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Facts and Speculations in Cosmology


  • 150 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 296 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.73 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 523.1
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: QB981 .N28 2008
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Cosmology

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521865043)

Facts and Speculations in Cosmology

('No blurb') ('No author bio')

Facts and Speculations in Cosmology


Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, India



University of California, San Diego




page vii

Ancient cosmologies


The Greek epicycles


Reaching out to the Milky Way


Our position in the Galaxy


The world of galaxies


The expanding universe


Modelling the universe


What is the geometry of the universe like?


A universe without a beginning and without an end


The cosmological debate 1950–1965


The origin of the chemical elements


Cosmic microwave background


The very early universe


Dark matter and dark energy


An alternative cosmology


Unfaced challenges in cosmology







If you ask a well-read person what is his or her understanding about the origin of the universe, the reply is invariably: ‘It originated in the big bang.’ This is also the view of most professional scientists, that cosmologists are very close to their much sought after holy grail, namely the understanding of the origin and large-scale structure of the universe.

Major reasons for this view have come with the serendipitous discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1964, and the discovery of the very small fluctuations in this by the teams led by George Smoot and John Mather in 1992. Both of these discoveries well deserved the Nobel prizes which have been awarded. The theory and observations, all based on the view that there must have been a big bang, have convinced all of the observers and most theorists that this model must be correct. However, this interpretation is in large part based on theory which has not been independently tested. In short, speculations are confused with facts.

Our purpose in writing this book is to share with the general reader our unease at the definitiveness that is often attached by professional cosmologists to their interpretations, when they are really based on speculations rather than facts. To underscore the circumstance that this is not the first such episode in the history of astronomy, we go through a historical sequence of the evolution of man’s understanding of the universe. Time and again we find that there were majority views asserted with a great deal of firmness, views that had to be subsequently discarded when contradicted by facts. It is because of such examples, that distinguished physicists have expressed their derision of cosmologists in no uncertain terms. We cite two:

Lev Landau: ‘Cosmologists are often wrong but never in doubt’

Max Born: ‘… modern cosmology has strayed from the sound empirical road into a wilderness where statements can be made without fear of observational check …’

Many of our cosmologist colleagues would like to argue that all of the earlier examples in history belong to times when the observational support for cosmology was nowhere near as strong as it is today, so that they are on firmer ground in their assertions than their predecessors of bygone days. The fact is that those predecessors made exactly the same defence of their assertions.

The present theoretical structure of the standard big-bang cosmology rests on extrapolations of known physics to domains far beyond what is experimentally tested. Also the assertions about what happened in the very early universe do not rest on direct astronomical observations but on large extrapolations of what is actually observed. Given this speculative base of the present ideas, we feel that scope exists for alternative ideas that depart considerably from the big-bang paradigm. We have developed one such alternative model, the quasi-steady-state model. This predicts a cyclic universe with no beginning. We do not claim it to be perfect, but it is certainly good enough to be compared with the standard model. At present it is only rarely mentioned because of the hype associated with the big bang.

In this book we also draw attention to observations involving expansion and ejection in individual galaxies and clusters that are almost invariably ignored or disbelieved since they do not fit into the standard paradigm of the expanding universe. In the past the anomalous phenomena have played a useful role in shaping directions of physics and astronomy: they indicate that nature is holding out the hope of unravelling one more secret. Ignoring such data because ‘it has to be wrong’ is like throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

We were coauthors with the late Fred Hoyle in a technical account of the present cosmology, entitled A Different Approach to Cosmology, published by Cambridge University Press in 2000. The book was quite well received by astronomers and physicists (but of course, not standard cosmologists!). This has encouraged us to write the present account so that the ideas may be shared with a wider group. We thank the Cambridge University Press for providing us with this opportunity.

We thank Peggy McCoy, and Vyankatesh Samak for help in preparing the manuscript. For line drawings we are glad to acknowledge help from Prem Kumar and for images and photographs, from Arvind Paranjpye.


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