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What Lies Ahead?

At present, our observations of the universe on the largest scales is fragmentary, and our numerical models are incomplete, yet promising. It is fair to say that our models are in qualitative agreement with the universe we have measured so far. As our observations and simulations are advanced to "fill in the gaps" there are two possibilities for the future of cosmology: convergence or confusion.

Convergence means that our theories for structure formation are basically correct, and that with the help of better observational data and more accurate simulations, we will be able to eliminate specific models on quantitative grounds. The end result of such a convergence would be a standard cosmological model where the various "free" parameters -- Hubble constant, Omega, etc. -- are determined to high precision.

Confusion, on the other hand, would mean that none of our current models are found to work in detail. This would be the case if, for example, some of the basic tenets of the hot Big Bang framework were incorrect, or if some key piece of physics was missing from our models.

Either outcome would be quite satisfactory, because either way, we stand to learn a lot more about the Universe's origins, structure and fate.

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NCSA. Last modified 11/9/95.