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Math Science

The Big Bang Vs. the Big Rumble 220

WBUR radio in Boston hosts a talk with two physicists, Alan Guth and Neil Turok, who represent, respectively, the consensus theory of the inflationary Big Bang and an upstart theory of the initiation of the universe in the collision of two three-dimensional "branes." Turok and Paul Steinhardt developed their "Ekpyrotic proposal" out of the mathematics behind string theory. In the audio the two physicists are perhaps more respectful of one another's views than the host wishes them to be. If you ignore the "let's you and him fight" framing of the debate, you will hear some interesting physics elucidated.
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The Big Bang Vs. the Big Rumble

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  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:40AM (#19369529)
    This is total nonsense. Every intelligent person knows that the universe was created in a TimeCube [], not a bang or a rumble, however big deluded people may think they are. You were educated stupid.
  • Spaghetti (Score:3, Funny)

    by Swizec ( 978239 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:50AM (#19369581) Homepage
    Everybody knows the spaghetti monster create the universe, all this nonsense of bangs and rumbles is what happened in the postgenesis spaghetti fart.
    • Fundamentalist nonsense! The big rumble is perfectly compatible with the Pastafarian faith, the two branes that collided are of course his noodly appendages!
  • Link to MP3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:55AM (#19369601)
    For the lazy []
  • Neil Turok (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:56AM (#19369605)
    He looks a little wimpy to be a dinosaur hunter.. And "Neil" is a little improbable as a first name, too.
    • Yeah and did you ever notice that wall of haze that follows 2 feet in front of him everywhere he goes? What the hell is up with that?
  • Obviously (Score:3, Funny)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:15AM (#19369695)
    initiation of the universe in the collision of two thee-dimensional "branes."

    I believe that it's the King Jame's version.
    • by MortimerV ( 896247 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:25AM (#19369727) Homepage
      initiation of the universe in the collision of two thee-dimensional "branes."

      I'm more interested in this. Could we have been misunderstanding zombies all this time?
      • Maybe I can get some suggestions for the set-up on this q&a joke. The obvious set-up, "what do string theorists and zombies talk about during lunch?" (Mmmmm-brayns!) Is a bit weak. It needs some depth and resonance, and probably a secondary physics allusion as well.
  • Listen to it! (Score:5, Informative)

    by massivefoot ( 922746 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:21AM (#19369709)
    To anyone who's got this far without having downloaded the mp3 [], go listen to it! It is actually quite interesting. And to anyone who's ever been lectured by Turok, don't worry, he isn't that bad when he's actually interested in what he's talking about...
    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )
      And to anyone who's ever been lectured by Turok, don't worry, he isn't that bad when he's actually interested in what he's talking about...

      I didn't get lectured him, but I did watch him hunting dinosaurs.
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:30AM (#19369743)
    Sorry. Couldn't resist.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:43AM (#19369807)
    The whole "Ekpyrotic" idea was well and thoroughly proven wrong by Andrei Linde in his work entitled "Pyrotechnic Universe".
    Ever since that happened (2001) Mr. Steinhardt cannot accept that he's wrong and he still tries to make the pig fly. Since he cannot convince anybody in the academic community that the pig does fly he tries to get around that with press releases and radio shows. Good way to do science for a Princeton professor.
    • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @09:33AM (#19370699) Homepage Journal
      Actually nothing has been 'proven' with regards to the beginning of the Universe. Everything is still theory, and while significant holes have been blown in the ekpyrotic model, I've no doubt that the 'real truth' if ever found will probably look significantly different from either the Big Bang or the Ekpyrotic model.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What I mean by "proven wrong" is the prediction of a very well measured quantity, the spectral index of perturbations of the Cosmic Microwave Background. The WMAP satellite has taken data for about 6 years (and is still taking data) and the spectral index has been measured to be 0.951 + 0.015 - 0.019 : .html []

        The Ekpyrotic model makes an actual prediction for the spectral index; the value is -3. Initially the authors of the ekpyrotic model have calculated a
      • You have no doubt why? If you want to go against common scientific knowledge you need some very convincing evidence/reasoning.
        • I should have said I have little doubt, mainly because of history. I'm fairly certain that future models will make our current understanding of cosmology seem feeble and even wrong, because time and again advances in our understanding of the cosmos have revealed to us how little we really know.
      • by jc42 ( 318812 )
        Actually nothing has been 'proven' with regards to the beginning of the Universe. Everything is still theory, ...

        Maybe you mean "hypothesis". There has been precious little real testing of any of these supposed "theories", for fairly obvious reasons, and tests are usually required for something to be accepted as "theory" in scientific circles. They're all good for science-fiction writers, but I'd also guess that when we eventually find a way to test them systematically, we'll find that we need to think up
  • by jpatters ( 883 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:55AM (#19369853)
    "Brane and brane, what is brane?
    • Re:Spock's Brane (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @07:23AM (#19369983)
      brane comes from membrane. You got your 1-branes which are the "classic" cosmic strings. But of course they say that there are n-branes (0-branes, 2-branes etc.)

      You see theoretical scientists (you know the ones that have been working on stuff for decades and still don't have a single experimental piece of evidence) like to make up terminology and throw around big scary formulas to justify wasting time and money working on stuff that cannot even be proven experimentally. Sorry for the bitterness, but I wouldn't even call these people scientists. They might as well say that a giant spaghetti monster [] flies around and his noodly appendages form tiny knots and those knots are the elementary particles....BUT...OMG! the appendages are so thin that we cannot experimentally detect their presence...but they are there, trust us, here is a big hairy formula (don't worry about the solutions for know) it proves everything -- Give us another PhD!

      • Maybe all mathematicians are actually zombies. That'd explain their relentless need for "Braaaaannessssss ..."

        C'mon. I can't be the only one here who was thinking this ... right?

        As for the FSM reference, I think you just found a way to sneak religion into the schooling curriculum via the mathematics conduit. Well done. I look forward to the Kansas Board of Education mandating textbook updates. I wonder if there's a correlation between Cosmic Creation Brane Theory and species extinction. Perhaps th
      • "Sorry for the bitterness, but I wouldn't even call these people scientists."

        I'm not at all bitter yet I wouldn't call them scientists, due mainly to the fact they are talking about mathematics. Much the same way as Eienstien talked about spacetime as a mathematical curiosity until it's predictions were observed, or the fact that black holes were discovered by pencil and paper well before they were found with a telescope. Given the uncanny ability of maths to model the Universe I am inclined to say let t
      • by raddan ( 519638 )
        Einstein didn't exactly do a lot of experimentation. But I understand your point.
    • Perhaps you meant to ask, "Mmmmm, Brane, what are we going to do tomorrow?" To which the reply is obvious: "Same thing we do every day, Pinky -- try to create the universe!"
  • by Adult film producer ( 866485 ) <> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @07:38AM (#19370051)
    just for a second and let these guys talk.. stop injecting himself into the conversation and stop trying to cast doubt on science with the stupid comments like, "Oh look, scientists are flip-flopping on the big bang.. are you freaked out? is science supposed to work this way? some folk in the heartland will be skeptical of this."
    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )

      some folk in the heartland will be skeptical of this.
      Yeah, and some tribe in the middle of the amazon might not understand or care about it at all! Who the fuck cares?
  • by Eukariote ( 881204 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @07:51AM (#19370119)

    The cosmologies described here are based on the inference that the universe is expanding in a manner proportional to the observed roughly constant redshift-to-distance ratio (Hubble constant). The idea is that as space is stretched, the wavelength of light is stretched along with it, as it transverses that space.

    The problem with all these mainstream cosmologies is that observations have been made that require rather different (non-cosmological) mechanisms for redshift to exist. Halton Arp has made and detailed these observations, and the surrounding controversy gy-Academic/dp/0968368905 []. Paul Mermet is another astrophysicist that has studied the matter [].

    Essentially, current mainstream cosmology is likely to be complete bunk, because it is predicated on one particular ill-founded interpretation of redshift.

    • Although, it's necessary to point out that there's literally only a handful of people who believe redshifts are intrinsic to a source, and not due to expansion.

      So the intrinsic redshift argument could very likely end up in the same bin as thinking andromeda was a nebula inside our galaxy.

  • I thought branes (hypothetically) caused the big bang, and inflation is something that happened after the big bang.
  • How many people right clicked that one?
  • by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @09:40AM (#19370745) Homepage Journal
    They didn't represent all sides of the debate! This is totally biased. Where is the theory of Intelligent Design represented?
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      Yeah, and where is the theory that all of you and the universe itself is just a figment of my imagination!

    • Give it a rest. The various state Universities in Kansas had nothing to do with the state School Board's shenanigans. Even most of the private colleges and universities were of the same opinion (some of the smaller heavily religious institutions might not have been).

      We were as aghast at the issue as anyone else, no one I know of at the Universities supported the School Board's position, and we're glad that the offending (and offensive) board members have been ousted.
  • String theory... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffasselin ( 566598 ) <> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @10:20AM (#19370999) Journal
    I used to like the ideas of string theory, but after what, 15-20 years of work, not a single observable prediction has been made by the theory. Heck, we don't even have a theory has such yet, more like a plethora of them, and a few that suggest they're all correct!

    Anyone making suggestions opposing the current cosmological framework using string theory had better have something more than vague mathematical foundations if they want to convince anyone. They sure won't convince me anytime soon.
  • (shuffle like a zombie and repeat:)

    Must have BRANES... Must have FRESH BRANES.... Feed me BRANES... FRESH BRANES!!!


  • Alan Guth (Score:3, Funny)

    by niktemadur ( 793971 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:47PM (#19373537)
    Why did Alan Guth opt to appear on the show?
    WBUR promised him a free lunch.
    • After remembering a bit more about it, I'll correct a crucial mistake in my post:

      WBUR promised Guth the ultimate free lunch.

      There, now that's much better.

      You see, when Guth started to attract media attention back in the mid-eighties, he was already displaying a penchant for nice and quick soundbites to get his point across. The man said that with 28 pounds of matter at just the right conditions (density and temperature), you could create a Big Bang that would open a rift in our universe, eject itself into
  • This theory is obviously defective, as it makes no mention of the Great Green Arkleseizure.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.