12 or 13.7 billion light years?

Georgian-born British singer, song writer and musician Katie Melua released her single Nine Million Bicycles in December 2005 for her second album Pieces by Pieces. This single reached the top five in the UK Singles Chart. In this single, Katie demonstrates a deep ignorance of cosmology and no understanding of the scientific method, says Simon Singh in an article Katie Melua’s bad science published in the Guardian in September 2005. The opening of the lyrics is

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing 
That’s a fact, 
It’s a thing we can’t deny 
Like the fact that I will love you till I die. 

We are twelve billion light years from the edge, 
That’s a guess, 
No-one can ever say it’s true 
But I know that I will always be with you.

The song says “We are twelve billion light years from the edge.” By this, the song suggests that this is the distance form the edge of the observable universe which in turn suggests that the universe is 12 billion years old. Simon Singh argues that this is incredibly frustrating for the astronomers who are working day and night to find out the real age of the universe. The age of the universe was thought to be 12 to 14 billion years. But the latest data have narrowed this down to 13. billion years, give or take a few hundred million. So Simon proposed, in his article, Katie rewrote her opening verse which so that it read

We are 13.7 billion light-years from
the edge of the observable universe,
That’s a good estimate with
well-defined error bars,
Scientists say it’s true, but
acknowledge that it may be refined,
And with the available information, I predict that I will always be
with you.

Here is Katie’s single Nine Million Bicycles.

And here’s a youtube video where you can actually listen Katie sing this verse proposed by Simon Singh.

Cool, isn’t it?


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