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Alpha and omega

For half a century the Big Bang theory has dominated attempts to explain the origin of the Universe. It is now being discredited by 16 billion year old stars. John Maddox explains the new crisis in cosmology

By John Maddox   February 1996

Cosmology seems to have staggered from one crisis to another since Galileo was accused of heresy in 1633. Three decades ago, cosmology was recovering from the great dispute between two Cambridge astronomers, Sir Fred Hoyle and Sir Martin Ryle, on the issue of whether the Universe had a beginning. Then, just a few weeks ago, Professor Stephen Hawking was telling a packed audience at London’s Albert Hall that the ultimate fate of the Universe cannot be foretold. What is cosmology telling us?

The latest crisis has blown up because of the doubt cast on the idea that the Universe, which…

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