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NASA Reaffirms Big Bang Theory 313

Posted by Zonk
from the kabooom dept.
Peretz writes "NASA has found evidence reinforcing a theory of what took place post-Big Bang and time expansion. They claim: 'Over the course of millions of years, gravity exploited the density differences to create the structure of the universe---stars and galaxies separated by vast voids.' Thereby creating a 'structure' to the universe -- a kiddush cup. '...finds that the first stars---the forebears of all subsequent generations of stars and of life itself---were fully formed remarkably early, only about 400 million years after inflation. This is called the era of reionization, the point when the light from the first stars ionized hydrogen atoms, liberating electrons from the protons.'"
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NASA Reaffirms Big Bang Theory

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  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:59PM (#14944226) Homepage Journal
    NASA Confrms a Big Bang Theory

    NASA has a confirmed a theory of what took place post-Big Bang and time expansion.


    Please don't use sensationalist and misleading headlines. Confirmation of a theory is tantamount to saying that it is proven. Given that this is scientific theory we're referring to, I don't think that's what you want to say. What you probably want to say is, "New evidence supports a Big Bang Theory".

    What NASA actually says in their article is:

    The WMAP team is announcing two major results: evidence for cosmic inflation, and confirmation of when stars first turned on. Both results depended on a combination of temperature and polarization data.


    To put that into laymans terms, they have new data that agrees with old data and theories. That can be a good thing for the status of a theory. But let's be somewhat scientific here and not throw around statements that imply proven theories. This is, after all, supposed to be "News for Nerds". :-)
    • by jdavidb (449077) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:07PM (#14944302) Homepage Journal

      The difference between the headline and the first line is pretty vast, although the headline is clearly trying to hint at the truth rather than mislead, by using the word "a" intead of "the."

      What the first line says is that a theory about how certain events played out after the big bang had been "confirmed." What the headline sounds like is "the Big Bang has finally been proved!" But note that it says "a Big Bang theory." Here's the writer of the headline trying to give himself an out. I cut him some slack; I'm sure he's working with a limited 80 column field or so. In other words, technically what he said was that "a theory about the Big Bang has been confirmed," but he made it just a little too sensationalistic, which is probably going to lead to a whole string of, "See? NASA has confirmed the creationists are _wrong_!" posts that have nothing to do with this. But since everyone likes to see a good tussle between the creationists and the more evolutionary-minded here on slashdot, I'm not even sure that's a bad thing.

      Incidentally, I'm a fundamentalist, and I lean toward a literal understanding of Genesis and a 6000-year earth (although I'm not adamant about it and easily accept that I might be misunderstanding things), and even I accept that the "Big Bang" is probably a pretty good model for what happened. (I just think the timescale may be way off, and that we have a long way to go before we truly understand.) So for anyone who did misread the headline and thought you finally had complete triumph over all the creationist wackos, I hate to burst your bubble. :)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:17PM (#14944388)
        "So for anyone who...thought you finally had complete triumph over all the creationist wackos, I hate to burst your bubble"

        Feel free to believe whatever you want, just don't call it science or I'll tell you how you should pray.
      • by RayBender (525745) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:20PM (#14944414) Homepage
        I'm a fundamentalist, and I lean toward a literal understanding of Genesis and a 6000-year earth (although I'm not adamant about it and easily accept that I might be misunderstanding things), and even I accept that the "Big Bang" is probably a pretty good model for what happened. (I just think the timescale may be way off

        Which timescale? The astronomers', or the Bibles? I think this new data is actually a beautiful confirmation of the Big Bang. The theory makes some very specifc predictions about what one should see when using a partuclar kind of microwave receiver - predictions that have now been confirmed. At this point, the idea of the Big Bang is as solidly supported by real-world evidence as almost any other theory - including gravity, relativity, QED, or even the theory of evolution. That theory makes very specific claims about the age of the Universe. Pretty cool, eh? What supporting evidence does the Genesis story have? What predictions does it make - and can they be falsified?

      • To the mods: why was the parent marked Flamebait? Just because he admitted he is a fundamentalist? Posts that pointed out the same thing without authors expressing religious conviction got marked as "insightful" or "interesting". Learn a little bit of tolerance, it won't hurt.

        Now, to move on

        Although it is a rather common view, and in no way to critique you at all, may I suggest, respectfully, to investigate further and deeper the meaning of "day" throughout the Bible?

        Keeping all religious doctrines
      • Since you seem convincable, I advise you to hunt down a physicists and a biologist to explain to you why, from a scientific stand point, you are wrong. Dating via radioactive isotopes and the distribution of the elements indicate clearly that the universe is much much older than 6000 years. These are not pseudoscience. Your religious friends who ridicule these facts, are wrong. The mainstream scientists are right. The Earth is billions of years old.
        I'm a professional physicist, and I've seen the evidence fo
      • by Laser Lou (230648)
        Incidentally, I'm a fundamentalist, and I lean toward a literal understanding of Genesis and a 6000-year earth

        I'm now convinced that the creation vs. evolution controversy (with intelligent design) is really, well, a bunch of hype that serves to draw people away from religion and science. Let me first make it clear that evolution is fact; no "if"s, "and"s, or "but"s about it.
        This controversy pulls people away from religion and Christianity because they see christians arguing a naive, scientifically unt

    • To the editors, thank you for correcting the headline and text. Twice. :-)

      Still, I'm not sure if "Reaffirms" is better. How about "More Evidence for Big Bang Theory." The text itself seems fine now.
    • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:14PM (#14944359) Homepage Journal
      But- what's really exciting about this isn't confirmation of the big bang, but rather evidence of the cosmic inflation idea of the big bang. This is the one that theistic evolutionists (that is, those who believe God plays pool with the universe and set it all up to run just as it has) point to and say "There is an injection of energy, and better yet ordered energy, that proves God's existance". Up until now, though, there's been nothing other than mathematical proof for cosmic inflation itself- only theories that seemed impossible (matter moving at several million times the speed of light?!?!?). This gets us a step closer to a GUFTE- a grand unified field theory of everything that would be as close as science could come to describing God.
    • The findings described by this article are not so much about the "Big Bang Theory" per say, which is already fairly well accepted by cosmologists as a likely accurate view of the early universe. Rather this is more about "Inflationary" theories, which describe the rapid expansion in the very ealry moments of the Univesrse. This seems to be the first solid evidence supporting the theory that an Inflationary period occured in the early universe.
    • To put that into laymans terms, they have new data that agrees with old data and theories. That can be a good thing for the status of a theory. But let's be somewhat scientific here and not throw around statements that imply proven theories.

      No, in layman's terms, they've proven the theory. In scientific terms, they have new data that agrees with old data and theories. The problem is that non-technical language doesn't distinguish between "theory" and "hypothesis," nor between "sufficient evidence to accep
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:09PM (#14944821) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that non-technical language doesn't distinguish between "theory" and "hypothesis," nor between "sufficient evidence to accept" and "proof."

        I agree completely. However, if you're going to take things down to laymans terms, you need to explain what you're talking about. Saying "the theory is proven" is not correct, even in laymans terms. Saying "the theory is effectively proven, with a vanishing small chance for error" better conveys the reality.

        In any case, most people have pointed out that the story is misleading anyway. While this is evidence for a big bang type event, it is more interesting because it provides evidence for an inflationary universe; something that has had far less evidence to back it before now. :-)
    • NASA *Reaffirms* Big Bang Theory

      Look like you were in a big hurry to do some karma whoring and you neglected to even look at the story. The original posting was completely reasonable.

      • If you would be kind enough to look up a few posts above [slashdot.org], you'll find out exactly what happened.

        Look like you were in a big hurry to do some karma whoring and you neglected to even look at the story.

        Looks like you were in such a big hurry to criticize that you weren't paying attention to the signs that the story changed.
    • Confirm [princeton.edu] doesn't imply 'prove'.
  • Well, looks like that's it for their funding.
    • Well, looks like that's it for their funding.

      Not if the head of Nasa mentions the huge oil deposit on Mars.


    • The former media guy would have insisted on saying "NASA Confirms: Big Bang was Done by Jesus"
    • There's an ironic post. George Bush upset because these scientists are using science rather than religion?

      How do we gaze back to the infant universe? The cosmic microwave background is a fossilized record of what occurred way back when. Embedded in this light are subtle patterns that point to very specific conditions about the early universe.

      So...subtle patterns from something that happened long ago that may or may not have been affected by external forces on the way towards us. Patterns for which we are extrapolating initial conditions on the basis of what is equivalent to a very, very small number of observations in the grand timeline, and for which we only have a single location (this solar system) to sample from.

      All this to describe an event whose happening we don't really understand and which we have no way to either predict or test. What can we really do now that we couldn't before?

      We can see into space with a higher degree of accuracy, and finally, perhaps, test a few of the theories that we couldn't before (which are based on other theories that we still can't yet test). Don't get it wrong, though:
      Deciding that the universe is a particular age is still taking a leap of faith, no matter what age you think it is.
      • Trying to figure out as best we can what the age of the universe is based on our observations and the best theories we can extrapolate from these observations isn't faith; it's science. Just because we don't know everything, it doesn't mean that we should stick our heads in the ground and pretend to know nothing.
        • Trusting empirical evidence and inductive reasoning requires plenty of faith. Science is predicated on the idea that if A is followed by B for every instance of A that's been observed, that A will continue to be followed by B forever. There is no logical reason to believe this; it's merely how we think the world works. (To be fair to scientists, no one would be able to function without this belief. But that doesn't make it True.)

          Of course, it's quite a leap to go from "science requires faith" to "you mi

          • There is no logical reason to believe this; it's merely how we think the world works.

            We believe this because everything we observe follows this pattern. Even if this isn't sufficient proof to overcome hyperbolic doubt, even Hume accepted that it is the best thing we have. Besides, science isn't based on finding what's "True," but rather getting the closest to the truth we can, as I posted originally.

        • I think we differ in view is what to think when "best" is roughly equivalent to "wild speculation with a small number of highly questionable supporting facts."

          My opinion there is that you should go ahead and assume that any theory that has been put forth is equally valid. I don't see why "God made it at a specific time" or "its always been there," or "it happened at a specific time all by itself" are all equally valid hypotheses in absence of real testability.

          Its interesting that you mention putting your h
          • I think we differ in view is what to think when "best" is roughly equivalent to "wild speculation with a small number of highly questionable supporting facts."

            I think you don't know much about science. The Big Bang theory is highly speculative, but to call it "wild speculation" is simply untrue--it is the most logically consistent explanation of phenomena we observe in the universe.

            My opinion there is that you should go ahead and assume that any theory that has been put forth is equally valid. I don't s

  • How? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JDSalinger (911918) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:00PM (#14944235)
    How can the past be truly confirmed?
    -C
  • Oh come on! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MikeyTheK (873329)
    This doesn't confirm anything. They have found evidence that may or may not be consistent with a particular hypothesis. Could someone please do a better job of editing the titles?
  • I sure agree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 2.7182 (819680)
    How is it possible to "confirm" a big bang theory ? You'd have to go back and see it. Maybe "indirect evidence was found" is a better description.

    They'll probably change their stance a few years anyway about the whole thing.
    • They are measuring the light generated from the event itself. Isn't that the same as seeing it? ;)
      • They are measuring the light generated from the event itself. Isn't that the same as seeing it? ;)

        But if we're a part of the universe created by that event, and nothing travels faster than the speed of light, then how did we get here before the light from that event got here? If we're seeing it via reflections, how did what it's reflecting off of get out there ahead of it?
        • The light wraps around the universe. Look far enough and you'll see the back of your head!

          Actually, the light being studied is the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is a snapshot of the universe at the moment it cooled to the point it was transparant for the first time (called Recombination), which was about 100 K years after the Big Bang IIRC. The temperature everwhere we look is extremely uniform, too uniform given the size of the universe at that time and the speed of light.

          A theory that the
        • Re:I sure agree (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          But if we're a part of the universe created by that event, and nothing travels faster than the speed of light, then how did we get here before the light from that event got here?

          You've got several errors in your assumptions.

          First off, the "Event" that caused the photons in the CMB isn't actually the singularity->universe transition at time zero, it's what happened thousands of years later, after charged particles formed neutral complexes and allowed photons to travel more than a fraction of a meter witho
    • Re:I sure agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:40PM (#14944581) Journal
      Have you ever heard the word "inference"? You know, the same kind of process as you would use if you find a man lying on the ground with a pool of blood around his head and a bloodied hammer lying beside him.

      Big Bang cosmology is based upon three key lines of evidence:
      1. The red shift of distant galaxies demonstrates that the observable universe is expanding.
      2. Nucleosynthesis demonstrates that the large majority of the very lightest elements; hydrogen, helium and lithium are not the products of stars, but rather from some period when the universe was much hotter and denser than it was today.
      3. The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, seen in *every* direction you care to look, is the clearest earmark that the Universe was much hotter and denser.

      So even if Big Bang cosmology is replaced, the replacement theory is going to have to explain these observations and the inference gained from them that the universe was much denser and hotter early in its history.
    • Suppose I'm sitting by a pond one day, busy coding on my laptop, when I hear a lound splash. I look up and see a couple of kids picking up rocks and a circular wave having a diameter that indicates it was formed about 5s ago. Well, I wasn't a witness to the event, but I could hypothesize that one of the kids threw a rock into the water. To confirm, I could roll up my pant legs and feel around in the soft muddy floor of the pond for a rock. Now I've got a supported theory. The rock turns out to be the same i
  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:03PM (#14944261)
    ---stars and galaxies separated by vast voids.' Thereby creating a 'structure' to the universe -- a kiddush cup. '...finds that the first stars---the forebears of all subsequent generations of stars and of life itself---were fully formed remarkably early, only about 400 million years after inflation. This is called the era of reionization, the point when the light from the first stars ionized hydrogen atoms, liberating electrons from the protons.

    Fantastic!
    I was looking for a pickup line for tonight!
    • Certainly, that was a great pickup line. While she is standing there totally flabbergasted after hearing this, all you have to do is hit her on the head with a big stick and carry her into your lair... I mean your mom's basement. Hopefully I don't have to tell you what to do with her once you are down there?
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:03PM (#14944265) Homepage Journal
    First I clicked on the link and there was this: Nothing for you to see here.

    Then I clicked and there was a story.

    It happened in less than a second, so we can call that a Big Bang.

    Q.E.D.
  • Lets not forget. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kenja (541830)
    Lets not forget that in science you cant prove anything, only disprove. All you can do is postulate a theory and provide evidance to back it up.
    • Where does it say that in science something can't be proven. Get a scientist and tell him to prove that water is made from two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen...he can prove it...He doesn't need to disprove anything else. Disproving is fine and dandy, but due to the nature of existance - pretty much every answer, except a select few, is the wrong answer. Given that dispproving something will help you eliminate issues, but you need to actually prove something to get a "hey look, 2+2 = 4"
      • Get a scientist and tell him to prove that water is made from two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen...he can prove it...

        No, he can't. He can show you an overwhelming amount of evidence that is consistent with the H2O theory, but that is not the same thing as proof. It is, however, as close to proof as anything in science ever gets.
        • by AviLazar (741826)
          No, he can't. He can show you an overwhelming amount of evidence that is consistent with the H2O theory, but that is not the same thing as proof. It is, however, as close to proof as anything in science ever gets.

          Why can't he? He can take the components, separate them and then show you with instruments that can read such materials. "See we were in a vacuum that had pure H2O. Now after applying the electrical process, we have some gas in there. My instruments are able to tell me that it is Hydrogen a
          • Because Karl Popper [amazon.com] states unequivocally in his seminal work the Logic of Scientific Discovery that only theories that are falsifiable are open to scientific evaluation. At such a point the theory holds that it cannot be falsified it is not longer science. Note the period.
            • So, you are saying, that if someone creates a theory that is so sound proof, so accurate, so factual that it cannot be falsified it ceases to become science? I am sorry, I am not buying that. We have theories, in science, that are not disprovable. The moment something has been disproved it no longer qualifies to be a theory.
              • You assume that just because they cannot be disproven now, with current knowledge and tools, that they never will be. Dealing in such absolutes is what disqualifies such a theory from being science and moreso as a belief... much like those that would make up a religion. Scientific theory is and always will be only as good as what we "know" and "have" prior to stating said theory.
              • Cannot be falsified doesn't mean that there's no evidence, it means that there is no possible observation which, if it was found, would disprove it.
              • So, you are saying, that if someone creates a theory that is so sound proof, so accurate, so factual that it cannot be falsified it ceases to become science?

                No. What is said is that it is impossible for an explanation conforming to the scientific method to ever satisfy your given criteria.
          • Prove that you had a perfect vacuum in the chamber before you put the water in. (Good luck on this one.)

            Prove that your sample was pure water. (Ditto; water is really, really hard to purify.)

            Prove that your "electrical process" did not somehow introduce new material into the chamber.

            Prove that your instruments are reading the elements in the chamber, and their proportions, correctly.

            And after you're done proving all those things, prove that the techniques you used to prove them are correct.

            Etc. Do you se
          • Why can't he? He can take the components, separate them and then show you with instruments that can read such materials. "See we were in a vacuum that had pure H2O. Now after applying the electrical process, we have some gas in there. My instruments are able to tell me that it is Hydrogen and Oxygen...in a 2-1 ratio.

            Congratulations, you have just proved that electricity transmutes the element "water" into the elements "hydrogen" and "oxygen".

            That tells us nothing about what's "really" going on at the at

    • "All you can do is postulate a theory and provide evidance to back it up."

      Well, it also helps if you have experiment(s) that were designed specifically to disprove the theory, and they didn't.
    • Very true.

      However, if you have a bunch of competing hypothesis, and the evidence disproves all but one, you pretty much are stuck with the survivor as the working theory until something better comes along.

      So far, the evidence is pretty much against most other competing theories, including steady-state and creationist viewpoints.
  • 42 (Score:5, Funny)

    by mtenhagen (450608) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:04PM (#14944273) Homepage
    And we all know the answer will be 42, so why bother?
  • what? (Score:3, Funny)

    by jeffs72 (711141) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:04PM (#14944275) Journal
    Peretz writes "NASA has a confirmed a theory of what took place post-Big Bang and time expansion. They claim: 'Over the course of millions of years, gravity exploited the density differences to create the structure of the universe---stars and galaxies separated by vast voids.' Thereby creating a 'structure' to the universe -- a kiddush cup. '...finds that the first stars---the forebears of all subsequent generations of stars and of life itself---were fully formed remarkably early, only about 400 million years after inflation. This is called the era of reionization, the point when the light from the first stars ionized hydrogen atoms, liberating electrons from the protons.'"

    Era of reionization? Time expansion? Doesn't Nasa know this is friday afternoon, time to go drinking and chase skirts? I can't think about this now!

  • I know some people who think their entire universe is STILL a kiddush cup![1]

    -Erwos

    [1] Interpret this as you will - upon reflection, there's a lot of meanings to it.
    • Well, to mee it looks more like a cheap glass tumbler, like gas stations used to give away with every fill up.

      We're probably rattling around on the floor of God's back seat because (as astronomers will soon discover) our universe has the wrong football team logo on it.

  • The notion that a rapid period "inflation" preceded the Big Bang expansion was first put forth 25 years ago. [snip] Inflation poses that the universe expanded far faster than the speed of light and grew from a subatomic size to a golf-ball size. [snip]

    In simpler, day-to-day terms, what they're trying to say here is that Universe rapidly enlarged until it eventually blew the seal.

  • To any cosmologists/astronomers:

    Which theory is supported by this? The one that says large scale structure in the universe formed first or that small scale structure formed and later clustered together to form super structures?

    And how does this relate to the universe's current acceleration, if at all?
  • ... a four dimensional kiddush cup, or an eleven dimensional one? (Or ten, according to your personal string-theory beliefs...)

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:22PM (#14944433) Journal
    Oh great, now the Kansas Board of Education will have to have another meeting.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:23PM (#14944439)
    Now what exactly happened billions of years ago? And what happened before that? And before that?

    *Head asplodes*
  • NASA announced today that NASA researchers were responsible for the creation of the universe. This adds to NASA's long history of innovations important to every American, including Teflon, Velcro, and Tang.

    NASA will be adding a new "Universe Discovery Center" to the NASAquest Children's Activity Center [nasa.gov] at NASA centers.

    • the universe might or might not have had a definite beginning, until NASA tried to observe it, and they collapsed the probability function to a definite big bang happening. Some have suggested they might next like to see if the universe will end in the next five minutes, but, in the words of the Director: "After what we did to the beginning of the universe, the possibility of causing the end made us foul our britches"
  • What I'd still like explained in simple enough langauge for the average Slashdot reader is:

    If the Universe started out in one place, and expanded at less than the speed of light, how can we only now be receiving light from its early days?

    And while you're at it:

    If object A is moving one direction at .6c, and object B is moving the opposite direction at .6c, does each object appear to be moving at >1c from the other object?

    Thanks!

    • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:24PM (#14944945)
      If the Universe started out in one place, and expanded at less than the speed of light, how can we only now be receiving light from its early days?

      Because the Big bang was not an explosion. The universe didn't start in one place - it was one place, and that place - space itself - expanded.

      If object A is moving one direction at .6c, and object B is moving the opposite direction at .6c, does each object appear to be moving at >1c from the other object?

      No. Because by special relativity, velocities do not add in the Newtonian fashion. The wikipedia article on it is pretty good.
  • Upon closer inspection of the results, scientists found evidence of giant supergalactic noodles and meatballs.
  • by Chris Tucker (302549) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @03:04AM (#14947068) Homepage
    ...to explain it all to you:

    Big Bizang
    Words: MC Hawking & Fred Ciesla
    Music: Dark Matter

    In the beginning there was nothing, not even time.
    No planets, no stars, no hip-hop, no rhyme.
    Then there was a bang like the sound of my gatt,
    the universe was born and the shit was phat

    The universe began as a singularity,
    nobody knows what went on then G.
    For ten million, trillion, trillion, trillionths of a second
    the state of the universe cannot be reckoned.
    The fundamental forces were unified,
    we've no theory to describe that 'though I've tried,
    then the forces split and the universe was born,
    it was hotter than a priest watching kiddy-porn.
    Protons, neutrons and electrons came to pass,
    as photons collided changing energy to mass.
    Three minutes go by, temps a cool one billion,
    down from one hundred million, trillion, trillion.
    This reduced heat allowed a new event,
    the formation of heavier elements.
    Still it was millions of years, 'fore the first start glowed,
    if you're down with the bang sing along here we go!

    It was a big-pow, piz-ow,
    bang-a-dang, bigitty-digitty,
    boom, bigitty-boom,
    ka-boom, the big bizang.

    Hold on now what about inflation?
    Well that's a little tricky,
    and could use some explanation.
    Inflation, one could fairly state,
    was a time when the universe expanded at a rate,
    that was faster than the speed of light,
    but that over simplifies and it ain't quite right.
    Still for purposes here it will have to do,
    'cause I ain't got the time to explain it to you.

    The beginning of time and the birth of all matter,
    say it took seven days you're as mad as a hatter,
    it was millions of year 'fore the first star glowed,
    if you're down with the bang sing along here we go!

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