement. Science is indeed interesting, and useful, but only a fool claims to know for a fact, whether or not, a supreme does exist. A wise man understands and admits he does not know, because it is not possible to know, until such time as it is possible to know, if that time ever comes. In summary ... you aren't special, and you don't know the unknowable.
  • by Zephyn (415698) on Friday November 11, 2011 @12:51PM (#38026384)

    Because when a theory predicts that 'X ought to exist', and then later on you find solid empirical evidence of X, that makes the theory a lot more solid and provides a starting point for further avenues of research.

    Remember, the first step in figuring out how to get nature to work for you is figuring out how nature works.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 11, 2011 @12:52PM (#38026398)

    Lately after reading C.S.Lewis (his Christian writings), I have had this troubling thought: why after a couple of millenia or so, the vast majority of humanity is still believing in and worshiping a god that was invented by iron age people? And yet, if we say that there's no possibility of such a creature existing we're are called "arrogant". And yet those very same people would commit an adult who still believed in Santa Claus - or at least consider them to be "developmentally challenged".

    It's not just Judeo-Christianity, it's also Eastern Religions. I can't tell you how many lay people (mostly Chinese) at my Buddhist monastery who think Buddha had these "powers" - even though the historical Buddha was quite adamant that he possessed no such thing and he was a man and only a man.

    It's amazing that humanity has progressed at all. We may have fancier tools, but mentally and emotionally, we're pretty much the same as the people who created God. Some very wise things were said by the founders of the major religions but unfortunately, their teaching have been ignored for the sake of orthodoxy. And even after these centuries of scientific thought, most people cling to their old superstitions and defend them even at the expense of their neighbor's life.

    Humanity really disgusts me.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday November 11, 2011 @12:58PM (#38026478)

    Or do you belong to that religion called Atheism

    I see that you belong to a group that thinks not collecting stamps is a nice hobby.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 11, 2011 @01:00PM (#38026496)

    In analyzing the light coming from quasars (active nuclei of distant galaxies), astronomers realized the rays had passed through gas that contained only hydrogen and deuterium, elements that formed minutes after the Big Bang.

    So, the cloud contains only hydrogen and hydrogen but they refer to hydrogen as multiple elements? ;)

    I'm assuming they meant to say "The cloud contains nothing but two isotopes (hydrogen-1 and deuterium) of a single element, hydrogen.

    More seriously though, how can they conclusively state this is from the big bang? It's a big universe and there was bound to be a cloud containing only hydrogen somewhere. There is probably a cloud containing nothing but radon (the heaviest elemental gas) somewhere in the universe as well, right? If that exists would it disprove the big bang, or would it simply have been there by chance for billions of years, just like this one could have been?

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Friday November 11, 2011 @01:08PM (#38026600)
    with fart jokes and a discussion about religion...
  • by cobrausn (1915176) on Friday November 11, 2011 @01:13PM (#38026662)
    I think using the term 'discussion' for what's going on up there is being a bit too generous.
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday November 11, 2011 @01:16PM (#38026736)

    So what?

    The greatest feature of science is that the person doesn't matter. It makes no difference if Darwin was a god hating rascist trying to justify his hate. It makes no difference if Newton liked to try to turn lead into gold. It makes no difference if Lemaitre was attempting to reconcile his faith and science. It makes no difference if scientist X was a pedophile and serial killer.

    As long as the ideas match observation and make some testable prediction science as a whole can take them and benefit from them. Even if major shifts will be met with resistance because scientists are egotistical humans, over time the theories which best match observation will win out.

    Whereas in religion it makes a difference. An unrepetentant rascist serial killer's explanations of the sacrifice of Jesus can be dismissed just because of the person making them. Following his moral guidelines would be a bad idea. Testing his scientific theories and keeping those that provide a better explanation that better matches reality is perfectly fine.

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Friday November 11, 2011 @01:18PM (#38026782) Homepage
    "Atheism is a religion in the same sense as not collecting stamps is a hobby."
  • by LanMan04 (790429) on Friday November 11, 2011 @02:18PM (#38027744)

    See, that sounds like a belief in a lack of gods, not a lack of belief in gods to me.

    There are a nearly infinite number of things that people don't believe (like an invisible unicorn that lives under my fingernail)

    Does that mean most people have a "positive belief" in a lack of fingernail-dwelling invisible unicorns...or maybe it's just the default, common-sense, extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence-come-back-when-you-have-some position?

  • by jc42 (318812) on Friday November 11, 2011 @02:20PM (#38027794) Homepage Journal

    ... since any god worth mentioning is not a testable theory, your statement is logically equivalent to "atheism is the belief that no god exists."

    Oh, I dunno; standard scientific methods can and often do distinguish between skepticism and active disbelief. Thus, if a species is known to live in a very narrow niche, and hasn't been seen for a while, people might suggest that the species may be extinct. This is the "skepticism" phase. If enough field workers look around in places where the species should be able to live, and none of them report finding it, eventually the species goes to "likely extinct", and eventually to "believed extinct".

    Any statistician should be able to give you the numbers on such testing. As your observation set grows to a larger part of the specie's possible range, the probability that it still exists in unexamined areas decreases in a predictable way.

    Actually, the statistical equations for this have a consequence that most people find counter-intuitive. Example: A few decades ago, it was calculated that there was about a 50% probability that a large mammal species "undiscovered by science" (i.e., not published in any taxonomies) still existed on Earth. The term "large" was intentionally vague, but meant something roughly human-size or larger. Then, a few years ago, a "new" species of deer was discovered in Asia. Statisticians had fun pointing out that this meant that the probability that more large mammal species exist had increased. This puzzled a lot of people. If we'd discovered one of a tiny remaining set, shouldn't there be one fewer species in that set now?

    Of course, one way of making this sensible is to note that, strictly speaking, what had been shown was that scientific field work had been less effective than previously thought. In particular, this "new" species was known to the humans who lived in the area; they just hadn't been in contact with any biologists who kept lists of species. There are presumably other similar cases scattered around the world, and the discovery of one meant that we hadn't looked closely enough. Or maybe not; maybe that was the last undocumented large mammal.

    Applying all this to the existence of a god or gods is straightforward. Thus, many religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, claim a god who (according to their sacred texts) has in the past often actively intervened in human affairs. He even once devastated the world and exterminated many innocent species to punish wayward humans for their sins. You'd think that it would be easy to get such a god to reveal His presence in the current world, which has even more humans in dire need of punishment for their sins.

    But over the past few centuries, we have collected lots of data about the recent disasters in our world, and the data shows fairly clearly that the disasters' effects are essentially uncorrelated with the local human activity. If any god was directing our recent disasters, that god is apparently rather incompetent at punishing the right sinners. Thus, when religious people claimed that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for the sins of the residents of New Orleans (a Sin City if there ever was one), people quickly pointed out that the French Quarter (the center of the local sinning) wasn't damaged. Scientists and engineers would point out that the French Quarter is one of the few parts of the city that's above sea level, so whatever god may have been involved must be too feeble to even push the water level up by a few meters.

    But the most reasonable conclusion, supported by basic textbook scientific methodology, is that our planet has no god that has the interest and ability to intervene the way our religious texts claim that God has intervened in the past. Yes, this isn't proof that there's no god around. But, as is often pointed out, absolute proof of a negative is difficult, and scientific methods rarely if ever actually "prove" anything. Sci

  • by lgw (121541) on Friday November 11, 2011 @02:29PM (#38027920) Journal

    Science is all about unproven concepts, and rest firmly upon a bunch of them - even setting aside that we don't prove anything in science, proof is for mathematics, which also rests on nothing but unproven concepts.

    Often these unproven concepts are called "axioms" (which, by definition,canot be proven), but there are a few things simply taken on faith, especially the "Copernican" assertion: here is not special, now is not special. There are several related articles of faith that ground all empiricism (e.g., we are not in the Matrix, there is not a God who changes the laws of nature on a whim). There's a whole stack of assumptions, mostly ignored because there's no way to do science if they're false, so you go on assuming that the universe isn't actively tricking you because otherwise, what's the point?

  • by jc42 (318812) on Friday November 11, 2011 @02:36PM (#38028010) Homepage Journal

    ... I hope you'll at least agree that atheism *is* based on beliefs much in the same way that religion is based on beliefs.

    Yeah, it's based on the belief that, as Bertrand Russell put it, one shouldn't believe anything for which there isn't any evidence.

  • Re:Are we alone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday November 11, 2011 @03:11PM (#38028460)

    Let's assume for a second that an alien race existed that got advanced enough to build something big. First of all, how big would it need to be to be detected by us? Currently, we are on the verge of detecting Earth-sized planets. Even when we detect these, it isn't some telescope taking ultra-HD photos of the planet. It's a detection of gravitational effects or seeing the star's light dim as the planet passes between us and the star. So I'd wager we'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between an alien built Ultra-Planet-Sized-Death-Orb and Naturally Occurring Planet #52. Anything smaller than star-sized would either be mistaken as a naturally occurring object or would go completely unnoticed.

    So now our alien race has advanced to the point that they can build space-constructs the size of a star. Now, we'd need to actually detect it. For that, we need to ask where are they? Are they in the Milky Way? If not, chances are we see their galaxy and not them. Even if they are in the Milky Way, if they are on the far side we might not notice their object because it is blocked by the rest of the galaxy.

    Then there's the problem of distance. Remember, looking into the sky is like looking into the past. Suppose this alien civilization is 100,000 years ahead of us. If they are 10 light years away, no problem. We'll just see things the way they were 10 years ago. If they are 100,000 light years away, though, we'll see things the way they were when they were at our technological level. A million light years away and we'll be seeing them when they were cave-aliens. (And I use the term "seeing them" loosely. See the first point.)

    So even if an alien built a giant object in space, they would need to position it just right and have it be positioned at the right time for us to spot it. At this point, the fact that we haven't seen any aliens has more to do with the size of the universe and our detection abilities than whether or not aliens exist. This doesn't mean that they do exist. Just that lack of proof of existence doesn't equal proof of non-existence.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

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