April Foo — oh, you were serious?

There was a paper posted today that I thought was an April Fools' Day joke, entitled Was There a Big Bang? Ha ha, thought I, of course there was; I just wrote all about it two weeks ago. But no, this is a legitimate paper, or at least is attempting to be. (There was even a brief write-up on Universe Today.)

First off, let me tell you who the authors are: two retired scientists who used to work on space missions back in the 1970's. They were instrument guys, taking data and making sure the spacecraft ran. But as they got closer to retirement, they started proposing explanations for cosmology that didn't fit with the data.

In 2001, they wrote a mess of a book called Dark Matter Illuminated, where they argued that dark matter was really just normal baryons in diffuse clumps of just a few atoms, called cosmoids (for cosmic meteoroids) make up all of the dark matter.

Now that's wrong, because baryons don't make extended halos; because they interact with one another and with photons, they collapse to form denser objects. But they go further anyway. They say that these cosmoids (which are made of hydrogen and helium, by the way) both cause the apparent redshift of far away objects by reddening the light from them little by little (in conflict with experiment, by the way), and cause the apparent "microwave background" by surrounding our solar system and radiating at 2.7 Kelvin.

First off, they fail to mention the third pillar of big bang cosmology; the abundance of hydrogen and helium. They also don't mention why there is a decrease in the "microwave background" energy at radio frequencies, which would be impossible in their model. You'd need something powerful to absorb radio waves, and if you had that, you wouldn't be able to see quasars! Why not? Because quasars come from QSRS, or Quasi-Stellar Radio Source. If you have something damping radio signals in our solar system, how are you going to see things billions of light years away in the radio?

The answer to all of this is that their theory conflicts with experiment. What's worse is that this isn't even a new idea, Fred Hoyle had the idea that the microwave background wasn't cosmic but was local back in the 1970s. This was shown to be wrong by Jim Peebles back in 1991. The theory has stayed the same and the data has gotten better; the net result is that the idea is still crazy. So it's kind of like an April Fools' Day gag, except it's laughing at someone, not with them. Yeesh.

And I still think it's a good thing for people to be thinking about, but you have to listen to all of the relevant evidence, not just the parts that agree with your idea!

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On the subject of April Fool's Day jokes, check this out:


It's a pretty convincing announcement by Google and Virgin Galactic that they're partnering up to colonize Mars. Good stuff. I wish it were true.