One Special Universe: Take It or Leave It

first_imgIf you think this universe is odd, to what would you compare it?  Adrian Cho asked this and other basic questions in a whimsical review of cosmology since WMAP in Science.1  Closer analysis of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as revealed in detail by WMAP (03/06/2003, 05/02/2003, 09/20/2004, 03/20/2006), has uncovered features so surprising (e.g., 08/29/2007), some cosmologists are entertaining an idea that would seemed heretical a decade ago: i.e., the Copernican Principle might be wrong (cf. 06/30/2006).    Investigators looking for harmonics in the CMB seem to have found surprising alignments.  The quadrupole, octupole and other harmonics appear to have axes that line up with each other.  Furthermore, they are in the plane of our solar system.  Even more bizarre, they are aligned with the line of equinoxes.  What’s going on here?  Is this a clue that we occupy a special position in the universe?  Some cosmologists, uncomfortable with such notions which the Copernican Principle was supposed to dismiss, have called this alignment the “axis of evil.”But the map led to some mysteries, too.  Within 6 months, one team had found a curious alignment of certain undulations in the CMB.  Others soon found more correlations that suggested that the cosmos might be skewered like a meatball on a toothpick by an “axis of evil.”  That axis might show that the universe has a strange shape or is rotating.  It could trash cosmologists’ cherished assumption that the universe has no center and no special directions, the so-called cosmological principle that traces its origins to Copernicus.  Or it could be a meaningless fluke.  “Everyone agrees it’s there,” says Kate Land, a cosmologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K.  “But is it significant?”    There’s the rub: With only one universe to measure, it may be impossible to tell.Maybe there is a foreground effect in the local neighborhood influencing the CMB.  Even if true, however, it would not do away with the conclusion that there is some pretty weird physics going on around us.  We can’t get outside our universe to compare it to any others, obviously.  “We have only one universe, and in some ways perhaps it just is as it is.”1.  Adrian Cho, “A Singular Conundrum: How Odd Is Our Universe?”, Science, 28 September 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5846, pp. 1848-1850, DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5846.1848.Cho’s discussion assumes inflation, dark matter, dark energy and multiverses, so his statements need to be understood in that context.  Still, even within that worldview, things are not going the way the materialists wanted.  It was hard enough on them to find out the universe is not eternal and had a beginning.  Now, they must entertain the possibility that we occupy a privileged position after all.    The only escape from the design inference is to keep repeating the joke that things are as they are because they were as they were.  If your debate partner does that, keep the joke going.  Ask the next logical question, “Why were they as they were?”  If he replies that it’s turtles all the way down, you win.(Visited 39 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img

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