No, James Webb Space Telescope images won’t debunk the Big Bang

How did the universe come to be?popular theory is everything Yes Start with the big bang. In short, the theory suggests that everything that is everywhere suddenly comes alive.Warning is everything and everywhere Hard to conceptualize before the Big Bang.

The Big Bang Theory is currently the best model we have of the birth of the universe. Astrophysicists have shown that the theory fairly comprehensively explains phenomena we have observed in space for decades, such as lingering background radiation and element abundances. It’s a powerful framework that gives us a good understanding of how the universe formed some 13.8 billion years ago.

But with a burst of Preprints and popular science articles about First photo from the James Webb Space TelescopeIn recent weeks, old and false claims that the Big Bang never happened have circulated on social media and the media. A scientist claims that JWST images are sparking “cosmologists’ panic” – scientists who study the origin of the universe.

This is not correct. The JWST has provided no evidence to disprove the Big Bang theory, and cosmologists are not panicking. So why are we seeing viral social media posts and trendy headlines suggesting the big bang didn’t happen at all?

To answer this question and show why we should be skeptical of such a claim, we need to understand where the idea came from.

Where does “the big bang didn’t happen” come from?

It all started with an August 11 article from the Institute of Arts and Ideas, a British philosophical organization. The author of this article is Eric Lerner, who has long been against big theories. He even wrote a book in 1991 called The Big Bang That Never Happened.

The IAI’s provocative headline article also relates to an upcoming debate Lerner will be participating in, hosted by the IAI, called “Cosmology and the Great Depression.”

Last week, Lerner’s article went viral on social media and was widely shared on Twitter and Facebook. It makes sense why it caught fire: It’s a controversial idea that upends what we think we know about the universe. Additionally, it has to do with a new technology in the James Webb Telescope that can see parts of the universe we’ve never seen before. Using Webb as a news hook here shows that new data disproves a long-standing theory.

Don’t get me wrong – new and interesting data is emerging in JWST. Just not the kind of guy who would overturn the big bang theory. Much of this new data is disseminated to the public in the form of scientific preprints, articles that have not yet been peer-reviewed and landed on repositories such as arXiv, or mass media articles.

Lerner’s article uses some of the earlier JWST research to try to refute the big bang theory. What is worrying is how it misinterprets the early JWST data, suggesting that astronomers and cosmologists worry that the accepted theory is incorrect. There are two points in Lerner’s article that make this point:

  • He pointed to a preprint with the words “Panic!” In its title, it calls it a “candid exclamation mark.”
  • He misused the words of University of Kansas astronomer Alison Kirkpatrick.

The first point is just one example of a pun that Lerner missed. The full title of the paper is “Panic! At the Disks: First Rest-frame Optical Observations of Galaxy Structure at z>3 with JWST in the SMACS 0723 Field”. The preprint’s lead author, astronomer Leonardo Ferreira, is apparently repeating the emo band Panic, which was popular in the 2000s! in the disco with his title. This is a witty reference, not a cosmological crisis.

As for the second point, Lerner cites this quote from Allison Kirkpatrick from a Nature News article published on July 27:

“Now I find myself waking up at three in the morning wondering if everything I did was wrong.”

This carefully selected quote is not a direct reference to the Big Bang theory. Instead, Kirkpatrick is considering the first data on the early evolution of the universe returned from JWST. It’s true that astronomers have some puzzles to solve here, but so far they haven’t done so by rewriting the beginning of the universe. Kirkpatrick said her quote was abused, even changing her Twitter name to “Alison Big Bang in Kirkpatrick.”

“As scientists, we have a responsibility to educate the public, and I take that responsibility very seriously,” Kirkpatrick told CNET. “Deliberately misleading the public to make it hard for them to trust real scientists and to learn facts from fiction.”

In addition, Lerner’s article claimed that his ideas were under scrutiny by the scientific establishment, and he later noted that his theory was important for developing fusion energy on Earth. It is no coincidence that the same paragraph links to LPPFusion, a company run by Lerner to develop clean energy technologies.

Why is this important?

One of the main reasons why the big bang theory holds true is the cosmic microwave background. This was discovered in 1964. Simply put, CMBs are the radiation left over from the Big Bang, and right when the universe first began, scientists have been able to “see” it with satellites that can detect this lingering radiation.

So to support the evidence, the big bang theory is Incorrect, you need to interpret CMB in another way. Lerner was dismissive of the CMB, whose observations have been dismissed in the past. If you’re interested in further arguments against Lerner’s hypothesis and why these claims don’t hold, I recommend checking out Brian Keating’s recent YouTube video. Keating, a cosmologist at the University of California, San Diego, explored the limitations of Lerner’s argument in more detail.

It’s also important to note that Webb was not built to view and perform new analysis on the CMB itself. Telescopes cannot “see” that far into the past.However, it will look at an era of several hundred million years back big Bang. Its discoveries there will almost certainly reshape our view of the early universe, galaxies and cosmic evolution. But it would be dishonest to claim that early images and findings contradict the Big Bang theory.

Kirkpatrick points out that the JWST image is actually the opposite. She said they “support the Big Bang model because they show us that early galaxies were different from the ones we see today — they were much smaller!”

Science is about making incremental advances in our understanding, drawing increasingly powerful conclusions from observations. Observations made by astrophysicists and cosmologists for decades are consistent with the Big Bang theory. If we used Lerner’s alternative theory, they would not line up as neatly. That doesn’t mean scientists won’t find evidence to disprove the Big Bang theory. They are just possible! But, for now, it remains the best theory we have for explaining what we see.

Scientific theories can and should be challenged by very detailed and thoughtful arguments from rational scientists. This is not one of those times. That means, despite the headlines, the big bang did happen.

Update August 22: Added Kirkpatrick’s quote.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.