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History & Technology

Historical Scientific Controversies and Problems

Wikipedia: Obsolete scientific theories

Technology from Cosmology, or "Can Creation Science Do That?"

On May 28, 2007, I had the opportunity of presenting in the Science Programming section at the Balticon Science Fiction Convention, in Baltimore, MD. The title of my talk was "The Cosmos in Your Pocket: How Cosmological Science Became Earth Technology", on the topic of science in Earth laboratories that started out as cosmological theories and observations. Meanwhile, in Petersburg, Kentucky, the AIG Creation Museum was opening. In one of the more entertaining articles in the Sunday Washington Post, Mr. Ham tries to distinguish "origin science" from what he considers "real science". This essay is my response to Mr. Ham, using just a few of the examples from my presentation. I'll be expanding on this in the coming months.

Astronomy was there First

Here I list some examples of science experiments which were tested through cosmological observations before they were testable in Earth-based laboratories. Such experiments provide a powerful test of the extrapolations used in cosmology. This topic was the basis of my interview by Robert Lippens of The Big Bang and Creationism podcast, June 12, 2006.

The Carbon-12 Resonance

To resolve the bottleneck of the triple-alpha process to producing carbon in stellar nucleosynthesis, Fred Hoyle predicted a resonance in the carbon-12 nucleus which would enhance the production of carbon. This resonance was subsequently found.

Quantum Tunnelling

Quantum mechanics permits "tunnelling" of particles through barriers. In 1928, shortly after the development of Quantum mechanics, this barrier penetration phenomenon successfully described many properties of nuclear alpha-decay. In 1938, Bethe and Critchfield used quantum tunnelling to explain how the proton-proton chain could enable hydrogen to fuse into deuterium in the cores stars in spite of the Coulombic barrier inhibiting the process. It wasn't until the 1950s that electron tunnelling was demonstrated in the laboratory and incorporated into devices such as the tunnel diode.

Degeneracy Pressure

Continuous Nuclear Reactions

Massive Neutrinos

In the late 1960s, the first detectors for measuring solar neutrino flux predicted by stellar nucleosynthesis came online. The number of neutrinos measured fell short of the predicted number by a factor of one-third. This became known as the Solar Neutrino Problem. Creationists seized on this as evidence that the Sun was not powered by fusion and could therefore be much younger than five billion years. In 1998, indirect evidence was found for neutrino oscillations by comparing the neutrino flux directly from the Sun to those that pass through the Earth. In 2002, the Sudbury detector was able to measure the muon and tau neutrino flux that could not be measured with earlier detectors and the "missing" neutrinos were found. Neutrino oscillations have recently (2005) been measured in Earth-based experiments (MINOS).

Discovery of Helium

Helium is detected spectroscopically in the Sun in 1868. It is not identified on Earth until 1895.

Forbidden lines in atomic spectra


The theory of gravity was proposed in 1687. While some small experiments could be done on the Earth (measurement of G), all other evidence was in predicting the motions of planets which we certainly could not reach. We didn't prove that orbits were possible experimentally until 1957 with Sputnik. Since then, interplanetary flight, geosynchronous weather satellites, etc. have benefitted from the experience built up over 200 years before theory of gravity was "proved".

General Relativity

General relativity was proposed in 1915. Perihelion precession of Mercury was known at that time. Deflection of starlight 1919. Gravitation redshift was detected in white dwarf stars, 1924. Not measured in Earth laboratories until 1959-60. Today it's an important component in timing for the Global Positioning System.

Last Modified: Sun Mar 18 00:44:14 2012