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Higgs Data Could Spell Trouble For Leading Big Bang Theory

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the it's-a-simulation-anyway dept.

Science 259

ananyo writes "Paul Steinhardt, an astrophysicist at Princeton University in New Jersey, and colleagues have posted a controversial paper on ArXiv arguing, based on the latest Higgs data and the cosmic microwave background map from the Planck mission, that the leading theory explaining the first moments of the Big Bang ('inflation') is fatally flawed. In short, Steinhardt says that the models that best fit the Planck data — known as 'plateau models' because their potential-energy profiles level off at relatively low energies — are far less likely to occur naturally than the models that Planck ruled out. Secondly, he says, the news for these plateau models gets dramatically worse when the results are analyzed in conjunction with the latest results about the Higgs field coming from CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Particle physicists working at the LHC have calculated that the Higgs field is likely to have started out in a high-energy, 'metastable' state rather than in a stable, low-energy configuration. Steinhardt likens the odds of the Higgs field initially being perched in the precarious metastable state as to those of dropping out of the sky over the Matterhorn and conveniently landing in a 'dimple near the top,' rather than crashing down to the mountain's base."

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"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473049)

That sounds like a cosmic catastrophe in the making. Or has it already happened?

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (2)

CrimsonKnight13 (1388125) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473081)

Maybe the uni/multiverse had a "reboot" from a prior state?

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473249)

Maybe the uni/multiverse had a "reboot" from a prior state?

Well, that WOULD explain why this universe seems bleak, dark, and depressing. The original universe was probably campier and silly but more beloved by fans before some pretentious jackhole looked too hard at all those physical properties and atomic interactions and decided it needed to be rebooted with black holes, hard vacuums, and the second law of thermodynamics.

There's probably countless imitation universes out there, too, each one darker and more depressing than the last one in an effort to market them better to the universe-enjoying pan-dimensional youth out there. That continued until the 90s, when the absurdity of it all came crashing in on itself and nearly destroyed the universe-creating industry, and...

Hang on, what was I talking about?

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473341)

I tell you another thing about the version before the reboot, there sure as hell wasn't so many goddamn lens flares in that universe.

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474089)

Dr. Kersten [wikipedia.org] , is that you?

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (1)

blackorzar (954183) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473529)

Maybe we are in the BSOD (Black Screen Of Death); you know, you are working in the "metastable" Winverse and poof, the BSOD appears expanding on full screen... the reboot will occur soon? Are we on DOSverse?

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (4, Funny)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473229)

It proves the universe is only about 5000 years old.

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (4, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473309)

It's called a False Vacuum [wikipedia.org] , and yes, it's quite the possible doomsday scenario.

If you read further down in TFA, you find that this Princeton professor has spent years trying to push his cyclical universe model over the inflationary Big Bang, and experimental results have not been kind to him. In fact, there's no actual mention of the Higgs data playing any part in discrediting the Big Bang here. The entire piece seems to hinge on his saying it's "unlikely" rather than any actual observations.

...not only Higgs "coincidence" (4, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473409)

It's not a cosmic catastrophe so much as a physics one, although I'd prefer to call it a physics "opportunity"! Having found the Higgs we already know that there is now an incredible precarious balance even within the Standard Model. The Higgs is a fundamental scalar particle which is a radically different beast from any other fundamental particle we know of. One of the strange properties of the Higgs is that there are corrections to its mass which scale with energy squared.

This might not sound like a big deal but quantum mechanics means that even at low energies these high energy corrections to the Higgs mass are important. The question then becomes "what energy is our current knowledge of physics good to". Well if we look at the Standard Model of particle physics it is missing gravity so, at the scale where gravity becomes important (about a million billion times higher in energy than the LHC) we know the SM breaks down.

The problem is that this means the Higgs mass is corrected by a series of terms each of which is ~32+ orders of magnitude larger than the mass itself. This means that you need a cancellation to better than one part in ~10^32 by chance. This is about the same chance as winning the UK national lottery every week for 4-5 weeks in a row or tossing a coin and having it come up heads over 100 times in a row. If either of these events actually happened nobody would believe they happened by chance - there would be investigations into how someone managed to cheat the lottery or you would want to inspect the coin to make sure it did not have two heads.

There are solutions to this conundrum: Supersymmetry makes all the corrections to the Higgs mass cancel precisely (above some energy scale) and Large Extra Dimensions lowers the scale where gravity becomes important considerably. What would be interesting to know is whether these solutions to the fine tuning problem we have in the Standard Model also solve the fine tuning which this paper suggests that cosmology also has.

Re:...not only Higgs "coincidence" (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473843)

<spock>Fascinating</spock>

In other words, it's a "physics crisitunity!"

Re:...not only Higgs "coincidence" (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473991)

There are solutions to this conundrum: Supersymmetry makes all the corrections to the Higgs mass cancel precisely (above some energy scale) and Large Extra Dimensions lowers the scale where gravity becomes important considerably.

I thought that LHC and other recent experiments have gotten close to entirely ruling out most Supersymmetry theories [columbia.edu] .

Re:"A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473443)

Yes, a cosmic catastrophe. Cooper: "Oh no! They canceled Firefly!"

Re: "A high-energy, 'metastable' state"? (5, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473971)

New data requires reevaluation of current theory? Damn you scientific method! Damn you to hell!

So, in other words.... (4, Insightful)

EricTheGreen (223110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473077)

....we just don't know.

Re:So, in other words.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473195)

And we will never know, based on their methods to determine the existence of particles.
Example using a bigger object such as a car, A car has some basic components such body,engine. transmission, axle.

Well if I smash a car to pieces and I find a piece of a piston how do I know it is a sub assembly of the engine and not a sub assembly of the car in general ?

Re:So, in other words.... (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473209)

....we just don't know.

The thing that bugs me about a Big Bang Theory is where did this singularity come from? Where exactly is it, in some infinite void? Are there more like it, all oscillating between Exapansion and Collapse throughout eternity? For the Universe, as we know it, is only this local body of mass and energy.

and now i need a quiet corner, cuppa hot cocoa and my teddy bear

Re:So, in other words.... (4, Interesting)

almitydave (2452422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473461)

Spent all my mod points, but excellent questions. There are, sadly, limits to what we can discover with physical sciences. This has bugged me since I was a kid. I want to know, dammit! The universe is so vast that we will never know or be able to know even a small fraction of what's there. Some questions, as why there is anything at all, will forever be in the realm of philosophy, unanswerable by empirical sciences alone.

But we keep asking, keep looking, both farther and closer, because we have to know. It's in our nature.

I like some was partially hoping they'd fail to find the Higgs, and the experiments would point the way to some more fundamental theory, but it seems our current model is actually pretty good as far as it goes. Although I barely understand particle physics, I'm fascinated by all the research on it, and share the desire to understand the nature of our universe at the deepest level.

But look at me still talking, when there's science to do! (well not by me personally, I have to get back to coding).

Re:So, in other words.... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473473)

The idea of "location" with regard to the singularity is a question with no real sensical answer, unfortunately. It's a bit like asking "where is the center of the Earth's surface?". Only, you can't move around on the surface of the Earth, you can't fly over it, and so you only have what you can see, limited by the horizon, in every direction. Even then, any point you pick is completely arbitrary and usually based on some landmark. Much like we can say what our position compared to the center of the galaxy is, but asking about our position in the universe cannot really be answered. It doesn't help that spacetime itself is supposed to have inflated drastically from that singularity (i.e. the singularity *was* the Universe at t=0). In that sense, the singularity is "everywhere".

But yeah, the unfortunate side effect of the Big Bang event is that information about any state prior to the singularity is effectively lost, or scrambled to the point that it is nigh impossible to figure out. And this is something that bugs a lot of people, including scientists, precisely because it makes these other questions so much more difficult to find answers for.

Re:So, in other words.... (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474263)

The idea of "location" with regard to the singularity is a question with no real sensical answer, unfortunately. It's a bit like asking "where is the center of the Earth's surface?"

That's easy. 0 degrees latitude, 0 degrees longitude. Looks to be somewhere around the Gulf of Guinea.

Re:So, in other words.... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473477)

That's the great thing about infinity...shit happens!

Re:So, in other words.... (0)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473639)

I beleive the leading guess is that the universe expands to its limit, then gravity asserts itself, causing all matter in the universe to compress into an unstable singularity.

This unstable singularity explodes.

Repeat.

Where did everything come from for the first iteration, and why is there something instead of nothing? That's what philosophers have been trying to figure out for thousands of years, why religion holds so many in its grasp, and why we've built machines to find the Higgs Boson. We simply don't know. We may never know. We'll try our best to find those answers with the tools we have.

Re:So, in other words.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473779)

I beleive the leading guess is that the universe expands to its limit, then gravity asserts itself, causing all matter in the universe to compress into an unstable singularity.

That's been discredited ages ago, gov.

Re:So, in other words.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473799)

I love to think that the universe is like a small water drop, generated from a bigger one that fallen into a lake...

Warning : Ascii explanation :

                    O - Our universe (Currently near it's AP)
====\ /====== - Lake, or an ultimate and fuking big universe, or MultiUniverse pressed together with all high energy (Name it like you like)

This could explain blackholes and the universe expension...
So the doomday will be when the droplet of water will touch the "FBU"... blackholes will suck everthing from the droplet to merge it back to the FBU.
Perhaps other(s) small(s) universe(s) wil be generated this way...

Or perhaps I just got too much time ... ;)

Before the big bang, there was no time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473841)

Therefore the singularity that existed at the time of the Big Bang hadn't "come" from anywhere.

"Where exactly is it, in some infinite void?"

Where is the past, exactly? Another meaningless question. It isn't there any more since we are AFTER the singularity stopped being a singularity.

"Are there more like it"

There could be, but it depends on what you model the reality as.

" all oscillating between Exapansion and Collapse throughout eternity"

Not possible because of the second law of thermodynamics. You'd have to explain why it doesn't apply here.

Re:So, in other words.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474067)

the christian guy in the cube next to me answered that question for you - it was god

Re:So, in other words.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474101)

Let me help you here...

We are all lines of code arguing about the most recent boot of the computer. We cannot even begin to extrapolate the flow of electrons in in the CPU which support our function. It is likely the FSM has booted the device 1exp64K times already. You, however, are the first to stumble on this question. Hence, "Purpose in Life" == Achieved.

"You can ponder perpetual motion, Fix your mind on a crystal day"

Re:So, in other words.... (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474117)

Your questions are wrong because our human minds are not adapted to handle the truth... which is: there was no time and space prior to the big bang... because there was no time that was prior to the big bang. The Big Bang created time and space. Our best measurements and studies have concluded that the universe will not collapse again. It is in an accelerating expansion. It's not slowing down. There will be no big crunch. Are there other universes? Perhaps... but I tended to think that if there are... they are all part of this one same system. All effecting each other, and therefore all part of this universe just in an indirect way... but then I'm just getting into semantics.

Re:So, in other words.... (4, Funny)

eggstasy (458692) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474253)

It's turtles all the way down.

Re:So, in other words.... (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473651)

A bit of background here: the great data we now have on the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation presents a solid mystery: it's all very nearly the same temperature, yet with steady expansion of the universe opposite sides of the sky would be too separated (by speed-of-light delay) to have temperatures evened out like that.

In order to explain that, "inflationary" models were invented, which proposed that the very early universe expanded quite a bit faster than the speed of light. I don't quite get why expanding faster makes temperatures more equalized, but I don't doubt the math works. There is some actual evidence for inflation: the temperature variations in the CMBR do look a lot like quantum fluctuations magnified enormously. A lot of work has been done in this area in the past decade.

Inventing a new mechanic by which space itself grows very rapidly is easy, but inventing one where the expansion was likely to happen, and happen evenly across the universe, and then stop, is hard. The best candidates are tied to the Higgs field - basically saying it was briefly at a meta-stable state where there was no inertia, allowing rapid expansion, but then the symmetry broke and it reached the current stable state.

The new problem is: all that only works if you assume the Higgs field naturally starts in its metastable state, so even if it's only that way for 10^-lots of a second, that's enough. Apparently, it wouldn't naturally start in that state, and would in fact be quite unlikely to. That unravels everything, because the whole problem being addressed is how unlikely the even temperature distribution of the CMBR is in the first place: a hypothesis that's also quite unlikely to occur naturally doesn't really help much.

Just like they "invented" the force of gravity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474093)

Just like they "invented" the force of gravity to explain why the planets didn't just go flying off?

GOOD! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473135)

That "great space kablooey" theory was stupid as hell anyway. Amazing to me that people actually believed it. Come to think of it, as extremely insignificant as we all are, it's amazing to think that we would think we know anything at all about the universe....

Re:GOOD! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473179)

In science, the Big Bang = God. It is a religion based on faith, just like any other...

Re:GOOD! (-1, Flamebait)

ThreeKelvin (2024342) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473289)

Why do you religious people keep saying that atheism is a religion? Are you afraid of letting go of your god-illusion and living without your mind-crutch? Perhaps even to the point of denying that other people don't need the same comfort in order to live their lives?

Re:GOOD! (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473373)

Why do you religious people keep saying that atheism is a religion?

Because some atheists act in a religious manner.

We (I am an atheist) cannot prove the non-existance of God. We can use our observations of the world around us and logic to come to a refusal to believe the fairy tales we're taught as children, and this is all in the realm of reason. But those of us who claim to know without doubt that there is no deity have crossed into the realm of faith.

Re:GOOD! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473441)

Well said... But Carl Sagan said it best: An atheist has to know a lot more than I do. Sagan certainly didn't believe in a god, but he just treated nonexistence as the default, and was willing to listen if someone actually came up with real non-faith-based evidence that nonexistence was wrong.

Re:GOOD! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473839)

Um, that's exactly what an atheist is. They don't accept the god hypothesis without proof.

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474035)

As Bertrand Russell said it:
I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely.

Re:GOOD! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473811)

That's pushing it. I KNOW there is no flying spaghetti monster. No proof against it. There COULD be a flying spaghetti monster. But I KNOW there isn't one. That is not faith. That's just not being silly. Not the same.

Pink unicorns. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473957)

We (I am an atheist) cannot prove the non-existance of God.

This is a dead horse that's been beaten to death so many times we've hardly got a carcass. Yes, actually, you can.

Let's take the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He's made of spaghetti and two meatballs. We know that these two components neither have sentience or the ability to fly. If you change their molecular configuration such that the material involved should become sentient and capable of flight, you no longer have spaghetti and meatballs. Put another way, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is, in fact, the equivalent of a square circle. He's a logical contradiction that can't possibly be real. We can apply the same reasoning to Invisible Pink Unicorns. Something that's invisible can't also be pink, and visa versa.

The gods dreamed up by all our fanciful imaginations are equally contradictory. Take the Christian god. It's omniscient, omnipotent, yet has human form. It's described as one god, but is made up of three entities. Preordains everything, but simultaneously possesses free will. Perfect good, but created evil.

In other words, Christians worship a square circle.

I know you want to be kind to your intellectually inferior friends, but there are no contradictions in the universe. Sure, there are infinite possibilities, but gods aren't possibilities. They're pure fantasies, as the moment you eliminate properties that eliminate the contradictions, they cease to be gods.

Re:GOOD! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474159)

Do you know that Santa Claus doesn't exist? If your answer to that is "yes", then there you go, you can know that gods don't exist too. If your answer to that is "no", then your definition of "know" is useless and has no relevance to reality. Either way, you can know that gods don't exist in the same way that you can know that Santa Claus doesn't exist. That of course doesn't imply that gods don't exist, but making a big stink about the philosophy of not being able to know it when the same arguments would apply to Santa Claus is plainly ridiculous.

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474217)

The term religion is confusing the issue, people should be using the term "Orthodoxy".

What people really mean isn't that atheism is a religion (that makes no sense) but that atheists act in conformist fashion with the leading minds of capital-A Atheism (the usual New Atheist crowd). And they absolutely do! Many of the New Atheists conclusions do not follow from having an atheist belief, and many of their opinions are hateful, fear mongering tripe that deserves to be roundly criticized and dismissed. Many Atheists can't get accept this, because they have an emotional attachment to certain writers who had a huge impact on their life. That's all well and good, but dismissing one form of Orthodoxy for another seems like missing the entire point, doesn't it?

Re:GOOD! (1)

ichthus (72442) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473417)

Such anger.

The assertion AC made (along with other "religious" types) is based on the the acceptance that the singularity was "just there", and that abiogenesis "just happened". Many call this acceptance faith.

I don't think I would actually call it faith, but something more along the lines of, "We don't know. We're fine with that right now. Some day, we hope to discover the answers for the origin of the singularity and the facility of abiogenesis. But, whatever the case, we're sure it's not God."

Re:GOOD! (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473655)

Every human has a belief system. My belief system is grounded in science, but it still takes an incredible amount of faith on my part. I have no direct personal proof that the sun is a giant ball of nuclear fire, i have to take it on faith that the scientific consensus is 'right'. It is easier to accept this consensus when they show me how they came to their conclusions and how i can repeat their experiments and see it for myself. Even easier when they invite to prove them wrong using the similar methods.

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474011)

In science, the Big Bang = God. It is a religion based on faith, just like any other...

Why do you religious people keep saying that atheism is a religion?

I would guess for the same reason that you imply that science is atheism.

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473533)

You are so right, there is no difference at all, I worship the big bang with all my heart and if it were proven 100% wrong by scientists I would still keep worshipping it.

Wait, no, it's not like that at all. How is believing in one small detail about the origin of the universe (because that's what the data currently tells us) even remotely like religious faith?

It's like those people that claim that believing in evolution is like religious faith. It's like religious faith except with a mountain of verifiable evidence, which means that it's nothing like religious faith at all.

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473545)

The Big Bang theory and expanding universe theory was postulated by, Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest.

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474275)

The Big Bang theory and expanding universe theory was postulated by, Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest.

This statement is also correct.

"The Big Bang theory and expanding universe theory was postulated by, Georges Lemaître, an astronomer."

Now, tell me what was operative in his formulation of the theory; his background in astronomy, or his Catholicism?

Re:GOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474237)

In science, the Big Bang = God. It is a religion based on faith, just like any other...

No. It simply is not. The Big Bang theory is science, not religion. To equivocate it with religion is to say you either a) don't understand science, b) don't understand religion, or c) don't understand either.

Re:GOOD! (1)

Reality Man (2890429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473183)

There was no "kablooey" in the sense of something exploding into space. There was no space. The universe didn't come from nothing, it came from everything. Then it changed state.

Re:GOOD! (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473591)

There was no "kablooey" in the sense of something exploding into space. There was no space. The universe didn't come from nothing, it came from everything. Then it changed state.

I don't disagree with any of this, but I think the language excellently demonstrates the tremendous challenge scientists have explaining the origin of the universe to non-scientists - Particularly religious-inclined non-scientists. I think most people would just write it off as incomprehensible gibberish, and really, there's no 'easy' way to write it.

I knew it! (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473167)

It wasn't a Big Bang, but a Medium Bang!

gotta get out my papers, nobel prize for fizziks here I come!

Re:I knew it! (4, Funny)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473391)

It wasn't a Big Bang, but a Medium Bang!

That's what she said!

Re:I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473511)

It wasn't a Big Bang, but a Medium Bang!

gotta get out my papers, nobel prize for fizziks here I come!

You will have to beat my submission on the chemical interaction of Diet Coke and Mentos first!

Re:I knew it! (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473901)

Bazinga!

Thank you, Higgs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473175)

Any theory of the origin of everything has to start with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Otherwise, you're not talking about an origin, you're talking about something that already existed, and that means that you now have to figure out the origin of that thing before you can find the origin of everything. Both the current Big Bang theory and God follow this same origin story, and neither one explains an origin for itself.

Re:Thank you, Higgs! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473569)

And it doesn't have to. We as human beings need to finally accept that it's just not something we are capable of knowing. Yes, our knoweldge has increased over time about the universe we live in. Long enough to know for certain that sometimes what we think is true turns out to be wrong. So instead of insisting that science can answer all of our questions we should be satisfied to know what we know with the understanding that just because science has an explanation doesn't mean that it's the absolute irrefutable truth. When you come to that place you start to understand that science no more disproves the bible than it proves it. There is an awful lot of evidence to suggest that the bible is the truth. Archeological discovery corroberating biblical history in addition to logical analysis about the complexity of the world we live in has caused me to find flaw with the big bang explantion. It's been pointed out by many scientists over the years, and I'm not sure why we still present it in public education as though it were proven fact. I think the bible is the best explanation we've got that hasn't been disproven regarding our origin. With a 2000+ year track record I'd say that's fairly solid. Far more solid than a handful of scientists armed with an agenda that has little to nothing to do with science. Now as far as the origin of God Himself? Yeah that's a real puzzling question. I've pondered it, and it does cause one to wonder where in fact it all began and how it could have all begin, but again nobody knows that and I'm not sure anyone ever could. The bible says "I Am" meaning He is and always has been. I accept that because there is no other explanation that isn't tainted by mankind and therefore suspect.

But that's just my perspective.

Re:Thank you, Higgs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473603)

This is the dumbest comment of the day. First, you MUST prove that there was an absolute nothing hanging around, then whether something can or cannot come out of that nothing. As far as science is concerned, the big bang was just a CONVENTIONAL beginning because we CANNOT know at this time what was before it, but it never ever said that there was nothing. Is simply out of the scope of things that we can physically observe and study, so science reserves an opinion until further data is available.

Re:Thank you, Higgs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473939)

But it failed to do even that. It proposed a theory based on assumptions regarding how we perceive what we know. Physical observation is useless if your interpretation is only based on what you know. What about what you don't know? No one seems to ask that uncomforatable question because then they'd have to admit that they are just human and incapable of knowing everything.

Re:Thank you, Higgs! (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474051)

No, his comment (mostly) makes sense. His complaint is that current non-cyclical Big Bang theory can't explain ultimate origin, because there is not and can't be a scientific explanation for how something can come from nothing. Quantum fluctuations and energy fields are not nothing. He further points out that cyclical crunch/bang theories are not ultimate origin theories, but continuations of existence. They just kick the Question of the Origin of Everything down the cosmological road.

The traditional Christian view of God is that of a being with no origin. There's no attempt to explain one because the belief is that there isn't one. He's eternal. I don't know what he means by BBT and God following the same origin story, unless he means unknowable or incomprehensible through reason alone.

Re:Thank you, Higgs! (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473871)

Any theory of the origin of everything has to start with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Otherwise, you're not talking about an origin, you're talking about something that already existed, and that means that you now have to figure out the origin of that thing before you can find the origin of everything.

Existing human metaphysical systems do not yet (and might not ever) sufficiently understand what terms like "existed," "origin," or "nothing" actually mean to make blanket statements like yours. We live in a universe controlled by causality (which makes physics possible), and thus often assume that the concept of "prior cause" is "universally" applicable: by this logic, "everything exists as a result of a prior causes; something that exists without a prior causes is not part of everything, therefor is nothing" (without deeply defining most of the terms in that phrase). However, it could be that our observable causally-ordered universe expanded from a boundary with a different "type of space" where time and causal ordering do not exist; where there is no meaning to the questions "what came before" or "what caused this state" because there is no time direction for "before" or "caused." The assumption that "origins are necessary" may simply be a quirk of our particular location in the cosmos, rather than a "universal" truth.

Re:Thank you, Higgs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473921)

Any theory of the origin of everything has to start with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Otherwise, you're not talking about an origin, you're talking about something that already existed, and that means that you now have to figure out the origin of that thing before you can find the origin of everything. Both the current Big Bang theory and God follow this same origin story, and neither one explains an origin for itself.

No you just need to get far enough back that you can spot the first turtle. From there is can be proven to be turtles all the way down.

Hmmm ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473187)

OK, so I'll confess my ignorance on this one, and maybe someone can clarify it.

Does this have anything to do with if the universe will go through a big crunch? Or is this more about the models about the mechanics of the big bang?

I have no idea what this summary is saying since it's outside of my field, so I have no idea if this is good news, bad news, or a different in understanding something which is pretty abstract anyway. :-P

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473265)

Basically, it is the difference between Deism and Asmovian Atheism.

Theologically anyway.

It is either "God created the universe and all of its physical laws in the planck time following the big bang" or "All intelligent life will eventually evolve into God and learn to reverse entropy".

I can't imagine either scenario making any difference to anybody at all, except for maybe the Pastafarians, Hindus, and actual hard atheists.

Re:Hmmm ... (2)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473293)

From what I've heard, the big crunch was thrown out a few years ago (when they discovered that the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate).

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474107)

This research is pushed by someone who has long advocated for a crunch/bang cycle, and in this paper is trying to question the statistical likelihood that the non-cyclical big bang theory (start of everything) would follow the leading models of inflation. So it's about the mechanics.

Another commenter here said the Anthropic Principle applies if you accept the possibility of multiple universes, which would bring into question such questions about "likelihood".

Points at Higgs data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473203)

Hideki!

Ambiguity in title (3, Informative)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473235)

The title is ambiguous (in the words "Leading Big Bang Theory"). It could mean either:

A: Other variations of the big bang theory are safe, just the 'main' version is in trouble
or....
B: The big bang theory itself is in trouble, including any of its variations. 'Leading' here would mean big bang theory over say, a steady state universe.

From what I can tell, the Slashdot title means B due to this quote in the story:

But if you take the data we’ve been given and just follow your nose, then inflation and the whole Big Bang paradigm seem to be in big trouble,” Steinhardt says.

Emphasis on "whole".

Re:Ambiguity in title (4, Interesting)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473399)

Yeah, but a paragraph right after that goes on to talk about Steinhardt's competing Big Bang theory.

Steinhardt is no novice when it comes to making controversial cosmic claims. For many years, he and some of his colleagues have been developing an alternative 'cyclic model', in which the Universe undergoes a series of Big Bangs and crunches, repeatedly expanding outwards and contracting inwards. Unlike inflation, this framework predicts slight deviations from the smooth Gaussian distribution of temperature fluctuations.

So it's not like he wants to throw out the whole thing, just the "inflation" variation.

Re:Ambiguity in title (1)

ananyo (2519492) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473789)

Yup you're right. He's saying the vanilla version of 'inflation' is in trouble. Other more exotic versions might be OK - but none of them are really favored by the community at the moment.

Re:Ambiguity in title (2)

lgw (121541) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473899)

Steady state isn't even in the running. It's the details of the big bang that are hard to understand: mostly, why is the temperature so evenly distributed. A bunch of theories have been put forth over the past 30 years to explain the details, but like most of particle physics, 30 years of speculation without new data to regularly cull the bad ideas leads to a bad place. We've had a wealth of new data from cosmology over the past few years, but relevant data from the LHC was sorely needed to start falsifying hypotheses that purport to explain that data.

But even if none of the current hypotheses survive that will still be a solid step forward for physics, and it's more likely that a few of them actually pass the test and solidify our understanding of the early universe.

Option C: TV Ratings are Going Down (1)

erikscott (1360245) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474127)

You forgot option C: Neilsen ratings for the CBS comedy are going down the tubes.

Cosmology is not science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473237)

It's more like intelligent design.
Completely based on the anthropic principle and in violation of the fundamental premise of quantum theory. In QT you can't make any other Bayes statistical conclusion other than 50/50 when you only have one data point. Since you can't resimulate the universe, cosmology as a science is currently bogus.

Re:Cosmology is not science (2)

almitydave (2452422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473643)

Well, yes and no. You can't resimulate the universe, but you can make inferences from observations. Everything's moving apart, what does that mean? Possibly everything expanded from the same point. What would conditions be like if that were the case? The Big Bang is a model that attempts to explain observed phenomena - and we can do experiments to test how some of our theories about nature hold up to conditions suggested by that model.

If cosmological observations don't match quantum theory, then either QT or the observations are flawed. The solution to this dilemma isn't "don't try to come up with theories and test them." There may be cosmologists who take fundamentalist approach to their pet theories, but the science as a whole is not bogus.

Re:Cosmology is not science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474003)

I disagree with "don't try to come up with theories and test them." Yes please let us continue to develop theories and test them, but could we please just for novelty of it pursue honest science and discovery rather than attempt to give athiests an excuse to do whatever they want and call it science?

I am not a physicist (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473297)

..but I have always been skeptical of "inflation"

It seemed like a mathematical "band-aid", applied in desperation to a flawed theory

Re:I am not a physicist (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473889)

Maybe you should become a physicist, then.

Re:I am not a physicist (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474071)

Well, I doubt many physicists would disagree; however, "desperate mathematical band-aids" are where a lot of eventually solid theories start off. The concept of "inflation" started off fairly hand-wavy, "whoah, those ripples in the cosmic microwave background must've been really close together to smooth everything out, but they're really far apart where we see them... cosmic inflation, dude!". However, as time goes on, theorists get better at turning vague statements of "it was tiny... then it got big!" into specific, detailed, testable predictions (distributions of the CMB, pre-CMB gravitational waves, etc.) linked to physically plausible mechanisms (like, in this article, the general shape of potentials for fields composing the early universe). Eventually, that "band-aid" might get built up into a solid chunk of physics.

The concept of "aether" returns. (2)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473305)

The old ways are best:

This finding is relevant because it suggests the existence of a limited number of ephemeral particles per unit volume in a vacuum. [tgdaily.com]

In other words, there is no nothingness; everything is something. Thus we're looking at vacuums being a variation of type of substrate of matter, not an absence of matter. Mind-blowing. Be sure to drop acid before reading this.

Re:The concept of "aether" returns. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473637)

It never left.

Everyone just chose to ignore it for various reasons...

Aether? How about an electric universe?

http://ericdollard.com/ [ericdollard.com]

Re:The concept of "aether" returns. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473885)

Electric universe bullshit violates the conservation of momentum.

Re:The concept of "aether" returns. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474131)

So does you face! (And mom.)

Re:The concept of "aether" returns. (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474239)

Well, loop quantum gravity says that the gravitational field isn't something that happens *in* space; rather, the gravitational field *is* space. So even empty space is something.

Please don't cancel the show (1, Funny)

MLBs (2637825) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473307)

Please. Pretty Please...

Open vs. Closed Universe (5, Insightful)

Covalent (1001277) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473327)

Years ago, this was a significant debate, but in recent years the debate was "settled" - the universe's expansion is actually increasing in rate.

I have always felt that it was wrong to call this settled. The increased rate of expansion of the universe is explained by "Dark Energy", a completely unknown entity with unknown properties. There is no reason why the effects of Dark Energy might change (or even reverse) over time. So, is the universe expanding at an increasing rate? Apparently. Will it continue to do so? I don't think that is even close to answered.

Re:Open vs. Closed Universe (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474085)

Don't worry, if this turns out to be a real problem they'll make up another dark term to add to the model, it's so incredible flexible in that regard. Once we have ordinary matter down to sub 1% of the energy content of the universe every observation inconsistent with the model just becomes a rounding error.

Whenever you see something like that, (2, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473329)

A wizard did it.

Re:Whenever you see something like that, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473743)

I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless!

This has to be... (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473407)

... the most idiotic paper I have read all year. It's a silly collection of straw-man arguments, with no actual science in it at all.

What they claim is "universally accepted" (actually, they claim it is almost "universally accepted", quotes theirs), isn't. Which is why they have to use the silly quotation marks.

Plateau-like models are not the only ones consistent with Planck. See: the Planck paper on inflationary constraints [arxiv.org]

Inflation has always had a problem with initial conditions. Guess what? It's still there.

"A challenge for the inflationary paradigm in light of the Planck2013 data is to explain why no significant multiverse effects have been observed" Wuh? Maybe, um, because there might not be a multiverse at all?

Anyone can post their crank material in ArXiv (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473419)

Sensationalism posting again. Why can't you people who want to post science, especially physics, articles, wait until there's been time to *peer review* the controversial claims? Otherwise, you're giving credence to (don't know if it's junk science, that's the point) unproven statements.

I can put an article up in ArXiv that the universe is full of purple elephants. Slashdot article pops up the next day, "Ooh, big controversy, the universe could/might/almost/maybe is full of purple elephants. What will that mean?" Get my point?

Re:Anyone can post their crank material in ArXiv (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473535)

I'm just guessing, but I think your point is that the Big Bang Theory is an awesome show. Or maybe "Sheldon is an ass?". It could be "The Earth is very racist about elephants and doesn't let any of the purple ones that the universe is full of come here?"

First Author (2)

drunkenkatori (85423) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473445)

Why is this called Steinhardt's paper? Anna Ijjas is first author and she's a post-doc at Harvard.

Big Bang Theory (1)

Parker Lewis (999165) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473475)

Sheldon will be not happy...

Wait for it... (1)

grub (11606) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473495)

... the Higgs data will show the universe is only 6,000 years old!

Re:Wait for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43474151)

and even if it did athiests would still not believe in God, so what's the point?

I'm not a physicist. (1)

TBedsaul (95979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473803)

But wouldn't something like the quantum immortality effect come into play here? In other words, to steal the Matterhorn analogy, we are guaranteed to have fallen into the dimple at the top instead of falling down the sides because we live in this universe and all the other possible universes never formed because they did fall down the sides.

Granted, occams razor and all that, but it is at least interesting to think about.

Everyone knows it was just a (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about a year and a half ago | (#43473873)

Chicken that laid a very large egg.

Big bounce universe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43473953)

Maybe it is a good indication that the inflation theory is bogus, and that we should look at alternatives such as the big bounce theory:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bounce

We have yet to see how the latest Planck results agree with that one.

Science Works (1)

asylumx (881307) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474073)

Good. This means scientists had a theory, and they've been testing the hell out of it. As they find data that contradicts the theory, they will rework the theory to match what is observed. This is exactly what we want. We should be celebrating because the scientific process works.

What's wrong with an unlikely state? (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474171)

The universe starting out in an unlikely high-energy state? isn't that just what the Big Bang theory says anyway?

Oh crap (1)

keith134 (935880) | about a year and a half ago | (#43474225)

for a minute there I thought they were talking about the TV show...
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