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The Lonely Battle of a Cosmologist Against the Big Bang Theory

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Washington, 14 Nov 2019 (AFP) – James Peebles won this year's Nobel Prize in Physics for helping to turn the field of cosmology into a respected science, but if there's one term he hates to hear, it's the "Big Bang Theory." .

The main explanation for the universe in its early periods has been dominant for decades, with Peebles's early work investigating cosmic background radiation helping to cement many of the details.

But "the first thing to understand about my field is that his name, Big Bang Theory, is quite inappropriate," Peebles, 84, said at an event honoring US Nobel Prize winners at the Swedish Embassy. in Washington on Wednesday.

"This connotes the notion of an event and a position which are completely wrong," he continued, adding that there is no hard evidence of a giant explosion.

The Nobel Committee last month honored Peebles for his work since the mid-1960s, which developed the current prevailing theoretical framework for the young universe.

But he is careful to note that he does not know about the "beginning."

"It is very unfortunate to think of the beginning when, in fact, we have no good theory of something like the beginning," he told AFP in an interview.

On the other hand, we have a "well-tested theory of evolution from an initial state" to the current state, starting with "the first few seconds of expansion" – literally the first few seconds of time, which left cosmological signatures called "fossils".

Fossils in paleontology are the preserved remains of living beings from earlier geological eras. The oldest cosmological fossils are the creation of helium and other particles as a result of nucleosynthesis when the universe was very hot and very dense.

These theories are well founded because of the preponderance of evidence and verification, unlike the theories of the previous mysterious phase.

"We don't have strong proof of what happened before," said Princeton professor emeritus Peebles. "We have theories, but not tested."

– "I give up" – "Theories and ideas are wonderful, but for me they get established by passing the tests," he continued. "Theories, of course, any brilliant physicist can invent theories. They may have nothing to do with reality."

"You find out which theories are close to reality by comparing them with experiences. We simply have no experimental evidence of what happened before."

One such theory is known as the "inflation model," which holds that the early universe expanded exponentially for a tiny fraction of a second before the expansion phase.

"It's a beautiful theory," said Peebles. "A lot of people think it's so pretty it's certainly right. But the evidence for that is very scarce."

Asked which term he would prefer to the "Big Bang," Peebles answers, "I gave up, I use the Big Bang, I don't like it."

"But for years, some of us have tried to convince the community to find a better, unsuccessful term. So it's 'Big Bang'. It's unfortunate, but everyone knows that name. So I give up."

ico-ia / dw / db

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