Cosmological beliefs

At the Princeton meeting "Critical Diaglogues in Cosmology" (24-27 June 1996), Sir Martin Rees gave some introductory remarks in which he plotted the degree of belief about cosmological paradigms as a function of time.

A loose interpretation of his summary is listed below. These are things which most cosmologists hold to be true, with the statements at the top of the list being held extremely strongly and those further down the list being more tentative. As a sign of good tea-leaf reading it has turned out that since that meeting all of the statements in Sir Martin's list have become better supported by the observational data, with none of them being ruled out.

The Universe is expanding
from a hot big bang
in which the light elements were synthesized.
There was a period of inflation
which led to a ``flat'' universe today.
Structure was seeded by gaussian irregularities
which are the relics of quantum fluctuations
and is dominated by cold dark matter.

This very brief outline encapsulates most of the ideas on which our sophisticated models of the early universe and structure formation are built. Within this paradigm, which draws on physics from the highest energies (particle physics and superstring theory) to the largest scales (general relativity), one can calculate predictions and compare them to observations over most of the stretch of cosmic time.

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