… and no, we’re not talking about the television series.
The idea is this: Big Bang nucleosynthesis is a theoretical model describing the formation of light elements during the early stages of the universe, like lithium, beryllium, and their respective isotopes. One of the problems with the theory, however, has always been that our observations of the warm, metal-poor galactic halo stars that are thought to contain this primordial lithium have shown far more than what we would expect. It’s about a factor of 4X for lithium 7 and about 200X for lithium 6.
In other words, well outside the normal error bands. That’s not good.
Such discrepancies are music to the ears of creationists like Kent Hovind and the authors of CreationWiki (which I still maintain has to be satire, but time will tell), who maintain that issues like the these show that not only is the Big Bang Theory wrong, but that creation by their personal God is the only answer.
… which is interesting, considering how they wouldn’t have the first clue what the hell lithium was without science holding their hands … to say nothing of isotopes, magnetic monopoles, supernovae, gravitational lensing, red shift, and cosmic background radiation. Yet here we are, fighting to make sure the general public sees their deliberate misrepresentation of science for what it is – lying for God.
(If anyone else has a problem with these people trying to use the findings of the scientific community to show that the entire philosophical and methodological process through which the results were obtained is wrong, raise your hands.)
Well, thanks to the hard work of scientists at the University of Cambridge and the Keck Observatory, it looks like there’s an answer to the lithium problem that had plagued Big Bang nucleosynthesis for decades.
(Phys.org) —An international team of scientists using the most powerful telescope on Earth has discovered the moments just after the Big Bang happened more like the theory predicts, eliminating a significant discrepancy that troubled physicists for two decades. The discovery will be published in the international journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on June 6. […]
The team, led by Karin Lind of the University of Cambridge, has proven the decades-old inventory relied on lower quality observational data with analysis using several simplifications that resulted in spurious detections of lithium isotopes.
Using observations of ancient stars with W. M. Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescope and state-of-the-art models of their atmospheres has shown that there is no conflict between their lithium-6 and lithium-7 content and predictions of the standard theory of Big Bang nucleosynthesis, restoring thus the order in our theory of the early universe.
In other words, older equipment, incorrectly simplified models –> bad predictions. This kind of thing will happen in the world of science, and gradually corrects itself with better detection methods and a more careful treatment of boundary conditions. Plus, as an added bonus, we’ve checked off one fewer thing that the scientifically illiterate of this country will be try to use to peddle their 4,000 year old creation myth.
It still hurts my head that I even had to write that.