Thursday, June 23, 2005

Neutrinos in the Early Universe

Big Bang models for the creation of the universe make a variety of predictions that come out of the equations of the models. As technology for astrophysical sciences improves and computer simulations and observational methodologies are generated and tested by a variety of means, some sensitive tests are now being done to check the validity of the Big Bang predictions. For example, the rate at which the universe is expanding, star formation and life cycles, and cosmic background radiation distributions have been tested for some number of years and support Big Bang predictions (as well as inflationary models, which are refined Big Bang models).

A new test has been done and reported in the latest edition of the scientific journal Nature. Detailed studies of the cosmic background radiation map of the universe have revealed small asymmetric patterns and clumping in the data, as predicted by inflation. However, at very small levels there is a ‘smoothing’ effect that has been observed that matches a prediction that in the early universe neutrinos could have affected the gravitational interaction of clumps of matter. Very interesting, indeed!

2 comments:

James said...

Doc V - very nice, now I'll never have to miss your thoughtful discussions on science and politics. I have a few comments on your evolution vs. creationalism post, and since it's all the way back in May, I hope you don't mind if I post them here.

I totally agree with everything you said, although I think the scientific community sometimes acts like philosophy and theology aren't noble and legitimate fields for intellectual discussion and investigation. I personally see as much genius and value in the works of Sartre and Luther as in the search for a GUT, and am saddened when professionals in different fields look down on each other.

But here's the question I want to pose - should schools try harder to teach religious literacy (from an unbiased perspective, of course), with classes to expose students to the traditions and doctrines and texts of major religions? There was an opinion series in the Trib about how most students don't understand the religious symbolism in Steinbeck, and I can imagine that my generation is going to grow up not really understanding Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism (which is crucial to foreign policy) and even our culture’s dominant religions, Christianity and Judaism. In my opinion, education like this, on a high school level, not only might satisfy the religious elements of our society, but would be a really good thing to do.

vonny said...

James,

First, please don't think I am dismissing religion and philosophy as serious academic and intellectual realms of study. These are, with science, the three main intellectual areas that have developed our society and civilization. In addition, science is still in its infant stages of development compared to religion and philosophy. I think we are in an exciting era, actually, where we can seriously consider basic questions that exist in the overlaps of science, religion and philosopy, such as evolution and the creation of the universe.

What I am trying to emphasize is that there are misconceptions on a large scale around the country about what science is and what should or should not be included in a science class in public schools.

There has been some noise about what a religion-centered class might look like. In fact, two students in one of my classes debated whether or not a religion history course should be mandatory in high schools, and that debate got many of us thinking. One cannot separate religion from history, including the creation of the U.S. and its role in what our culture and society looks like today. The same can be said for most countries around the world. The (vast) majority of people on the planet believe in a Creator and/or life after death.

In the abstract, it seems to me to be reasonable to say a religion-centered course would be a good idea in public high schools. Obviously it would need to be from a historical or literacy perspective, rather than an ideological bombardment that would favor one religion over another. From a practical standpoint, I don't know if I can buy that such a class would be able to remain neutral and purely historical. The thing about religion is that individuals quickly become emotional, and personal beliefs and faiths could lead to serious conflicts with Constitutional parameters and interpretations. It just seems like there would be multiple lawsuits waiting in the wings if this were attempted in a public high school, especially in certain communities. I am not sure how many teachers would want to teach sucj a course because of the potentially 'explosive' nature of the topic, even if the intentions were honest and fair.

This is a great issue for debate, and it will be interesting to see where it leads in the next couple of years. I think there may be some attempts at some schools on a trial basis, and I don't think it should be mandatory, but rather an elective (certainly initially).