New WMAP results: quantum fluctuations, galaxies, and the first stars

By Phil Plait | March 16, 2006 11:32 am

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (or WMAP, to save me typing about 50 letters) was launched in 2001 to study the light that flooded the Universe from its earliest moments.

The birth of the Universe was hot, and so the light created in the event was extremely high-energy. But as the Universe expanded, that light lost energy. In a sense, the light used up energy to fight that expansion to get to us (sort of (but only roughly, not exactly!) like the way you have to use more energy to walk into the wind).

The exact details are a bit complicated, but basically, after more than 13 billion years, the light from the Bang has lost so much energy that it’s now very low energy microwaves. WMAP was designed to look at this kind of light. Other satellites have done this before, but WMAP has better eyesight, if you will: it can see smaller features than ever before, as well as fainter features. By studying this light we can learn a huge amount about the early Universe.

The early results from WMAP were amazing, increasing our knowledge about the early Universe by a giant leap. But now, two years later, new results have been announced.

The big result is that the light left over from this early time matches the models of the Big Bang and Inflation very well. The Big Bang model says the Universe started in a single moment, and has been expanding since then. Inflation is this weird idea that for a teeny tiny fraction of a second, the Universal expansion accelerated hugely. Inflation explains a lot of problems that had cropped up in the Big Bang model as observations got better. What’s nice about inflation is that it explains a wide variety of issues including problems in particle physics as well as cosmology without really changing what happened in the very early Universe, before inflation. In other words, the Big Bang and inflation are separate models which fit together to explain what we see in the sky.

The gas filling the Universe right before inflation kicked in was not perfectly uniform; it had small regions that were slightly denser than other regions. These differences were incredibly small, caused basically by fluctuations on a quantum scale, smaller than atoms. But then inflation suddenly happened, and these tiny fluctuations got amplified tremendously. In fact, these fluctuations are what grew into the galaxies and clusters of galaxies we see today in the Universe!

The inflation model predicts the way these amplifications occurred, and the really cool news is that the WMAP data matches these predictions very well. This is a tremendous confirmation of the models scientists have of how the Universe has behaved all the way down to 10-35 of a second after the Big Bang, when inflation started. As physicist Brian Greene put it in the press conference about this,

These observations are spectacular and the results are stunning… it is truly inspiring. Galaxies are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky.

Another piece of the new results just announced has to do with the way the light form the early Universe was polarized. Polarization is a funny property of light. Light is a wave. You can think of it being able to wiggle up and down, or left and right, or upper left to lower right. But when light reflects off a surface, some of it gets rotated a bit so that more will wiggle left and right than did before the reflection.

This is what happens when light reflects off glass, metal, and water. When you wear polarizing glasses, those glasses filter out the light that gets polarized a certain way, and that significantly reduces the amount of light you see. It reduces the glare from reflections. You can see this yourself: take your polarized glasses and look at light reflecting off a car hood or windshield. Then take the glasses and literally rotate them. You’ll see the amount of reflected light you see get brighter and dimmer as you rotate the glasses, as the light wiggling one way is alternately blocked and let through by your glasses. If you had really good glasses, the amount of light let through or blocked would tell you quite a bit about the properties of the surface — the metal or glass — off which the light reflected.

When the Universe was younger, it was hotter and denser, and filled with gas. The light reflected off (technically, it scattered off) this gas, and was partially polarized. WMAP has detectors that can see polarized light, and measure how much of the light got polarized. This in turn tells scientists about the gas that filled the early Universe. Since this gas was strongly affected by the first giant stars that were born way back then, the polarization of the light reveals clues about that first generation of stars.

Scientists are now confident that the first stars were born 400 million years after the Big Bang. Study of WMAP’s initial results, two years ago, indicated the stars formed earlier than that, around 200 million years after the BB, but the uncertainty in the data was pretty big. More data and more study since then have really beaten down the error bars in this result, and the confidence level is much higher now that stars formed 400 million years after the birth of the Universe.

This to me is perhaps the most amazing result of WMAP. I am fascinated by the Big Bang and inflation models, of course, but they’re pretty esoteric and weird. But asking yourself, when was the first star born?, that’s a question that is solid, something you can sink your teeth into. For all the history of mankind, that question has not been answerable with any confidence. It’s almost like a fairy tale, a silly story to amuse yourself with, but not one that could ever be answered.

But that’s changed now. Somewhere out there in the sky, the light from those first stars is reaching us, and it’s been struggling against the expansion of space for 13.3 billion years. The light itself has not yet been unequivocally detected, but our telescopes and our detectors get better all the time. And as we learn more, we want to know more! We’ll study the data more, and collect more, and build better and better machines to do it.

Like the Universe itself, our will to learn grows more every day.’

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (53)

  1. Kevin from NYC

    SUPER SUPER COOL post Phil.

    This is the kind of stuff that I really like. And reading it is like “I knew that” and “yes of course” …. but it because you tie up a lot of loose ends and give a nice clear explaination.

    And great charts.

  2. Joel McGinley

    Phil, I’ve been a fan of your site for years, and am especially pleased to see WMAP make news again. It, or results from it, have been featured many times- pretty neat given that it doesn’t take pictures that the general public can see, but rather does esoteric science.
    I am recently retired from Boeing at KSC, and while there I conducted the spin-balance operation on MAP. We had some tricky results as the solar shield tried to self-deploy during the first spin – the material between the fixed sides was folded up like an accordian at each apex, and in one place it bulged out at speed, which gave a bogus CG offset. Luckily the GSFC techs were able to tuck it more tightly for later spins at 60 rpm and we were able to easily meet the Delta-II requirements.
    I’m always pleased to see an old fried like WMAP doing well. (By the way, I also spin-balanced APL’s CONTOUR, which went perfectly. Too bad they hadn’t done their homework about solid motors and heat transfer….
    Joel McGinley, Merritt Island, Fl

  3. That is so super-cool it’s practically a Bose condensate.

    And you explain it really well, Dr. BA, sir. Will sunglasses and the glare from a lake ever be the same again?

  4. PK

    Truly great stuff! And the Brian Greene quote made it to my email signature…

  5. Leon

    This is fascinating stuff.

    This post also illustrates pretty well why statements like “The Big Bang is just a theory” are baseless. The explanations of how the new observations mesh well with the BB and inflation models show how observation is used to test scientific theories & hypotheses (imagine that!). It’s not just some speculation someone dreamed up–the speculation was tested, modified, tested, modified, until it became a hypothesis and eventually a theory.

    Try THAT with ID or creationism, and you get–oh, wait, I forgot, they don’t test their ideas.

  6. Leon, I will confirm that I put that part into this entry very much on purpose. :-)

  7. Ozastro

    Cool or as Blake says “super cool” :)

  8. Rumour Mongerer

    So we have a nice theory of how the universe expands, etc, after the start, but need a different theory of what happens at the beginning.

    Reminds me of evolution, in that it only explains what happens after life exists, and an abiogenesis theory is needed to get life in the first place.

  9. Dermot

    Every time I see this picture enhanced some more, I’m amazed all over again.


  10. Kevin from NYC

    Ozastro Says: March 16th, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Cool or as Blake says “super cool”

    Or hey! Its SUPER SUPER COOL!


  11. HawaiiArmo

    It’s fascinating news like this that you’ll see on the 15th page of newspapers. It’s a sad state of affairs when something so critical to our understanding of where we come from is located in the nether reaches of the papers.

    Simmering anger and resentment at the current state of ignorance aside, I do have a pertinent cosmological question. I know it probably doesn’t have an easy answer, but WHAT’S THE MECHANISM FOR INFLATION? I realize that String Theory and Quantum mechanics probably clash over the details, but in general, I’ve heard it stated as a possible “emergent property” of the universe? That’s further confusing, does that mean that it’s inherent to the extent that “Inflation happened” is sufficient enough because the universe is in the current and previous state that it’s in?
    Can anyone so kindly please shed some light on the possible reasons for why and how inflation happened? Otherwise I may go back to reading Brian Greene’s book (the Fabric of the Cosmos) and attempting to remember things he’s probably covered but I’ve forgotten.

  12. Markk

    Somebody else jump in if possible, since I have not looked at this in ages, but I believe the current inflation theories use the “pressure” of the phase transition from unified Quantum Fields realm to the separate looking fields of the Higgs, Strong Force, Weak and EM. Lets try to elaborate a little (and please correct my infractions). This will be kind of long because there is a detour to take through Quantum Field Theory.

    All our standard models of particles and small interactions are Quantum Field Theories. These have a symmetry where essentially you can change certain particles into others with a “gauge field” making up for changing momentum, etc. Another way to look at a gauge field is a (virtual) particle coming from or to this interaction which carries the appropriate values (momemtum, spin, chanrge, etc) to keep all the conservation laws correct. So the gauge field particle for Electromagnetism is the photon, for the Weak interaction its a set of three particles, W+, W-, and Z. The Strong gauge particles are a set of gluons. There is another, not yet confirmed quantum field called the Higgs field, with a gauge particle called the Higgs boson. Okay, You can think of each of these gauge fields (this is a metaphor – not exact) as a different phase of a material, say steam (Higgs), water (strong) and ice (Electroweak). Now we are ready to talk about the inflation energy with this metaphor, think about a hot spring geyser in Yellowstone – all three phases are together, but you can tell them apart – this is snow here, this is water, this is steam. Now raise the temperature, all the ice melts, making it just like the water. A lot of energy is used up to melt the ice. Keep raising the temperature, suddenly a lot of energy goes into boiling the water, and all the phases are the same – you can’t tell one from another anymore. This is the gist of the idea that “Extended Standard Model” Grand Unified Theories put forward. This idea was worked out for EM and weak interactions and it made predictions of particles that would appear at certain energies and they were found as predicted! So the first part of the idea seems to work. No one really has a total handle on the second part. OK so by adding energy we can create symmetry – all the water molecules are statistically the same, similarly all gauge fields (particles) start to look (that is they act) the same if the energy is high enough.

    Finally we are ready to talk inflation – lets turn it around and look at the Big Bang. As space expanded, at some point the reverse of what I described above happened – as the “temp” dropped basically the Higgs quantum field condensed out. This is called “spontaneous symmetry breaking”. Higgs bosons would be different from the rest of the gauge particles. Just as when steam condenses (also spontaneous symmetry breaking), a lot of energy is released in this phase transition. That energy was so much that it is thought to affect the curvature of space – it acts like a “pressure” on space and made the space fabric expand very fast. This is a very cool idea because we just jumped a fence – the equations that show this energy causing the fabric of space to expand are General Relativity Equations, not Quantum Field Theory equations.

    So this is one of those places where the two great physical models we have touch.

    I hope this kind of off the cuff explanation helps, and isn’t too misleading.

  13. HawaiiArmo

    Thanks for the detailed explanation Markk. I’m assuming then, that when they speak of emergent properties of the universe, they’re speaking of the symmetry breaking attributed to the guage field?
    As for the two physical models you alluded to, I guess this is where the attempts at explaining quantum gravity, through the Superstring theory or Quantum mechanics come into play?

    Also, shouldn’t the intense gravity and pressure present in black hole singularities cause the guage fields to re-coalesce? Perhaps the reformed symmetry present at those singularites causes a seed for a new universe to form on the opposite end of the black hole? Anyway, maybe this is a little too fantastic and I’m oversimplifying the physics involved, but it’s definately food for thought.

  14. sapjes

    I’ve just got one simple question: What was there before the Big Bang ?

    Just kiddin’ =]

    “Like the Universe itself, our will to learn grows more every day.”
    I think our will to learn already is pretty strong, I hope our knowledge will grow more everyday!

    How super cool to know we could be descendants from the first star ever born :’)

  15. tom

    Another inspirational, fantastically written entry in your blog. Love seeing a new article pop up on your RSS feed on my Google homepage, I know it’s going to be something fascinating and you’ve not yet disappointed! Excellent work.

  16. Robert Haskins

    This is the best writeup on this subject I’ve read. Walking into a headwind and losing energy was great.

  17. Fascinating post – but that NASA diagram bothered me for some reason. Then I figured out what it was: it shows the Big Bang as a white “explosion” on the left side of the diagram, but the light from it is extending backwards in time to before the Big Bang! Slap on the wrist for the artist I think (I know I’m nit-picking, but it just bugged me!)

    Also, the Inflation theory because of its name always makes me think of the Universe as a giant balloon having air blown into it at intervals. Maybe there is a sect somewhere that has latched on to this and is awaiting the “coming of the big metal pin”…

    Joking aside, an excellent article. I’m also thinking of snatching that quote “Galaxies are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky”. There’s something poetic about that.

  18. Very well written and easy to read. How long did it take you to write this? It seems like taking a highly techinical subject and making it understandable to the general public would take quite a bit of time.

    jerry from MO,
    The next state with a law about ID :-(

  19. The Red Shift Does Not Prove the Expansion of the Universe or the Big Bang

    The work of Hubble and the observed red shifts were used to support the belief that the universe is apparently expanding. His work showed that the red shift had a linear dependence on distance. It was assumed that the red shift was due to the Doppler effect.

    While Hubble measured red shifts as a function of measured distances, Hubble himself initially used the term “apparent velocity” in connection with the red shift. In turn, this was assumed to prove that the universe was expanding ­ in all directions.

    The work of Saul Perlmutter and others is cited to show that the expansion of the universe is apparently accelerating and thus introduced the need for dark energy.

    The support for the expansion of the universe is based upon the determination of distance of standard stars (super nova Type Ia) by the relative light energy received from these stars.

    However, the distances are also determined from the measured red shifts and the Hubble constant. Initially Hubble determined the distances of red shift stars by measurements using nearby calibrated stars. The Hubble constant together with observed red shifts is used to calculate distances for stars that are much further away, by assuming that the linear relationship is also valid for very remote stars.

    Because some of the very remote stars are more faint than expected from the red shift data it was suggested that these remote stars are further away than expected from the red shift data.

    Thus it was explained that these remote stars are moving faster than expected (an acceleration of the expansion) and thus introduces the need for dark energy to power the acceleration.

    However, the errors in the conclusions are caused by not understanding that there are THREE other contributions to the red shift that depend upon gravity in addition to the Doppler shift contribution. One gravity contribution is a function of the log of distance, is linear for shorter distances, but shows the non-linear component at very large distances where the apparent acceleration of the supposed expansion appears.

    One of the red shift, energy loss components depends upon distance including gravitational drag by gas and dust in long distance travel through interstellar space. This is similar to the loss of energy from the moon due to the effect of the moon and gravity on Earth tides.

    The photons traveling distances large enough to drop energy to the microwave range also come into thermal equilibrium with the very low temperature of interstellar gas and dust. This explains the cosmic microwave background and the uniform low temperature from all directions.

    The loss of photon energy dropping below the visible range explains Olbers Paradox ­ why the sky is black in spite of the fact that there are vast numbers of stars in the sky.

    According to the General Relativity theory of Einstein, gravity can deflect photons and also can influence photon energy.

    Another part of my analysis is the explanation of apparent dark matter by the introduction of an EXTENSION of Newton’s gravitational constant by the addition of a term linear with distance, where this EXTENDED GRAVITY term becomes significant only outside our solar system ­ at galactic distances. Dark matter is not needed to explain the flat rotation velocity curves of spiral galaxies (as described by Vera Rubin) ­ only dark or extended gravity.

    The result is that at large distances, the calculated red shift is a logarithmic function of distance ­ leading to the apparent acceleration of the apparent expansion, and the apparent need for dark energy, and the apparent big bang.

    Our analysis also determined that one gravitational contribution to the red shift causes errors in determination of the distance of massive quasars (making them appear further away) thus giving a very large value for calculated emitted energy. This also results is a calculated transverse velocity (proper motion) of massive quasars that are unacceptably larger than the velocity of light.

    Our understanding of the real meaning of the red shift (gravity more than velocity) removes the support for (a) the expanding universe, (b) the accelerating expansion, and (c) the big bang.

    Cosmology depends upon observations to suggest theories and even more important, used to validate theories.

    The introduction of a new understanding of the true meaning of extended gravity, and of the red shift is also able to predict and explain many of the puzzling observations and mysteries of the universe.

    Details of my analysis of the true universe are provided at my web site, along with previous versions of the analysis:

    Sol Aisenberg

    red v6 shift 3 terms

  20. “Tired light” lives on. And on. And on. Sigh.

    Details of many analyses of the true universe are provided at Sadly, few of them have direct relevance to cosmology, though at least one shows a strong familiarity with Fourier analysis and electromagnetic radiation.

  21. Gary Ansorge

    I remember a fellow from Missouri (Harry Truman) who loved to say,
    ” Hey, I’m from Missouri. You gotta prove it to me,,,” which became a euphimism for skepticism. Soon it may be,” Hey, I’m from missouri, where we accept whatever goof ball idea comes down the road on Faith alone,,,”


    OK, so,,,that wasn’t very compassionate of me, but then I never claimed to be a Bhuddah!!!

    BA, how about this for speculation:

    The Universe as an electron, a singularity with its cloud of virtual particles as galaxies and stars,,,,

    The idea of a continuum of particles as universes was written about in a 1930s SciFi novel that I read 50 years ago. My, how far our minds can travel when we leave them unfettered by reason, though sometimes that can get us in deep trouble.

    Gary 7

  22. Nereid

    Why don’t you publish your ideas in a peer-reviewed journal, Sol?

  23. icemith

    Walking into a headwind and losing energy is one thing, but what was going the other way gaining energy? Could that be Energy itself, however one describes energy?

    Another problem I have is- Black Holes are usually described or depicted as the big end of a funnel from our point of view, never from any other direction as should be expected from the seemingly large enough sample as presented in the Universe. There should be many examples of side-on views and the other end view ( maybe they are the suggested new universes making their premiere ).

    Any clues anybody, or are there aspects of this I haven’t even dreamed of?

    Thanks again for the opportunity Phil to voice my questions, or maybe fears(?)! You never know what you can find out.


  24. Nigel Depledge

    Markk – sorry, I gave up at the point where Quantum Field Theory came in.

    BA – so cool you must be running on zero point energy!

  25. The headwind thing is just an analogy. It’s just meant to mean that as a photon heads toward us from a distant object, it’s fighting the expansion of the Universe and losing energy. As analogies go, it’s not a great one, because a head wind slows you down, but light always travels at the same speed. And really, it’s the expansion of space itself that is causing the photon to lose energy. It’s like trying to walk on an expanding rubber band, really. I tried writing that analogy but I couldn’t get it to work, and the article was getting too damn long anyway. :)

    This one took less than an hour to write; I wrote it while I listened in on the actual press telecon.

  26. Water

    Icemith: A black hole is indeed funnel-shaped, but the funnel is four-dimensional. The event horizon is the ‘mouth’ of the funnel, and is a spherical surface. Thus a black hole looks more or less the same from any direction.

  27. Markk

    “Thanks for the detailed explanation Markk. I’m assuming then, that when they speak of emergent properties of the universe, they’re speaking of the symmetry breaking attributed to the guage field?”

    Yes, although “emergent” is kind of an ill defined word which means different things to different people. The classic physics problem example of symmetry breaking is a pencil sitting directly on its tip (pointed down). Quantum fluctuations (i.e. uncertainty) mean that after some time no matter that it was ‘perfectly’ balanced it is going to fall over – because the position of the atoms at its tip are uncertain in principle. Suddenly the symmetry is broken and there is a distinct “emergent” direction the pencil is pointing towards.

    “As for the two physical models you alluded to, I guess this is where the attempts at explaining quantum gravity, through the Superstring theory or Quantum mechanics come into play?”

    Yes – Combining the Standard Model and General Relativity is one of the drivers especially since these two theories are inconsistant with each other at small distances (really really really small).

    “Also, shouldn’t the intense gravity and pressure present in black hole singularities cause the guage fields to re-coalesce? Perhaps the reformed symmetry present at those singularites causes a seed for a new universe to form on the opposite end of the black hole? ”

    Well yes if we could pump enough energy into a small enough area we could “boil” the forces if certain Grand Unified theories’s are correct. We already know it works with Electromagnetism and the Weak Force. That is kind of what we do with particle colliders. The inside the black hole stuff, well that is where Quantum Theory and General Relativity don’t give good answers. If you play with models you can make them do almost anything, but none of the current models in string theory match the real world or have a limit of Quantum field theory without zillions (well I think more than 100 at last count) of manually entered parameters.

  28. I am debating a fellow on another site about the BB. He is a creationist, and contends the BB never happened. (Well, I guess he means he has another explanation.) Anyway, this post about WMAP is clear enough that I am going to refer him to it, if he ever responds to my argument for the BB.

    Great job, Phil! Thanks.

  29. bassmanpete

    How much did the universe inflate in that tiny fraction of a second? I’ve read differing accounts ranging from the size of a grapefruit to the size of the observable universe.


  30. A lot fo writers appear confused on this issue. Given that it happened a tiny fraction of a second after the BB, it couldn’t be the size of the Universe now! It went from submacroscopic (I have heard the size of a proton) to macroscopic, maybe a few centimeters across. Golfball, grapefruit, I won’t argue. :)

  31. “an infinite parse of a second” (numbers insult the universe). We cannot use mathamatics to figure out the “exact” time it took for stars to form after the “big bang”. Of course, it is a way to come to grips with unknown factors. Yet, concepts of space and time are only analogous to our limited reason. Kant saw “galaxys” synthetic apriori. And, that is a good thing that improved telescopes resolved galaxys from planetary nebula when there magnification was improved. Yes, theoretical physics, in the age of advanced scientific tools technology, is improving our knowledge of the visible universe. Nevertheless, infinity is a hat with more rabbits than we can ever skin. Needless to say—some of the information being posted here is very sweet.

  32. bassmanpete

    Thanks for the response BA. I’ll just make it clear that I’m a curious layman who never got past secondary school maths so I struggle to understand some of this stuff.

    The latest confusion, for me, comes from the report headed Astronomers Detect First Split-Second of the Universe. Referring to inflation it says:

    “During this growth spurt, a tiny region, likely no larger than a marble, grew in a trillionth of a second to become larger than the visible universe,” said WMAP researcher David Spergel, also from Princeton University.

    Maybe you need to have words with this researcher BA :)


  33. HawaiiArmo

    Thanks again Markk. Hopefully, we’re at the forefront of finding out just how these interactions occur at the subatomic level. It’s pretty much the holy grail of physics — Relating general relativity and quanutm mechanics at the subatomic level. Great to be alive during these formative times.

  34. Nigel Depledge

    Sol, when you say:
    “One of the red shift, energy loss components depends upon distance including gravitational drag by gas and dust in long distance travel through interstellar space. This is similar to the loss of energy from the moon due to the effect of the moon and gravity on Earth tides.”

    It is clear that you do not fully understand the respective systems. The Earth is currently losing rotational momentum to the moon through the effect of tidal drag, but, once the Earth and moon become tidally locked, this transfer of momentum will cease. Furthermore, the total angular momentum of the Earth-moon system remains constant. So the analogy is a very poor one.

    Your gravitational drag argument suffers from one serious flaw – there is as much matter in front of the photons as they travel as there is behind them, so, although they may periodically experience gravitational redshift on their journey, the net gravitational redshift over the whole journey should be extremely small (or actualy zero).

  35. Nigel Depledge

    Sol, when you say:
    “The loss of photon energy dropping below the visible range explains Olbers Paradox ­ why the sky is black in spite of the fact that there are vast numbers of stars in the sky.”

    Erm … not with such a brief statement, it doesn’t.

    If the universe is not expanding, then there was no big bang, so the universe had no beginning, so Olber’s paradox needs to be explained. I await your detailed explanation with bated breath!

    Also, if the universe is not expanding and there was no big bang, what the heck emitted all those microwave photons in the first place? And why do they look the same to one part in 10,000 all over the sky?

  36. Nigel Depledge

    Sol, you also said:
    “The photons traveling distances large enough to drop energy to the microwave range also come into thermal equilibrium with the very low temperature of interstellar gas and dust. This explains the cosmic microwave background and the uniform low temperature from all directions.”

    What? But we see clouds of gas and dust emitting at a range of infra-red and radio wavelengths (i.e. there are patches that are significantly warmer than the microwave background). And some clouds of gas emit at visible wavelengths – how else can we see so many nebulae?

    It does not explain the uniform temperature of the MW background. Gas and dust clouds are patchy – yet the MW background is extraordinarily uniform. Your argument sounds more like wishful thinking than actual science.

  37. Nigel Depledge

    Sol, this bit also bothers me:
    “Another part of my analysis is the explanation of apparent dark matter by the introduction of an EXTENSION of Newton’s gravitational constant by the addition of a term linear with distance, where this EXTENDED GRAVITY term becomes significant only outside our solar system ­ at galactic distances. Dark matter is not needed to explain the flat rotation velocity curves of spiral galaxies (as described by Vera Rubin) ­ only dark or extended gravity.”

    How very inconvenient for scientists – a law of nature that behaves one way within the solar system but in a different way outside the solar system. Remember Occam’s razor? Which option requires more assumptions? That a law of nature behaves differently on scales that are too large for us to measure directly? Or that galaxies contain matter that we have not detected yet?

  38. jess tauber

    If you take a REALLY close look, squinty-eyed and all, at the WMAP map you will see that it is actually a MAP OF EARTH (no, not the one on Niven’s Ringworld- more like one of those red-green colorblindness tests….).

    Given continental drift the only question is WHEN. Personally I think its the future. In continental dark blue you gottem North America upper left, below South America (whats that thing in the very lower left though?), Africa is low central, Eurasia most of the upper right, Australasia on the lower right, and so on.

    Lot more convincing than that face on Mars. I could be wrong about this, but I’ve never been wrong about it before, so my reputation stands by itself.

    It is sometimes said that in a closed universe if you look far enough you will see the back of your own head. Case closed.

    Jess Tauber

  39. Finally had a chance to review some comments on my march 17 2006 posting. Am busy preparing a submission to a journal.

    Nigel: The photons are losing energy to the gas and dust as it passes by them – the moving photon moves the gas and dust and thus imparts energy to them even after ut leaves with reduced energy. The energy that the moon transfers to the earth tides reduces the kinetic energy of the moon and it rotates at a further distance from the earth. The total angular momentum and energy of trhe two are conserved but in different partitions.

    While the mass distribution in front and back of the photon may be the same, energy is transferred by individual events. Consider the case of a person moving through a uniform crowd of people and having individual collisions, there is a loss of energy at each interaction independent of the distribution of the crowd.

    With respect to Olbers’ paradox, the universe exists (by observation) and does not need the belief in the big bang. When the red shift of very remote stars decreases enough then the visible portion of the spectrum becomes very dim and not enough to be visable.

    The universe is vast and the clouds of dust and gas only fill a small portion and they probably reflect visible energy from nearby stars. Previously, well known scientists computed/estimated the temperature of interstellar space to be in the range of 5 deg K or so, based upon energy balance with the stars. Do a Google search on “temperature of interstellar space” to see some history. Also, the cold gas and dust in interstellar space will have a Boltzmann distribution characteristic of their temperature – in the microwave range.

    A law? of nature is based upon the observations that support the law. Newton’s law is based only on the observations in our solar system. in his time there was no knowledge of other galaxies. If he had this information then his law probably would be valid at greater distances.

    Hope this answers your concerns.

  40. your waisting your time and life on this bang theory……….. get over it.

  41. After some time working on some inventions and patents, I am back with some additional information.

    Newton, who was a real genius, only had access to observations of the planets on our solar system(in addition to observations of falling apples) but was not aware of other galaxies in the universe. Newton’s law of gravity is applicable in our solar system, but it was called Newton’s UNIVERSAL LAW OF GRAVITY. When his law was later applied by Fritz Zwicky and others to groups of galaxies, the observations did not agree with Newton’s law of gravity. In the 1930’s massive the concept of massive amounts of dark matter was introduced to patch up the difference – rather than seeing how his law of gravity could be extended to also be valid at cosmic distances. Decades later the observations of Vera Rubin for spiral galaxies, using red shifts, showed that the rotation velocity curves were flat rather than decreasing with radial distance as predicted by Newton’s law of gravity. Analysis of the classical equations balancing the centripetal forces and the gravitation force showed that for the observed constant rotation velocities, the product of central mass, M, and the gravitational constant, G, is a linear function of radial distance, r, – from the equation M*G= v*v*r. The common error is to assign the radial distance, r, to the mass M, even though the extra mass is invisible and is called dark matter. This is a massive fudge factor in the explanation. Actually, I suggest that the linear term in r should be assigned to the gravitational term G – actually because G is invisible and only deduced from its effect on visible matter, it is reasonable to also consider the linear term to also be invisible and also only detected from its effect on visible matter. Note that this Theory of Additional Gravity (TAG) depends upon distance and is different from the interesting MOND theory of M. Milgrom that depends upon acceleration. Note that the TAG model is continuous and also applies in our solar system – because for small r, the linear term becomes almost negligible and the inverse square component remains. However when the linear component becomes many orders of magnitude smaller than G, it can explain/predict the unexpected observations of the NASA space probes, Pioneer 10/11 where unexpected precision measurements over considerable time show tiny forces toward the sun.

    Thus there is no need for the mystery of dark matter and the massive fudge factors.

    Any scientific objections?

    Sol Aisenberg

  42. Additional thoughts.
    The later mystery of Dark Energy can also be reexamined.

    The need for dark energy is based upon the apparent distance of very remote galaxies/stars – and the distance deduced from the light intensity received from these galaxies/stars.

    Actually there is one flaw – the assumption that the redshift can be extended to measure distance – although it was never shown to be valid at very large distances.

    Explaining the difference between the distances from light intensity received and the distances assumed for the corresponding red shifts required dark energy to explain the apparent acceleration of these remote stars. This resulted in the mystery of dark energy – but only represents the errors in understanding the simple physics.

    Also there are no observations of the receding velocity of remote galaxies – only the ASSUMPTION that the red shift is due to the Doppler effect, as well as a measure of distance.

    This brief comment will be expanded into a chapter in a book that I plan to prepare for use by future generations.

    Sol Aisenberg, Ph.D.

  43. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ sol:

    Thus there is no need for the mystery of dark matter and the massive fudge factors. Any scientific objections?

    Of course. First, general relativity is AFAIU not compatible with observations outside of the concordance cosmology described in the post. Besides that, there has been several observations of dark matter systems, in systems of colliding galaxies and now latest in old galaxy clusters where it helps small elliptical galaxies to keep together.

    Second, define “massive fudge factors”.

    But foremost you can’t replace a theory that tests out well without presenting a new theory that explains all these observations and successfully predicts some new ones. Neither your “tired light” theory nor (fails to explain, say, Olber’s paradox in an infinite universe) nor your “additional gravity” theory (fails to explain GR observations) can explain current observations, even less explain added effects (Pioneer 10/11 are tenuous as observations, as lately 2/3 (IIRC) of the discrepancies disappeared with better thermal models).

    Nitpick: I don’t think cosmologists find MOND or related theories interesting anymore, AFAIU it failed miserably in explaining those colliding galaxies observations (such as the Bullet cluster).

  44. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Oh, and of course, why this plethora of random theories to replace one good consistent one? If it looks like denialism, and quack like denialism, it is denialism.

  45. With respect to the concept of inflation to explain the apparent uniformity of the universe, there is an alternate explanation.

    The need for inflation results from the limitation of the event horizon. Considering the existence time, T, of the universe (however it is determined) and the limit on the speed of light, C, (and probably of the speed of gravity effects) The maximum distance that the effect of a region A can extend its effect is equal to the product of the velocity, C, and the time T, and this defines the event horizon.

    The paradox is due to the observation that the observed size of the universe is much greater than the event horizon. This leads to the need to explain how regions of the universe whose separations much greater than the event horizon can come into equilibrium with each other.

    This is nicely explained by inflation which proposes that the expanding universe started as a very tiny event and expanded in a remarkable small time, a tiny fraction of a second.

    Personally, I believe that physical theories that involve singularities are flawed and require these singularities to survive in place of a future more correct theory.

    My suggestion to explain the uniformity of the universe over distances greater than the event horizon is based upon the mathematical statement: if A=B and B=C, then A=C.
    When generalized to multiple locations in the universe, it can explain how the universe can become uniform within the age of the universe.

    This argument will be part of the book I am preparing.

    Sol Aisenberg, Ph.D.

  46. While I am spending time trying to educate readers, the following will be added:

    With respect to the request: [ Second, define “massive fudge factors”].
    It is apparent that when dark matter that is much, much, greater than observable matter is needed for the theory to explain observations, this can be considered as massive and qualifies as a fudge factor.

    With respect to:
    [But foremost you can’t replace a theory that tests out well without presenting a new theory that explains all these observations and successfully predicts some new ones.]

    In traveling large distances through interstellar space the photons (light) will interact gravitationally with gas and dust in the neighborhood (without needing collisions) and will cause some of the nearby the gas and dust to move as a result of gravitational interactions. Moving takes energy and is not returned. Einstein’s General Relativity demonstrated the gravitational effect on photons. The energy required to move the gas and dust came from the light photons (conservation of energy) and as a result the photons lost energy (became tired) providing a red shift proportional to the distance traveled. Do you now understand the “tired light” theory?

    Olber’s paradox in an infinite universe is based upon the argument that in an infinite (or very large) universe there will be stars in every direction providing starlight so that the sky should be very bright rather that the observed dark sky. My explanation is that the light from the majority of the stars must travel very large distances and experience large red shifts. Large redshifts for the remote stars will bring the photon wavelength above the range of visible light, into the microwave and radio frequency range (the CMB) and can not be seen by the human eye. Thus a dark sky. Also for most of the very remote universe (outside the event horizon) the travel time will be greater than the age of the universe and these remote photons will not arrive in time to be observed at any wavelength.

    Sol Aisenberg

    (fails to explain, say, Olber’s paradox in an infinite universe)

  47. Jubilee Valence

    Excellent presentation and fun to read. Very uplifting. And Sol, remarkable;…simply…remarkable!

  48. Andres Minas

    I find Sol’s non-fudged observations lead more to logical conclusion.

  49. sol aisenberg


    I am back to update readers.

    I finished writing a book titled “The Misunderstood Universe” in late 2009. You can probably get a copy from your library (ask then to obtain a copy or by inter-library loan). It is also available from Amazon.

    It explains what is wrong with the belief in dark matter, dark energy, black holes,the big bang, tired light – and other wrong beliefs in the standard model of the universe. I will also be presenting at the APS (American Physical Society) meeting in Boston March 2012,and will be writing my next book to update my solutions.

    The material was submitted to peer review publications but apparently will not be accepted for review by established physicists. Perhaps the next generation.

    Briefly Newton was a genius but he could only use the observations available to him and did not have knowledge of the remote galaxies (fixed stars) and thus his theory of gravity was not a universal theory. Not his fault.

    With respect to dark energy, photons traveling large distances will undergo red shifts corresponding to increases in wave length and decreases in photon energy. Photon energy can not be negative so that Hubble’s linear red shift must become non linear at very large distances and cannot be used to determine very remote distances for comparison with distances determined from star magnitude. Also, there are no direct observations of the receding velocity of galaxies or of expansion.

    Hope you understand this.

    Sol Aisenberg, PhD


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