A Bosch painting as a metaphor for theoretical physics

The In The Dark blog presents a metaphor for modern theoretical physics:

[This is] the painting that I often use to introduce cosmology talks. I usually use this piece of Hieronymus Bosch Das letzte Gericht (The Last Judgement) to illustrate my feelings about the standard cosmological model:


The top part represents the concordance cosmology. It clearly features an eminent cosmologist surrounded by postdoctoral researchers. Everything appears to be in heavenly harmony, surrounded by a radiant glow of self-satisfaction. The trumpets represent various forms of exaggerated press coverage.

But if you step back from it, and get the whole thing in a proper perspective, you realise that there’s an awful lot going on underneath that’s not so pleasant or easy to interptet. I don’t know what’s going down below there, although the unfortunate figures slaving away in miserable conditions and suffering unimaginable torments, are obviously supposed to represent graduate students. The large knife visible in the bottom right corner clearly symbolises budget cuts looming in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

The main point is that the concordance model is based on rather strange foundations: nobody understands what the dark matter and dark energy are, for example….


  • C. Reynolds

    Pictures don’t lie.