The Cosmos according to Disney

Not really time for a proper post today but I’m grateful to one of my PhD students for coming to the rescue by pointing out this clip in which our own Professor Mike Disney tell us everything he knows about cosmology. The video lasts 2 minutes and 48 seconds.


14 Responses to “The Cosmos according to Disney”

  1. Bryn Jones Says:

    I could comment, but it might be better if I did not.

  2. telescoper Says:

    Since you’ve obviously pressed the “post comment” button then, technically speaking, you have commented.

  3. If you want to hear other astronomers along this line – take a look at;

    It’s interesting to hear Hoyle speak (although I have heard him in real life).

    I am not condoning what they are saying, but were they really more independent thinkers back in Hoyle and Burbidge’s day?

  4. Bryn Jones Says:

    I should say that I do not believe Mike Disney is doing what Hoyle and Burbidge did. Mike is being provocative. He is criticising the confidence of many cosmologists given the available observational constraints. (However, I do not agree with Mike, as usual … as always.)

    I feel that Hoyle and Burbidge initially chose to devise and support an alternative cosmological model very reasonably, but continued to back that model even when observational evidence mounted that was inconsistent with that model. They seemed later to be in denial about the failings of their chosen model.

    • I agree. There is a third position, that of Devil’s Advocate. I think that this is what Jim Peebles spent a lot of time doing. I don’t think he really believed in many of his own papers, but they served the (highly important) purpose of making more conventional cosmologists think twice about what they were doing. When one idea was disproved, he would come up with another one. Highly useful.

      Philip Morrison is a good example of an early supporter of the steady-state theory who switched sides when observations started to make the steady-state theory look bad.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      The big difference here between profs. Disney and Peebles is that Disney was sounding off on a popular television programme while Peebles wrote serious research papers criticising particular standard opinions.

  5. “I am not condoning what they are saying, but were they really more independent thinkers back in Hoyle and Burbidge’s day?
    Reply “

    Check out Malcolm Longair’s article in the QJRAS (oh, how I mourn the passing of this excellent magazine) where he says that when he started out in cosmology, Peter Scheuer advised him that there were only two-and-one-half facts in cosmology. By the time of writing (early 1990s), it had increased to 9. Today, there are many, many more (especially if one thinks of “fact” as “data point”). In other words, when there is practically no observational data, it is possible to be an “independent thinker” and not be a crackpot. Believe me, there are just as many independent thinkers, especially in cosmology, as ever. However, the observations tell us that most of them are crackpots, hence their interaction with serious discussion is not as large as that of Hoyle etc was.

  6. What’s frustrating is the argument from the general to the particular. Disney is of course correct that history teaches us that the illusion of knowledge is an obstacle to progress. It doesn’t follow that this is an example. Usually the majority view is correct.

    In many cases people who argue that everything we know is wrong are taking a very long bet. The possibility is not zero but its tiny tiny tiny. In other cases, things are a real mess and a cracking and re-shaping of our understanding is very likely.

    Cosmology is unnusual because its not quite either case. There is lots of cross-confirming evidence and it gets better every year. It doesn’t look ike a fantasy. But dark matter and dark energy leave niggling doubts. I guess the way I’d put it is there is maybe a 5% chance we’ve got something badly wrong and it will all change. Not enough to advise new students to go in a Disney’esque direcion, but enough that one should stay alert.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’d say the case for dark matter is considerably more secure for dark energy. I agree that there is pretty strong evidence for both, but there’s more scope for misinterpretation in the latter case than in the former. It is of course important for the scientific process to challenge standard theories – and, to be honest, I think we need more of that in cosmology – but it is difficult to come up with alternatives that satisfy the observational constraints and involve sound physical ideas. I still maintain, however, that the case for dark energy is far from proven, not because I doubt the observations, but because I think there’s a good chance we’re thinking about it the wrong way.

    • Do you have any concrete alternative observational hypothesis? What, in particular, do you think we are thinking about in the wrong way?

      • telescoper Says:

        I’m not sure what an “observational hypothesis” is!

        What I mean is that the theoretical interpretation might be wrong – possibilities departures from FRW, non-Einstein gravity, something to do with how light propagates, etc etc…

  7. I know this post is a bit dated (2011). But, I thought you might want to have a look at Disney’s recent anti-scientific, pro-superstitious nonsense. He’s talking to a notorious internet crackpot about cosmology.

    It seems to me that Disney’ motive is not scientific at all. Rather, he is a religious nutcase who loves the “mysterious” ignorance.

    Regarding your comment about non-Einstein gravity, have you heard about RTG proposed by Logunov et al.?

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      Whatever Mike Disney may or may not be, he is not religious in any way. Religion is not his motivation.

      • Watch the clip and you’ll see what I mean. He often talks about “god” (which presumably means Yahweh, not Apollo, Osiris, etc.) in his interviews.

        Like most people, he has not been disabused from anthropocentrism and egocentrism. Most people, including Disney, are unable to come to term with the fact that they are upright-walking apes with comparatively large brains who are born and die, like all other animals.

        Disney thinks that there might be (a) supersized ape(s) who “created” the “universe”. LOL.

        I guess this atavistic/animistic mode of thought is prevalent among old/senile people, which could make it excusable.

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