5 scientific myths you probably believe about the Universe

Written by Ethan Siegel

The clustering of galaxies in the Universe on the largest observable scales, where each pixel represents a galaxy. Image credit: Michael Blanton and SDSS collaboration.

For millennia, a look up at the sky — our window into the cosmos beyond our world — was met with wonder, awe, and a fascination with the unknown. Thanks to all the scientific advances made by civilizations across the globe, we now know that the points of light in the sky are stars, found grouped together in galaxies, which cluster together on the largest scales, in a Universe that began with our Big Bang a finite amount of time ago: 13.8 billion years. Yet knowing that doesn’t mean we know everything. In fact, knowing some physics opens the door for some really large misconceptions, some of which afflict even professional scientists. They include…

The observable (yellow) and reachable (magenta) portions of the Universe, which are what they are thanks to the expansion of space and the energy components of the Universe. Image credit: E. Siegel, based on work by Wikimedia Commons users Azcolvin 429 and Frédéric MICHEL.

Light and ripples in space; as the light passes through non-flat space, it changes how an observer at any other location perceives the passage of time for the light. Image credit: European Gravitational Observatory, Lionel BRET/EUROLIOS.

The timeline of our observable Universe’s history. Image credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team.

Two possible entanglement patterns in de Sitter space, representing entangled bits of quantum information that may enable space, time and gravity to emerge. Image credit: Erik Verlinde, via https://arxiv.org/pdf/1611.02269v2.pdf.

Fluctuations in spacetime itself at the quantum scale get stretched across the Universe during inflation, giving rise to imperfections in both density and gravitational waves. Image credit: E. Siegel, with images derived from ESA/Planck and the DoE/NASA/ NSF interagency task force on CMB research.

Read more at medium.com

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Comments (9)

  • Avatar

    JDHuffman

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    You have to wonder why Ethan Siegal would even waste time writing such nonsense. But, it appears that is what he does for a living.

    From the text: ““The Big Bang: just a theory. Gravity: only a theory. Even the entire field of putting these ideas together is called theoretical physics. It’s not like these are facts, truths or even laws. They’re only theories.”

    Wrong, Ethan! If a “theory” violates the established laws of physics, it is NOT a theory. It is pseudoscience.

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    Al Shelton

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    It will take a lot more than the present BBT to convince me of the origin of the universe.
    As far as I am concerned the BBT is in the same category as AGW from CO2, total BS.
    That is my opinion, and I am sticking to it for now.

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    Andy Rowlands

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    I must admit I’m struggling to understand this article. I was under the impression the ‘inflation’ period came after the Big Bang not before it, and I wasn’t aware we could see objects 46 billion light years away, I had been led to believe the most distant object we could see was the galaxy GN-Z11 in Ursa Major, which is calculated to be 13.3 billion light years away.

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    Herb Rose

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    6 Myths you believe about physics.
    1: The force between2 magnetics equals the product of the magnets divided by the distance squared
    No the strength of a magnet being created by two magnets combining is equal to the sum of the magnets divided by the distance from one magnet to the magnetic field of the other magnet.
    2: Gravity is a function of mass.
    No. Gravity is a function of energy. The data used to develop the theory consisted of the distance a planet was from the sun and the velocity of the planet squared. Mass was added by Newton to provide a source for his force.
    3: The photon or particle nature of light.
    No The photoelectric effect is just another version of the piezo electric effect where the disturbance of a crystal dislodges an electron in an ionic bond.
    4: The speed of lights constant.
    No. Light is a disturbance traveling in the magnetic and electric fields that permeate the universe and its speed depends on the strength of those fields. There is no evidence to support a constant speed of light.
    5: There is no experiment that can redone in a isolated enviroment that can distinguish between a gravitational field and acceleration. Therefore the are equivalent.
    No. All you have to do is reflect a beam of light between series of mirrors on opposite walls. In a gravitational field the light will remain at a constant height while in an accelerating capsule the light will descend down the walls as the walls move up.
    6: Einstein was right about anything.
    No. He said one experiment could prove him wrong but his disciples will create invisible particles and new rules of physics to preserve their delusions and his infallibility.

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      dereknunley

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      But if light doesn’t travel at a constant speed, then wouldn’t the better explanation for the red shift in farther away stars be that the light is slowing down slightly over vast strtches of space?

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        Herb Rose

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        Hi Dereknunley,
        Yes, but the question is whys it slowing down. It is not because it is striking something or a force is taking energy from it. It is because the strength of the medium is declining with distance. When it enters the medium around us as observers, its speed becomes the same as all the light we see from other sources.
        Herb.

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    JaKo

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    This reminds me of the “crystal plates containing planets” to explain why some little lights were predictable (stars) and some were wandering around (planets) to conform with the Ptolemaic model…
    Why wouldn’t these “scientist” (my gawd, a long time ago, I was about to become one of them!) settle down and imagine an Endless Universe, with no beginning and no end. And, further imagination would be required, in this infinite and ever-lasting universe, there would be some localized phenomena such as a Liddle Bang (AOT “big bang”), where there would be a subset of laws governing the whole universe valid in that infinitely small region of Space; with just different values of its parameters as in gravitational “constant” etc.
    Just a hint from a “mental backyard observer.”

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