Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Alexander Castillo
Last updated: May 12, 2019
While on the topic of space, there is a field that needs to be addressed accordingly. This field is astrology. Astrology, by definition, is the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial objects as a means for divining information about human affairs and terrestrial events 6. Nearly half of all Americans said that astrology was scientific in some way 7.
To elucidate this a bit, no, it was not because the respondents were conflating astrology with astronomy. Unfortunately for women, astrology is targeting them the most. Best said by a sociologist Julia Hemphill, “Astrology is an unempirical epistemology that’s peddled to women as a way of understanding themselves and the world.
All you have to do is open a women’s magazine, and you’ll inevitably see at least one or two pages devoted to astrology.” Astrology is a dangerous fatalism. It teaches uncritical thinking, and to just accept anecdotal stories, cherry-picked data, and makes it harder for people to think clearly. Astrology implies a belief in cosmological predestination. That somehow the arbitrary position of the stars has predetermined how one thinks, feels, and acts. Astrology isn’t an actual science because it’s not based on evidence, and the conclusions are not testable. Many experiments have been conducted to disprove astrology.
One was done where a French psychologist and statistician Michel Gauquelin mixed up the birth charts of ten murderers with ten normal civilians and invited astrologers to identify which was which based on the charts. They failed miserably. Also in another test, he showed that people are desperate to believe in astrology. He did this by sending 500 people to what they thought was a reading of their charts and asked for their response. Around 95% percent of those who replied said that the chart was in agreement with their life and character. But what they had read was a horoscope of Marcel Petiot, a serial killer 8. Another way that scientific illiteracy is present in space is not with pseudoscience, but with the actual science of astronomy and astrophysics itself.
A survey conducted in 2012 by the National Science Foundation asked 2,200 people in the United States, “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth.” 26 percent answered incorrectly 9. The idea that ¼th of people in a survey can get that first question wrong is very alarming.
There is absolutely no excuse that someone can muster to make that reasonable. The idea that the Earth orbits the Sun is an ancient one, first postulated by Greek philosopher Aristarchus around 230 b.c.; But one the first definitive proofs came from German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel who measured the stellar parallax of the star 61 Cygni in 1838, showing that the Earth was not stationary 10. While unreasonable to expect everyone to know the proofs of why the Earth does orbit the Sun because of its complexities, it is not unreasonable to expect people to trust something that has been proven to be fact through the scientific method. Based on what’s explained above, it’s fairly easy to assume that when it comes to the even more complex and intricate science of cosmology, people will be even more erroneous when presented questions about it.
From the same survey of the previous paragraph, participants were asked the true or false question, “The universe began with a huge explosion.” Only 39 percent answered correctly 9. This is most likely the cause of people’s belief in the supernatural. While a more natural excuse because of the majority of people belonging to some form of faith that they were raised upon.
It’s not a good enough reason to dismiss the science that has been presented. Full disclosure, it is no intention of mine to bash someone’s lifestyle, but it is my intention to criticize what goes against objectivity and the foundations of science and reason. An indisputable fact that brings forth evidence of the big bang is red-shifting. Red-shifting is when light is stretched out because of the universe expanding at an accelerating rate while it’s traveling through it 11. The only sensible interpretation of this red shifting in the context of Einstein’s General Relativity is that the universe and expanding and that the expansion is accelerating.
With this knowledge, the only obvious conclusion is that everything was once more compact and denser than it is now. Scientists call that the singularity. We can rewind the equations of General Relativity until seconds after the Big Bang, but we currently are not able to go any further because those equations don’t contain enough machinery to describe the quantum scale gravity of that first singularity.
While attempting to look into the past of the universe with our telescopes, we run into what is called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The CMB was created around 380,000 years after the big bang and is another piece of evidence for the universe’s accelerated expansion. This is because, before the release of the CMB, the universe was an extremely hot, dense, small, and opaque place. It was so hot that any atom that would try to form would be broken apart again by a photon shooting by, making everything at the time a plasma. But as the universe expanded, the plasma cooled with it.
It stayed a plasma until around 380,000 years after the big bang when the temperature of the universe cooled down to 3,000 Kelvin. At this time, the first atoms were able to form and the light that was once trapped in the plasma was free to travel the universe 12. Carrying with it an image of that time as shown in figure 2.
The radiation is next to impossible to explain without the universe being smaller, hotter and denser. It’s also important to note that we know this is true because we can use particle accelerators to recreate some of the earliest moments in the universe and check to see if our physics works in these conditions. Unfortunately, there is the problem that we cannot go any earlier into the universe past seconds. We would need to produce energies a trillion times greater than is possible with our most powerful particle accelerator. Because of this, it is uncertain what caused the Big Bang to occur, but it does not imply that the Big Bang didn’t happen.