Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reading - Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science. Part 3.

Reading -  Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science.
by Halton Arp

Continuation from part 2.  The End is Near!

But the Cracks Started to Show Early

I've already noted how Noerdlinger demonstrated in 1975 that Arp's 1/z separation correlation was the result of a simple geometric sampling artifact in the cosmological redshift interpretation (see Part 1 of this series)

Another detail that Arp does not mention in his book is just how soon counter-examples began to arise that presented problems for quasar ejection interpretation.  Most problematic were galaxies being found near quasars with a similar redshift, back in the 1970s:
If Arp's interpretation was correct, how could a galaxy have the SAME redshift as a nearby quasar?  Perhaps they're chance alignments?  According to Arp, that is not likely!

In addition, other astronomers were beginning to detect structure around quasars consistent with a host galaxy (The Structure and Spectrum of Nebulosity Associated with the QSO 4c 37.43).

The observations that some quasars could have the same redshifts as normal galaxies was rather quickly acknowledged by Burbidge (see Redshifts and Distances, 1979), but apparently not by Arp.  But Burbidge did not recognize how damaging that fact was to the underlying model of quasars as ejected objects.  The flip side was that for the cosmological interpretation of redshifts, the quasar energy production mechanism became a challenge again.

By the 1990s, the Hubble Space Telescope was demonstrating that QSOs appeared to be in galaxies:
In Arp's book, he reports on a press conference where John Bahcall was announcing some of these early results (pg 55).  Rather than acknowledge this was a severe blow for his model, Arp emphasized that this could not be demonstrated for ALL quasars observed.  Arp's denial was in the same class as creationists complaining about gaps in the fossil record, who, when an intermediate is found, insists that evolution now has TWO gaps!

Caveat Emptor
As noted before, while reading this book, I took the time to read the references mentioned by Arp, as well as a number of papers which dealt with discordant redshifts NOT mentioned by Arp.
As a result, I came away feeling that Arp was selling this cosmological model like he's selling used cars.  It's what he's NOT telling you that's important.

When confronted with contrary evidence, Arp dismisses it in a fashion that suggests his own personal incredulity.  He can't believe that the contrary evidence could be this way, so it can't.

The cosmological model promoted by Arp and his supporters seems designed to evade any kind of laboratory testing.  The matter creation process advocated in the Narlikar model is claimed to be undetectable under laboratory conditions.  Meanwhile, many dark matter searches are taking place in Earth laboratories (see Dark Matter).  Which has a better chance of being demonstrated correct?

The more I read Arp's cosmology description, the more I felt I was reading something akin to a Medieval cosmology (Wikipedia), where the sky (in this case the Cosmic Microwave Background) was a distant shell and the planets (or galaxies) where mounted on 'quantized' crystal spheres around the Earth!

Please Don't Feed the Cranks

The final chapter of Arp's book concentrated on Arp's views of academic science and other odds-n-ends.

Dr. Arp complains that the Big Bang is treated as 'unquestioned dogma'.  This is the same expression used by Biblical Geocentrists, Creationists, Electric Universe and Plasma Cosmology supporters, and others, about many of the same aspects of modern astronomy and cosmology.  Of course, each of these groups advocate their own cosmology different from the others, so who is arguing dogma?

Arp claims that the Big Bang model has so many parameters that anything can be made to work (pg 257).  While Big Bang Cosmology does have a number of parameters, today there is a lot more data in the form of galaxy and cosmic microwave power spectra and polarization info that constrains the values of those parameters.  Max Tegmark has generated a set of movies on his web site that illustrate how the model matches with the data for different values of the cosmological parameters. This is a very cool demonstration.

While Arp complains about creationism (pg 270), a large fraction of 'creation scientists' invoke his work as evidence that Big Bang cosmology is wrong.  When reading this book, I realized that large sections of Barry Setterfield's 'science' of a decaying speed of light seems to be based on Arp (see A Changing Speed of Light?).  Arp even collaborated for publication with one Young-Earth Creationist, John Hartnett (see Analysis of the 2dF Deep Field).

It is difficult to find a crank cosmology claim that DOESN'T invoke Arp's observations at some point.  Many of these alternative cosmologies fly completely contrary to Arp's work if the Arp's  interpretations are correct.  I've heard that Anthony Peratt remarked that if Arp's model for quasars were correct, his Birkeland current galaxy model (see Scott Rebuttal. II. The Peratt Galaxy Model vs. the Cosmic Microwave Background) could not be correct (it is clear that Arp and Peratt's galaxy models have structures that are mutually exclusive).  I have yet to find where or if Peratt actually said this and would appreciate details if anyone can clarify the issue.  The contradictory nature of these two radically different galaxy models seems lost on Electric Universe supporters who routinely invoke Arp's observations.

Arp has become one of the darlings of the pseudo-astronomy community because he is one of the few promoters of these types of claims that has done a lot of legitimate astronomical research.  Most of his papers today seem to make it through peer review not because of Arp's discordant redshifts interpretation, but because the paper includes observations of particular objects which have not been published before but which are of value to other researchers. 

Claims of Abuse
Arp tries to get sympathy - often mentioning how he has been 'mistreated' by the astronomical community (pg 21, 74-75).  Yet he never acknowledges his errors nor their impact on his interpretation of observations while he continues to try to access multi-million dollar facilities to continue his quest.

Science has established a set of general rules, called the Scientific Method (Wikipedia).  While few successful individual researchers strictly follow this methodology in a systematic fashion, the group self-policing activity of peer-review and reproducibility in science does a good job of making sure the rules are followed and bad science eventually gets rejected.  While abuses do take place (wikipedia: Scientific Misconduct), it is often on a signifcantly smaller scale than in other professions.

But the fact that these rules exist, however informal, means there are penalties for those who don't want to follow the rules, or insist that they are subject to a different set of rules.  Many of the pseudo-sciences dealt with in this blog insist that science must adopt a different set of rules so that their claims can become accepted science.

What would you do if a mathematician insisted that (in base 10) 1 + 1 = 3?

Suppose they continued to insist on this even after you gave them marbles for a counting demonstration?

Suppose that instead of demonstrating with the marbles, they accused you of discriminating against them?

Additional Resource: AstronomyCast: How to Be Taken Seriously By Scientists

Cosmology After Discordant Redshifts...
With the discord amongst the redshifts largely resolved - astronomy has moved on…
A handful of researchers still pursue aspects of Arp's model, but it appears their numbers are declining as improving astronomical technologies turn ambiguities in astronomical observations into observational facts.

Additional Resources
Update, April 9, 2013: Fixed a number of typos.

No comments: