Review: The Theory of Everything

The Expanding Universe

I take on one of the greatest thinkers of our age with a great deal of trepidation, but, as sad as my credentials are, I have some of my own thoughts on this book, published in 2002 by New Millennium Press as a series of seven lectures.

Lecture 1, page 9: Hawking argues against an infinite universe:

“In an infinite universe, every point can be regarded as the center because every point has an infinite number of stars on each side of it. The correct approach, it was realized only much later, is to consider the finite situation in which the stars all fall in on each other. One then asks how things change if one adds more stars roughly uniformly distributed outside this region. According to Newton’s Law [of Universal Gravitation], the extra stars would make no difference at all to the original ones, so the stars would fall in just as fast. We can add as many stars as we like, but they will always collapse in on themselves. We now know it is impossible to have an infinite static model of the universe in which gravity is always attractive.”

While this argument may be valid in and of itself1, it is something of a straw dog. The solar system isn’t static and it isn’t falling in on itself, either. Furthermore, the almost infinite size of the universe and the fact that gravitational effects diminish by the square of their distance mean that this either-or proposition seems premature. Change the picture with a bit of rotation — something like a second (1/3600 of a degree) per millennium — and we might see an altered theory of the cosmos, but then we see “expansion” equally in all three directions, indicating no significant rotation but that is quite different from no rotation at all. Dr. Hawking continues:

“It is an interesting reflection on the general climate of thought before the twentieth century that no one had suggested that the universe was expanding or contracting. It was generally accepted that either the universe had existed forever in an unchanging state or that it had been created at a finite time in the past, more or less as we observe it today ….”

Carl Sagan is quoted as saying, “Science requires a tolerance for ambiguity.” I find this specific tolerance almost entirely lacking in today’s theoretical physicists. They seem to live in an either-or state where it’s either A or B or C or D. There are no boxes for “other” or “I don’t know yet.” Doubting Thomases like myself are weeded out almost systematically. Grants and tenure make astrophysical heresies in American or British universities untenable, maybe even unthinkable.

What we do know is that stars, galaxies and super-clusters were moving relative to each other in a somewhat random manner with a tendency for the light from those farther from us to have a larger drop in energy (frequency) than those closer. Many, though not all, astrophysicists interpret this as moving away from us more quickly (the Doppler effect, an expanding universe). But, if this is the Doppler effect, the universe is expanding more like bread dough expanding endlessly in a proofer with everything expanding more-or-less equally both over space and over time but maintaining a somewhat constant density. Over 13 billion years and 13 billion light-years, this effect is the same, being directly proportional to both time and distance. In other words, whatever {is sapping|has sapped} energy from the light now reaching us from various distances, directions and times, has done so more-or-less consistently throughout both space and time. As a Doppler effect, it doesn’t really make much sense. After all, the telescopes in orbit provide a type of time machine where the farther out we look, the farther back in time we’re seeing – in all directions!

So far, there are stars as far as we can see in all directions, making it less probable — at least in my mind — that there are no stars farther out. Does it make sense that the universe has a boundary with nothing on the other side? And if a supernova occurred near this boundary, what would stop some of the ejected matter from increasing the volume of the universe, some maybe even achieving escape velocity?

What is escape velocity for the universe? It can’t be too high. After all, Voyager 1 may have escaped from our own solar system with only a small engine and gravity-assists from several planets. On the other hand, if the universe is everything, then the task is impossible by definition. All that would be possible would be expanding the volume of the universe.

On page 14, Hawking again brings up the red shift, the Big Bang theory and divine creation somewhat obliquely.

I find it curious that, while the Hubble Space Telescope is discovering extremely distant super-clusters, we haven’t put it together. We’re not only looking at distant galaxies, we’re looking at ancient history! So if the Lynx Supercluster was 12,900,000,000 light-years from our present position 12,900,000,000 years ago and galaxies on the opposite side of us were far away from our current position in the opposite direction at nearly the same time, it would seem to me convincing evidence of an extremely large universe back then!

And don’t tell me that the light is going around in a big circle! The distribution of gravitational influences would pull as much in one direction as another, so light wouldn’t curve much and, if it did, we would get a grossly distorted view rather than the clear pictures Hubble and our other satellites are receiving. We’re seeing unique, one-of-a-kind formations spread all over 12,000,000,000 years ago! It has been shifted in absorption from back then about the same way it is for more recent stars.

As far as I know, this large group of galaxies may have had just as many super-cluster neighbors farther away from us as it had in our direction. Maybe it’s foolish to say the universe was infinite, but maybe it’s just as foolish to say it had a boundary. It is possible that what is viewed as our universe is merely one of many ultra-clusters? The honest truth may be that we just don’t know yet.

The decisive factor seems to be density. Is there a density gradient proportional to distance away from us? As bread rises in a proofer, it becomes less dense. Is there a correlation between time and density?

The discovery of the Lynx Supercluster, a three-dimensional group of galaxy clusters containing billions of individual stars brings this density question into focus and shows a fully-developed mini-universe way back when most astrophysicists say the universe was just forming and “time” was just coming into existence.

Lecture 2, page 22: “The only reasonable explanation of this [spectral shift of absorption lines] was that the galaxies were moving away from us, and the frequency of the light waves from them was being reduced, or red-shifted, by the Doppler effect.”

While this is certainly one explanation, it is not the only possible explanation and it seems less and less reasonable as both astronomers and physicists have developed several arguments against it. Any process which absorbs minute amounts of the energy, including motion away from us, would have this effect. We know that the energy coming from distant galaxies is less than the energy coming from those nearer to us. We do not know that this is due to motion. There could be a process that saps a tiny portion of light energy while in transit for billions of years.

Furthermore, the conclusion we jump to leads us into expecting to see a smaller, denser, hotter universe moving much faster the farther back in time we go, which means that there ought to be more, even denser, even hotter stuff farther out! The effect, an overall linear reduction in energy (frequency) based on distance from us leads me to a completely different theory — that something in between us and the cosmos absorbs minute amounts of energy over vast periods of time. This process might be a chance direct hit on a specific part of an atom of dark matter which then takes in some small amount of electromagnetic energy and spits out the rest. If the electromagnetic wave is somehow locally disturbed, the resulting wave might be altered. And the background radiation might not be an echo of the Big Bang but the release of this stolen energy. Or it might be a property of light itself.??

What we’ve seen so far is just the parts of the universe that are close enough to be visible.

To jump to a fixed idea that shifts in absorption lines prove movement seems premature, again particularly in light of the Hubble Space Telescope showing us a much younger part of the universe not so much denser than our local supercluster, supposedly moving away from everything else with the same slow, steady pace, neither accelerating nor decelerating. The observable facts today, as I understand them, don’t seem to support what Dr. Hawking was telling us.

Page 23: “The discovery that the universe was expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century. With hindsight, it is easy to wonder why no one had thought of [an expanding universe] before. Newton and others should have realized that a static universe would soon start to contract under the influence of gravity.” Again, we run into the straw dog.

The Moon is gradually moving away from the Earth because of gravity and the movement of the Earth’s oceans in response to the pull of the Moon, but this isn’t some Little Bang. There is definitely no “collapse.” Likewise, the solar system isn’t collapsing under gravity. Nor is the Milky Way Galaxy. The fact that these shifts are not uniform in all three dimensions but aligned along an axis of rotation has convinced Dr. Hawking that the Universe is not rotating. But we find 3-dimensional symmetry in superclusters! And they still have uncollapsed galaxies within them. The Universe is not static. It’s constantly moving, changing and evolving. Stars are blowing up. Solar systems are forming.

I don’t know why the universe appears the same in all directions unlike the Milky Way, but I have some ideas. First, superclusters aren’t disc shaped. The effects of supernovae in dispersing matter and energy might far outweigh the small effects of the minimal rotation required to keep the universe from collapsing. Second, the universe may be more-or-less disc-shaped but so large that we cannot see to even the closest boundary. Or we may be an ultra-cluster among innumerable ultra-clusters. There are a great many things we don’t yet know.

There is one way in which the Universe is static, at least as far as I know today. There is no known way to change the sum of matter plus energy using a fixed point of view! As far as I know, matter+energy is unchangeable. The recent addition to proven physics, E=mc2, tells us that you can convert matter into energy and vice-versa, but the results are still equal to what you started with. They crash anti-particles into particles and get a huge release of energy, but the outputs still equal the inputs when you sum matter and energy together. We’ve discovered an absolute zero degrees of temperature which denotes a barrier which has never been crossed. There isn’t any negative heat and there isn’t less than no energy. Nobody has found any negative matter or any process that creates more — or less — of the stuff (matter+energy) which makes up our universe.

Page 28: “[Robert Dicke and Jim Peebles] were working on a suggestion made by George Gamow, once a student of Alexander Friedman, that the early universe should have been very hot and dense, glowing white hot.”

While this is interesting, the universe would have been only 900,000,000 years old when the Lynx supercluster was as we see it today and it appears remarkably dispersed and well-differentiated into two clusters and innumerable galaxies and stars. Is it so unlike parts of the rest of the universe in speed, density, and temperature? We are now seeing that earlier universe shortly after these scientists say it was formed and it is dispersed all over space at enormous distances from each other and doesn’t seem quite like what Dicke, Peebles, Gamow, or Friedman expected!

Furthermore, there are, for whatever reasons, no places of local implosion or recent explosion at the level of superclusters. A supercluster is about as close as we can now get to a smaller model for the universe. What happens there should mirror, in some ways, what happens when we put many superclusters together into a universe.

And, indeed, superclusters aren’t like galaxies in they don’t usually have that disc shape, the indication of rotation canceling gravitational attraction. They don’t act like the predictions in this book, either.

One clue I see is that, while the “expansion” seems to be linear, the effect of gravity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, making gravity increasingly less important in larger, more dispersed structures.

My sources (Wikipedia, Astronomy Answers) say that many superclusters “are not bound together by gravity.” Their component clusters often act like the universe acts, moving away from each other in all three dimensions with the same relative velocity in linear proportion to their separation in all three directions. While some clusters are bound by gravity and, therefore, lens-shaped, many larger clusters and the majority of superclusters seem to follow the general theme, discovered by Edwin Hubble, of ubiquitous linearly less energetic energy reaching us the farther away (and therefore older) these images are.

So, let us review what we know rather than place speculation on top of speculation.

There is no known process by which the sum of energy+matter can be either increased or decreased, leading me to speculate that the sum of energy and matter in the universe is most likely constant.

The visible universe was already 26 billion light years across and acting much as it does today when the light from distant sources was emitted 13 billion years ago.

Time is both an ordering function of the various sequential versions of energy+matter which populate the volume of the universe and a component of that energy and matter. If time slows, the energy decreases. Occam’s razor might lead us to speculate that time is linear and monotonic and that even our best clocks err under acceleration rather than predict distortions of space-time.

We may be off on a wild goose chase by relying on the readings of a cesium clock to tell time in relativistic circumstances. If atomic particles can achieve enormous masses when accelerated, then the resonant frequencies of our cesium clocks might be changed by such influences as well.

Aristotle was another brilliant man and, like even ordinary men, was capable of error — even error that he could have discovered himself. Albert Einstein also sought to discover the secrets of the universe but with only small hints. We can honor Dr. Hawking and Albert Einstein and Aristotle and still pay attention to new knowledge and new wisdom.

There is a recurring theme in history that a progressive generation develops new world-changing ideas and then gets too big for its britches. They start building on assumptions rather than humbly double-checking to see if they are still on the right path as data accumulates. When group pressure, money, prestige, and tenure factor in, it becomes difficult for anyone to rock the boat.

I’m a genius, but not a super genius. What have I missed? How could this far more brilliant mind have been so far off track? Am I nuts? Or was one of the world’s most brilliant astrophysicists Lost In Space?

Additional Thoughts

Michelson and Morley were NOT working in a vacuum but in a very low-pressure environment, which is quite different from a vacuum and, thus, we started out with erroneous data as the probability graph they created (along with the actual value for c).

This may have started Einstein and his fellow scientists on the wrong path from the beginning.

This experiment had me thinking of light as energy rather than a wave or a particle.

Measuring the precise speed of light in a low-pressure, high-speed wind tunnel

My own speculations have led me to conceive of an experiment using a low-pressure, high-speed wind tunnel. Has anyone tried it? What were the results?

1A journey to the center of the Earth, were it possible without melting or being crushed, would result in less and less weight, culminating at the center in weightlessness. And if there were just the Earth’s crust with the rest hollowed out, one would be weightless anywhere within this shell, but rotational inertia would have to be canceled.

©March 17, 2018, David N. Dodson, Phoenix, AZ

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