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‘Missing mass’ of the big bang found?

Sloan Great Wall

Image Wikipedia.org

We have received numerous questions regarding recent reports that astronomers have found the ‘missing mass’ predicted by the big bang. CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds (a typical enquiry is given as an example). Then he responds to Matthew F. about how to handle pressure from aggressive atheopaths.

Jeb S. from the United States writes

Have evolutionist answered the missing mass problem? Also are we really seeing new stars form, and how if creation is already done?

thank you

CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds:

Dear Mr S.

Thank you for writing. We have had a number of enquiries on this discovery (See for example Universe’s Not-So-Missing Mass, Science News).

I’ve talked about this with cosmologist Dr John Hartnett.

As we have often cautioned, what the media say and what the science actually shows are often quite different.

As we have often cautioned, what the media say and what the science actually shows are often quite different. And universities want to attract research funding, so have an incentive to blow their own trumpets.

As most of the reports said, this is not even a claim about dark matter (cf. Has ‘dark matter’ really been proven?). Monash astrophysicist and supervisor of this project, Dr Kevin Pimbblet, said:

“There is missing mass, ordinary mass not dark mass … It’s missing to the present day.”

Rather, it is about the ‘missing baryonic matter’ problem: baryons are the ‘heavy’ (Greek βαρύς (barys) = heavy) particles including protons and neutrons.

The universe is observed to be ‘flat’ (see explanation in Eclipses and Easter, big bang questions and the linked article), but in big bang cosmology, this requires a critical density.

Baryons are locally 2–3% of critical density and they observe 4–6% at high redshift (z): i.e. about half as much baryon mass is observed at low z (hence ‘missing’) compared to high z. At high z it is observed in the hot (about a million degrees Celsius) X-ray emitting hydrogen-rich matter in the intergalactic medium (IGM). It has been speculated that is in the cold IGM at the current epoch.

This is one of many problems for big bang cosmology, but supposedly this young intern Amelia Fraser-McKelvie solved it. She used archived data from ROSAT (Röntgensatellit, a now-defunct German X-ray satellite telescope), and X-ray astronomy expert Dr Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway worked out they had found galactic filaments. Their paper, which has been accepted, is: Fraser-McKelvie, A., Pimbblet, K.A. and Lazendic, J.S., An estimate of the electron density in filaments of galaxies at z~0.1.

“Most of the baryons in the Universe are thought to be contained within filaments of galaxies, but as yet, no single study has published the observed properties of a large sample of known filaments to determine typical physical characteristics such as temperature and electron density. This paper presents a comprehensive large-scale search conducted for X-ray emission from a population of 41 bona fide filaments of galaxies to determine their X-ray flux and electron density. The sample is generated from Pimbblet et al.’s (2004) filament catalogue, which is in turn sourced from the 2º Field Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS). Since the filaments are expected to be very faint and of very low density, we used stacked ROSAT All-Sky Survey data. We detect a net surface brightness from our sample of filaments of (1.6 ± 0.1) x 10-4 erg cm-2 s-1 arcmin-2 in the 0.9-1.3 keV energy band for 1 keV plasma, which implies an electron density of ne = (4.7 ± 0.2) x 10-4 h100 ½ cm-3. Finally, we examine if a filament’s membership to a supercluster leads to an enhanced electron density as reported by Kull & Bohringer (1999). We suggest it remains unclear if supercluster membership causes such an enhancement.”

About the stars forming, the selected picture has little to do with the article. This article might amuse you and provide some insight: “This is a news website article about a scientific paper”. But about the topic, see Are stars forming? (nothing has changed since astronomer Dr Samec wrote this).


Jonathan Sarfati

Matthew F. from the United States writes:

I’d like to go ahead and say that your website has helped me strengthen my Christian faith greatly and debate atheists more effectively. I live in a rural area of America, one that’s heavily Christian, but the internet and college has exposed me to atheism and the New Atheist movement. Two of my best friends now declare themselves members of this movement and I’ve heard and read things so vulgar and shocking that my own family doesn’t believe such things are being said.

It’s been so pressuring that it’s really tempted me to turn away from Christ on numerous occasions, but I’m growing stronger in my Christian faith as time goes on and I learn more and more.

Anyways, I do have a few questions, which I can’t seem to find on this website (I may have overlooked them). One question, which I ask to atheists I debate and I’ve yet to get a convincing answer from them….why does believing in atheism matter? Why does a complete atheist world matter?

I get a wide variety of answers, mostly saying it promotes knowledge and fun in life. Someone even said it would greatly enhance my future writing/history career, but when I asked how it would specifically enhance it, I received the “you’ll be a free thinker” answer.

However (my answer), it doesn’t matter at all! In their view, life and the universe is an accident and worthless, and the universe will eventually be destroyed, so everything is ultimately worthless. So the question again, why does being an atheist matter and how does an atheist world (like the New Atheist promote) matter?

That’s the question and my answer to it, but just wondering how you all would answer it?

The next question comes from a common response I hear from the above question. “Atheism allows us to hunt and obtain the ultimate knowledge.”

After hearing this a few times, I began to wonder if this is a major gimmick in the movement, but I’ve not heard Dawkins or any other leader talk of it, though they talk about atheism being the sign of a healthy mind.

The way my atheist friends talk of this “ultimate knowledge” is what it says…the knowledge of everything! I’ve been told that simply giving up my faith will set me on the path to obtaining that knowledge, possibly within my life time. I find it sounding like a sci-fi novel plot to be honest (Being a writer myself, it has inspired me as well). Have you all heard anything about this “ultimate knowledge” gimmick from this movement or is it just something that my friends are saying?

One final thing to close out this feedback. A friend recently debated me, and he got on saying that Christopher Hitchens says that deathbed conversions to religion were inappropriate, and that Sam Harris says Christian morality was psychopathic. I like to touch on the morality issue.

I’ve been hammered by atheists, who attack two areas. They say being a Christian limits fun in life (mainly sex and alcohol to them). The other is they claim being a Christian makes you a psychopath. I was once told, “Believing in God means you will pick up an Ak-47 and kill people.”…yet, when I responded, “How does me being taught to love and forgive everyone mean that I’ll murder?”, I was met with a hateful, “Don’t you dare take this a personal level!”

Overall, I’ve noticed taking the whole morality issue to the personal individual level really makes atheists mad it seems. But, I do wonder what you take on the whole “deathbed conversions are inappropriate” and “Christian morality is psychopathic” issues.

As I’ve said, your website has helped strengthen my faith greatly, as well as debates. The things I’ve learned on here are a lot more helpful and effective than my former theistic evolutionist views, which were horribly ineffective. I have been recommending your website to my friends, praying it aids them as well. I look forward to your response!


Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies:

Dear Matt

Thank you for writing. I’m glad our website has been helpful.

First of all, in response to “It’s been so pressuring that it’s really tempted me to turn away from Christ on numerous occasions”, the Bible tells us to flee temptation. This outside article contains good advice, I think. Meanwhile, make sure you are equipped to deal with the “new atheists”; they really have little of substance. For example, our site links to a point-by-point refutation of Sam Harris.

Our Q&A pages Creation: Why It Matters and Atheism, agnosticism and humanism: godless religions should answer the questions about the harm of atheistic evolution. The hundreds of millions of victims of atheistic democidal regimes might also tell us something.

“Atheism allows us to hunt and obtain the ultimate knowledge.” It also allows us to be totally indifferent. But historically, it was the biblical world view that encouraged the growth of science, while it was stillborn in cultures lacking this world view.

Biblical rules (as opposed to some church legalism) are for our good.

Biblical rules (as opposed to some church legalism) are for our good. Read the Song of Solomon for a healthy view of courtship, marriage and sex.

Superficial fun like drunkenness and promiscuity is fleeting and damaging in the long term.

About shooting people, it’s notable that the kids who murdered their classmates in both Columbine and Finland were rabid evolutionists, practising the morality they were taught in the government schools! See Inside the mind of a killer, How to build a bomb in the public school system and Tragic truth.

It’s rather inconsistent for them to get personal then get angry when you also respond on a personal level. But then, atheists have no reason, under their own belief system, to be logical or avoid hypocrisy (see also Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation for more explanation, and ‘Christianity must be wrong because of all the hypocrites in the church!’)

Hope these comments help.


Jonathan Sarfati

Published: 18 June 2011

Helpful Resources

Dismantling the Big Bang
by Alex Williams, John Hartnett
US $20.00
Soft cover