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Why I love science
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singin sweet home alabama
 
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Why I love science - November 29, 2006, 02:37 PM

Being wrong isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Came across this little bit while reading Tuesday Morning QB on ESPN.com... of all places...

Quote:
Originally Posted by TMQ
The latest discovery, from a team lead by University of Toronto researcher Andy Howell, is that the "Chandrasekhar limit" on supernova explosions isn't a limit.



Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, one of the leading 20th-century astronomers, won a Nobel Prize for his 1930s studies that maintained the most common category of exploding stars, called the Type Ia supernova, could not exceed about 1.4 times the mass of our sun; this seemed to impose an upper boundary on the amount of destruction such a supernova explosion could cause. But the Toronto researchers observed a Type Ia supernova, dubbed SNLS-03D3bb, that reached about two solar masses before detonating, and thus released far more radiation than was thought possible. There's another implication. Partly owing to Chandrasekhar's arguments, it was assumed all Type Ia supernovae explode with about the same luminosity, meaning their light level could be used to estimate the expanse between the Milky Way and distant galaxies. (If they're all giving off approximately the same amount of light, relative measurements allow you to estimate how far away they are.) Current estimates of the size and age of the universe, and its rate of expansion, rely on the assumption that Type Ia supernovae obey the Chandrasekhar limit. If it turns out this class of exploding stars varies significantly, all bets might be off about how large and old the universe is, or its rate of expansion.



Now consider this. Since Edwin Hubble's discovery in 1929 that the universe was not static but expanding, theorists have debated whether the expansion would continue forever, gradually slow down or eventually reverse as gravity overcame the outward momentum of the Big Bang and pulled the stuff of the firmament back to its starting point. (The latter conjecture is called the Big Crunch.) Researchers using Type Ia supernova as measuring sticks declared in 1998 that cosmic expansion was accelerating, which nobody's theory predicted. The galaxies could not be speeding up unless energy were somehow being added to them, which caused cosmologists to speculate that mysterious "dark energy" permeates the universe and functions as the mirror image of gravity. No physicist has offered even the vaguest explanation of where dark energy originates or what powers it. (General relativity theory does offer an explanation of how gravity derives its power to pull.) Yet even though the dark energy concept requires you to believe that most of the energy of the universe is undetectable and so far inexplicable, physicists rapidly have accepted the idea that dark energy exists and even might be the dominant force of the cosmos. What if it turns out the universe is not accelerating, that the apparent rising rate of expansion is a data error caused by the false assumption that all Type Ia supernovas have a standard brightness? Then physicists will have to announce that dark energy never existed in the first place. But trust us, we're experts!
Everyone hops on the bandwagon, but sooner or later something comes along that shows that everyone was wrong. And in discovering that wrong, we are that closer to being right.

I Love it. Hell, something that invalidates long standing scientific thought is infinitely better than something that validates it. Validation just says "you're on the right course", but invalidation causes you to rethink the whole damn thing.


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."
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B
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November 29, 2006, 03:04 PM

I read that several months ago on CNNs space site. Many of the "facts" we base views and entire schools of thought on, aren't really facts at all.


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November 29, 2006, 03:18 PM

trick is to figure out which facts are correct....and not just bs accepted by the masses


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November 29, 2006, 03:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whisper
trick is to figure out which facts are correct....and not just bs accepted by the masses

you are so right...wait, maybe you aren't ....
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singin sweet home alabama
 
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November 29, 2006, 03:50 PM

Any "fact" is only a fact for as long as observation continues to support it. That's what's great about scientific thought. It's meant to accept failure of understanding and adapt.

I've often been challenged by my more religious friends when something like this comes out. It's like they expect me to be devastated that a scientific view was wrong; like "my team" lost. However, its just the opposite! I'm ecstatic when this kind of discovery is made.

Rather than trying to find the reasons the universe is expanding according to our observations, we know now that our observations were flawed! The entire picture changes and science leaps forward.

A discovery that may end up invalidating the understanding that the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate is huge. I'm just impressed at how seemingly minor observations can have drastic impacts on the foundations we have used to arrive at our understanding of incredibly huge things, such as the size/growth/age of the universe.


"No race has ever been won in the first corner, but plenty have been lost there."

Last edited by DvlsAdvc8; November 29, 2006 at 03:56 PM..
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