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Old 05-21-2020, 01:38 AM
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Galaxies formed one billion years earlier - does this falsify anything?


There is a recent piece of news focusing on the Wolfe Disc and the fact that galaxies seem to have formed earlier than the present Big Bang theory predicts.

I have run a quick Google search and found that similar articles were published in the past. Although distant galaxies whose existence indicates that there is something wrong with the theory have been observed, these discoveries have produced no nicks or chips anywhere on the cosmological model known as the Big Bang theory.

How is it that the scientific principle of falsifiability does not apply here? I thought that a single piece of evidence of such magnitude would be enough to disprove the predictable capacity of a theory, but in this case things do not seem to work that way.

I do not deny the validity of the Big Bang theory - I do not possess the critical apparatus that would allow me to emit judgments in this field. I am not here to propose alternate scenarios and I'm not a religious person. I simply wonder how things work.

If falsifiability applies arbitrarily, then it might not be such a reliable principle after all.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:20 AM
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I'm not a cosmologist, but I'm fairly certain that the formation of galaxies is not part of the Big Bang theory. So this discovery is not falsifying the BB. It may be falsifying theories of galaxy formation, or rather pointing out they need more work, but that's a different thing.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:50 AM
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The Big Bang Theory is still the best theory we have. In fact, a fairly recent book was published that details all of the things that any competing theory would have to explain in order to dethrone the Big Bang Theory. Any new or competing theory is going to have to explain a lot of observations that the Big Bang Theory does currently explain very well, which is going to make things very difficult for any new or competing theory that anyone might propose.

See here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamieca.../#6d0b4a6c20d9

That said, there are some details about the Big Bang Theory that are proving to be difficult to nail down. One of them is the exact age of the Universe. Scientists have several ways of measuring the age of the Universe, and they generally come up with an age somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 Billion years, give or take a bit. However, as instruments get better and we take more measurements of all different types, these different ways of measuring the age of the Universe all get more and more precise, and here's the problem. While these methods were all originally in agreement, within the possible range of errors for each type of measurement, as the measurements get more precise and the error ranges narrow, the different methods no longer agree with each other.

Does this invalidate the Big Bang Theory? Of course not. But it is one of the great unsolved mysteries in modern science.

There are a lot of details in our models of the Big Bang that disagree with each other or might just be flat out wrong. It doesn't invalidate the theory overall, but it does indicate some gaps in our understanding of both physics and the Universe.

Dr. Becky on youtube has a good explanation here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73ZXk_I9h5s
(fast forward to about the 13:27 mark)

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 05-21-2020 at 04:56 AM.
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:45 AM
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That's an unsolved mystery, to be sure. But it's hardly a great unsolved mystery. Some of the measurements have sources of systematic error that we haven't accounted for. They're not even very large systematic errors. Happens all the time.

As for galaxy formation, these new results might go against what we knew before, but what we knew before wasn't all that strong to begin with. There's a lot we don't know about the mechanism of galaxy formation: Not what you would call "mysteries", but just a whole bunch of competing models, and we don't know which is correct. New results like this are a good thing, because they help us narrow down that list of possibilities.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UY Scuti View Post
How is it that the scientific principle of falsifiability does not apply here? I thought that a single piece of evidence of such magnitude would be enough to disprove the predictable capacity of a theory, but in this case things do not seem to work that way.
On this point specifically, I think this is a misconception.

Yes if you have a tentative hypothesis, then a single piece of falsifying data should be enough to send you back to the drawing board.

But, if you have a very detailed model, that has already been used to make myriad accurate and useful predictions and inferences, it would be madness if we were forced to jettison it overnight because "rules are rules".
All the many verified predictions suggest we're correct on some level, but the now incorrect prediction means there's something missing from the picture.

The best example of this is the standard model of particle physics. It's the most accurate scientific model of any kind that we have; it has made predictions that match experiments to one part in 10 billion. And it has been used to make useful technologies and scientific instruments.
Clearly it's not outright wrong.
And yet, there are a domain of problems for which the standard model also does not deliver the correct answer.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UY Scuti View Post
There is a recent piece of news focusing on the Wolfe Disc and the fact that galaxies seem to have formed earlier than the present Big Bang theory predicts.
That's not what your link says.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
On this point specifically, I think this is a misconception.

Yes if you have a tentative hypothesis, then a single piece of falsifying data should be enough to send you back to the drawing board.

But, if you have a very detailed model, that has already been used to make myriad accurate and useful predictions and inferences, it would be madness if we were forced to jettison it overnight because "rules are rules".
All the many verified predictions suggest we're correct on some level, but the now incorrect prediction means there's something missing from the picture.
Yes. Predictions almost always involve a large number of factors - so when the prediction is wrong, it is necessary to figure out which factor is responsible, and no one is going to give up more fundamental principles before giving up ancillary principles.

For example, when the orbit of Mercury deviated from the predictions of Newton, people didn't give up on Newton immediately - they correctly realized that the predictions of Mercury's orbit depended on Newton's gravity and the existing knowledge of the contents of the Solar System. Therefore, they first investigated the possibility that there were other planets than those previously known (this had worked to explain the anomalous motion of Uranus, after all). It was only when Vulcan couldn't be found, and a better explanation was available, that Newton's laws were recognized as wrong.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:18 AM
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People often mistake discussions over details for a flaw in the fundamental theory.

Some scientific theories are well-established as to principle, but the details haven't yet been worked out or universally agreed upon. Example: biologists are still arguing over how evolution works, in detail: are the changes super-gradual, or in sudden steps? And what drives the changes?

We have examples of both. It's possible that one or the other, or both, may be true, but the fundamental Darwin-supported theory is not in jeopardy due to this discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
...It was only when Vulcan couldn't be found, and a better explanation was available, that Newton's laws were recognized as wrong.
Nitpick: They weren't wrong, they were just inadequate.

Last edited by Musicat; 05-21-2020 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:41 AM
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Nitpick: They weren't wrong, they were just inadequate.
I think "wrong" works here (Newton's laws produce an incorrect answer, and do not predict other phenomena the GR do predict). Newton's law are a highly accurate approximation for many, many situations, though.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by UY Scuti View Post
I have run a quick Google search and found that similar articles were published in the past. Although distant galaxies whose existence indicates that there is something wrong with the theory have been observed, these discoveries have produced no nicks or chips anywhere on the cosmological model known as the Big Bang theory.

How is it that the scientific principle of falsifiability does not apply here? I thought that a single piece of evidence of such magnitude would be enough to disprove the predictable capacity of a theory, but in this case things do not seem to work that way.
The Big Bang theory doesn't (yet) have enough precision to be falsified by something like this. So we found a galaxy a billion years older than expected... cool... that just helps refine the minimum age of the universe to something larger (assuming the measurement is correct).
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:00 AM
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It falsifies the theory that galaxies couldn't form that early. It doesn't falsify the big bang theory though, because the big bang theory itself doesn't make that prediction. The theory of galaxy formation might rely on the big bang theory, but it's a separate theory that can be falsified without affecting the big bang theory itself.

It's like a theory that apes evolved from birds. That theory might rely on the theory of evolution, but when we find out that apes didn't evolve from birds, that doesn't have any bearing on whether or not the theory of evolution itself is valid.
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