The Evidence

Further to my recent post about the evidence for a low-density Universe, I thought I’d embarrass all concerned with this image, taken in Leiden in 1995.

Various shady characters masquerading as “experts” were asked by the audience of graduate students at a summer school to give their favoured values for the cosmological parameters (from top to bottom: the Hubble constant, density parameter, cosmological constant, curvature parameter and age of the Universe).

From left to right we have Alain Blanchard (AB), Bernard Jones (BJ, standing), John Peacock (JP), me (yes, with a beard and a pony tail – the shame of it), Vincent Icke (VI), Rien van de Weygaert (RW) and Peter Katgert (PK, standing). You can see on the blackboard that the only one to get anywhere close to correctly predicting the parameters of what would become the standard cosmological model was, in fact, Rien van de Weygaert.

4 Responses to “The Evidence”

  1. Spaceman Spiff Says:

    Oooh….! Eery how RvdW essentially nailed it — and he went alone out on a limb to do so as the only one to include a cosmological constant.

  2. Rien might have been the only one at the conference who got it right, but already in 1995 people like Lawrence Krauss and even Mike Turner, not to mention Jerry Ostriker, pointed out that a flat, low-density model (i.e. with cosmological constant) fits the data quite well. It wasn’t part of the general wisdom, though, and referees would sometime complain if one even CONSIDERED non-zero lambda in a paper. I wonder if the idea of a cosmological constant would have caught on earlier if fewer of the supporters of the Einstein-de Sitter model, such as Rocky Kolb and David Schramm, were not only well known and influential cosmologists, but also physically rather large and possibly intimidating. 🙂

  3. I just got back from a conference where Alan Heavens showed the above picture in his summary (along with the most famous version of Munch’s The Scream, but I digress). As it was the last talk before lunch, the discussion was cut off before I could ask him his opinion on the significance of the fact that, of those pictured, with the possible exception of Peter Katgert, Rien is the least famous as a cosmologist and (of course related) doesn’t work in cosmology in the narrower sense of the term.

    As part of his summary, Alan conducted a similar poll of a similar panel on issues discussed at the conference, but using (I believe) Keynote rather than a blackboard. (None of those on the panel pictured above were on the panel at the conference. Indeed, none of those on the panel pictured above were even at the conference, though some (perhaps Alan) were present at both conferences.)

    I (and many others) have some photos of the new poll. In fact, I bought a really nice compact camera, a Ricoh GR (Edvard Mörtsell asked whether the name of the camera had something to do with my not liking modified gravity, etc), just before the conference, in order to take snapshots like these. (My main camera is a Pentax (who, by the way, were recently bought by Ricoh, a positive development, although the sale of Pentax to Samsung a few years ago turned out much better than expected) K10D, but it is too bulky to carry everywhere, whereas the GR will fit in a shirt pocket, so I could even take it (downhill) skiing with me.)

  4. […] already posted the picture below, which was taken at a conference in Leiden (Netherlands) in 1995. Various shady characters […]

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