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New Deuterium Measurements Bolster Big Bang Cosmology

By Hugh Ross - December 28, 2020
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One of the most definitive tests of the biblically predicted big bang creation model1 is the primordial abundance of deuterium. (Deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, is an atomic nucleus consisting of one proton and one neutron. Ordinary hydrogen has just one proton.) I wrote several pages on this test in the fourth edition of my book, The Creator and the Cosmos.2 Now, a team of 50 physicists and astronomers have published findings that make this test even more definitive.3

A foundational component of the big bang model is that at the cosmic creation event the universe is infinitesimally small and infinitely, or near infinitely, hot with the property of ongoing expansion. As the universe expands, it cools down. Between 3 and 4 minutes after the cosmic creation event the universe passes through the temperature range where nuclear fusion occurs. The cosmic sea of unattached protons, neutrons, and electrons transforms into a mix of hydrogen, deuterium, helium, and a trace amount of lithium. The amount of deuterium, helium, and lithium produced is determined by the cosmic density of baryons (the sum of protons and neutrons).

The nuclear fusion furnaces of stars do not manufacture deuterium. According to the big bang model, all the deuterium that exists in the universe is produced during the first four minutes of the universe's existence. Stars, however, destroy some of the primordial deuterium.

Deuterium Tests
Astronomers used these facts to develop a definitive test of the big bang creation model. They compared precise measurements of the amount of deuterium in gas clouds so distant, and hence so far back in time, that stellar burning has little or no opportunity to destroy any of the predicted amount of deuterium produced by the big bang based on measurements of the cosmic baryon density.

Astronomical observations of the primordial deuterium abundance in distance clouds have reached 1.2% accuracy (margin of error).4 The measured primordial deuterium abundance compared to the abundance of ordinary or light hydrogen = 2.527 ± 0.030 x 10-5. The Planck map of the cosmic microwave background radiation—in big bang cosmology the radiation left over from the cosmic creation event—yields the best measure of the cosmic baryon density and the primordial deuterium abundance implied by the big bang. The primordial deuterium abundance compared to the abundance of light hydrogen derived from the Planck 2018 map = 2.494 ± 0.082 x 10-5.5

The accuracy of the primordial deuterium abundance based on big bang cosmology is 3.3 percent. What hampers this accuracy is not the quality of the Planck map of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Rather it is the “large uncertainties on the cross-section of the deuterium burning D(p,γ)3He reaction.”6

The team of 50 physicists achieved much improved cross-section measurements of the D(p,γ)3He reaction. They did so by bombarding a high-purity deuterium gas target with an intense proton beam at the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics located thousands of feet below Mount Gran Sasso in Italy where contamination from cosmic rays is negligible. They reduced the uncertainty of the primordial deuterium abundance based on big bang cosmology down to 1.6 percent. The value they determined for the ratio of deuterium-to-light hydrogen abundance based on big bang cosmology = 2.52 ±0.04 x 10-5.7 This value is in excellent agreement with astronomical observations (above) of the primordial deuterium abundance in distant gas clouds.

Creation Implications
The big bang creation model has passed yet another test with flying colors. The results achieved by the 50 physicists provide more evidence demonstrating that the more we observe and learn about the universe the stronger becomes the evidence that a Causal Agent beyond space and time created the universe and designed it to make possible the existence of life and human beings in particular. The results also provide more evidence for the Bible’s predictive power, specifically to accurately predict the fundamental features of the big bang universe thousands of years before astronomers even had a hint of these cosmic features.

Endnotes

  1. Hugh Ross and John Rea, “Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First!” Facts for Faith (July 1, 2000): 26–32, https://reasons.org/explore/publications/facts-for-faith/read/facts-for-faith/2000/07/01/big-bang-the-bible-taught-it-first!; Hugh Ross, “Does the Bible Teach Big Bang Cosmology?” Today’s New Reason to Believe (August 26, 2019), https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/08/26/does-the-bible-teach-big-bang-cosmology.
  2. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018): 59–61, https://shop.reasons.org/category/format/books/the-creator-and-the-cosmos-fourth-edition.
  3. V. Mossa et al., “The Baryon Density of the Universe from an Improved Rate of Deuterium Burning,” Nature 587 (November 11, 2020): 210–13, doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2878-4.
  4. Ryan J. Cooke, Max Pettini, and Charles C. Steidel, “One Percent Determination of the Primordial Deuterium Abundance,” Astrophysical Journal 855, no. 2 (March 10, 2018): id. 102, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aaab53.
  5. Planck Collaboration: N. Aghanim et al., “Planck 2018 Results VBI. Cosmological Parameters,” Astronomy and Astrophysics 641 (September 2020): id. A6, p. 50, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201833910.
  6. Mossa et al., “The Baryon Density,” 210.
  7. Mossa et al., 211.

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