Physicists are not Metaphysicists

So this came in over the transom:

Dartmouth Researchers Shed New Light on Dark Energy, Cosmic Speed-Up

Study uses Big Bang afterglow to show Earth has no special place in expanding universe

In a new study, Dartmouth researchers rule out a controversial theory that the accelerating expansion of the universe is an illusion.

While the findings don’t explain the cosmic speed-up, they eliminate one provocative possibility that our planet, solar system and galaxy are at the center of the universe and that there is no dark energy. The findings appear in the journal Physical Review D. A PDF of the study is available on request.

The 2011 Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. One leading idea to explain the acceleration is a new, mysterious substance called dark energy, which is thought to make up nearly three-fourths of the energy of the universe. But another alternative is that the Earth, our solar system and Milky Way galaxy are at the center of the universe. That theory violates the standard assumption that the universe has no center, but if true, then cosmic acceleration could be explained without dark energy or any new laws of physics.

But Dartmouth researchers found that this model can’t hold up to other observational tests. The sky glows with light left over from the Big Bang, also known as the Cosmic Microwave Background, so they calculated how that glow would be affected. Their findings show that the center-of-the-universe model’s prediction is completely contrary to the glow that has been measured.

“Essentially, we held a mirror up to the universe and asked if the reflection was special,” says Robert Caldwell, a professor of physics and astronomy who co-wrote the article with undergraduate physics major Nina Maksimova `15. “The reflection shows that we do not appear to live in a special location, and decisively excludes this explanation for the universe’s accelerating expansion. It would be a great relief to be able to understand a basic problem of cosmology within the known laws of physics, but our research is an important step in explaining the physics responsible for the cosmic acceleration.”

I think this is a sample of a corollary of what Tom Kreitzberg calls Spong’s Law of Theophysical Asininity: “Whenever a person appeals to quantum physics as the basis for a theological or religious principle, he is making an ass of himself.”

It is significant that they choose the word metaphysically loaded word “special” and not the more accurate word “central”.

This is the sort of press release you get when scientists are trying to sex up their findings so that chin strokers in the pop science press will cover it in that breathless “Science again demonstrates truth of secular godlessness” way they have.

The physical location of the earth in a relativistic universe means nothing about whether or not the earth is “special”.  Everywhere and nowhere is the center.  So what?

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  • D.T. McCameron

    So Earth, not the center of its own solar system (said solar system resting in the outskirts of the Milky Way), somehow happens the be the center of the entire universe?

    I’ve never heard that theory. I’d have thought it’s ilk démodé by the 19th century.

    • PalaceGuard

      It would actually make physical sense, however unlikely, for the reasons stated in the quotes: “if true, then cosmic acceleration could be explained without dark energy or any new laws of physics.” That an alternative explanation can provide an explanation to the contrary is just the way the quantum crumbles.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    God is everywhere, Mark. This planet doesn’t have to be in a special “place.”

    As well, there are most likely life-forms elsewhere, and God can be with them as He is with us.

  • PalaceGuard

    The planet that was rejected is the cornerstone.

  • The idea that a physically central location has anything to do with the end of any particular structure is fantastically naive. Neither factories nor people’s houses adhere to the rule.