Einstein’s Lost Theory Describes a Universe Without a Big Bang

By Amir Aczel | March 7, 2014 10:32 am

Einstein with Edwin Hubble, in 1931, at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, looking through the lens of the 100-inch telescope through which Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe in 1929. Courtesy of the Archives, Calif Inst of Technology.

In 1917, a year after Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was published—but still two years before he would become the international celebrity we know—Einstein chose to tackle the entire universe. For anyone else, this might seem an exceedingly ambitious task—but this was Einstein.

Einstein began by applying his field equations of gravitation to what he considered to be the entire universe. The field equations were the mathematical essence of his general theory of relativity, which extended Newton’s theory of gravity to realms where speeds approach that of light and masses are very large. But his math was better than he wanted to believe—his equations told him that the universe could not stay static: it had to either expand or contract. Einstein chose to ignore what his mathematics was telling him.

The story of Einstein’s solution to this problem—the maligned “cosmological constant” (also called lambda)—is well known in the history of science. But this story, it turns out, has a different ending than everyone thought: Einstein late in life returned to considering his disgraced lambda. And his conversion foretold lambda’s use in an unexpected new setting, with immense relevance to a key conundrum in modern physics and cosmology: dark energy.

The Static Universe Before Hubble

Einstein had what would have seemed a very good reason for ignoring what the math was telling him. Few people know that Einstein was not merely a superb theoretician, but also a physicist skilled in observations and experiments. In 1914, Einstein was wooing a young Scottish-German astronomer, Erwin Finlay Freundlich, to seek proof of relativity through shifts in apparent star locations during a total solar eclipse that was to take place in the Crimea (which ended badly because of the outbreak of World War I). Letters that Einstein wrote to Freundlich during 1913-4 reveal that Einstein had a burgeoning interest in astronomy and understood much about the field, including technical details of lenses and mirrors.* Ironically, his deep knowledge of astronomy would lead Einstein to make the greatest blunder of his entire career….Or not.

Astronomical knowledge of the time told Einstein that the universe was unchanging in its size. How could someone think that? Well, this was the second decade of the twentieth century, and telescopes were still relatively small and not very powerful. They were strong enough to allow astronomers to discover all the now-known planets in our solar system, to get good views of “cloudy patches” of the sky such as the Orion nebula, and to view several galaxies, including the Great Andromeda Galaxy—our nearest neighbor at 2.3 million light years’ distance.

But astronomers believed that all these fuzzy objects they were seeing were somehow part of our own Milky Way. (The great Eddington even believed at that time that the Sun was the center of this universe! And an idea about the distances to the most faraway stars only began to emerge through the work of Harlow Shapely on Cepheid variables, conducted at the Mount Wilson Observatory, in 1916.) Since astronomers could detect no expansion of stars or nebulas in the entire cosmos known to them, they assumed that the universe was static.

The Birth of the Cosmological Constant

To force his equations—which theoretically predicted the expansion of the universe—to remain still, Einstein invented the cosmological constant, λ. He multiplied the metric tensor in his equation, g, by the cosmological constant, leading to a term λg, which adjusted his metric tensor acting on space-time. This mathematical trick assured him that his equations would yield a universe that was prevented from expanding or contracting.

Unbeknownst to Einstein, at exactly the time he published his paper on the cosmological equations, across the world in California, the new 100-inch Hooker telescope was being fit in its place at the Mount Wilson Observatory. Within a little over a decade, Edwin Hubble, aided by Vesto Slipher and Milton Humason, would use this, the most powerful telescope on Earth, to study the redshift of distant galaxies and conclude from it definitively that our universe is expanding.

Einstein heard about these results, and in the early 1930s, he traveled to California and met with Hubble.  At the Mount Wilson Observatory he saw the massive data set on distant galaxies that had led to “Hubble’s law” describing the expansion of the universe and got angry at himself: had he not forced his equations to stay static with that cosmological-constant invention of his, he could have theoretically predicted Hubble’s findings! That would have been worth a second Nobel Prize for him (he deserved a few more, anyway)—in the same way, for example, that the CERN scientists’ 2012 experimental discovery of the Higgs boson recently won Peter Higgs the Nobel in 2013. In disgust, Einstein exclaimed after his Mount Wilson visit: “If there is no quasi-static world, then away with the cosmological term!” and never considered the cosmological constant again. Or so we thought until recently.

Dark Energy: Lambda Returns

When a genius such as Einstein makes a mistake, it tends to be a “good mistake.” (I am indebted to the mathematician Goro Shimura for this expression.) It can’t simply go away—there is too much thought that has gone into it. So, like a phoenix, Einstein’s cosmological constant made a remarkable comeback, very unexpectedly, in 1998.

That year, two groups of astronomers made an announcement that rocked the world of science. The “Supernova Cosmology Project,” based in California and headed by Saul Perlmutter, and the “High-Z SN Search” group at Harvard-Smithsonian and Australia, announced their results of the shifts of distant galaxies leading to a conclusion that nobody had expected: The universe, rather than slowing its expansion since the Big Bang, is actually accelerating its expansion!

And it turns out that the best theoretical way to explain the accelerating universe is to revive Einstein’s discarded lambda. The cosmological constant (acting differently from how it was designed, as a force stopping the expansion) is the best explanation we have for the mysterious “dark energy” seen to permeate space and push the universe ever outward at an accelerating rate. To most physicists today, lambda, cosmological constant, and dark energy are closely synonymous. But unfortunately Einstein was not there to witness the reversal of his “greatest blunder,” having died in 1955.

And it has been widely assumed that he died without ever reconsidering the cosmological constant. Until now.

Einstein’s Lost Manuscript

The Irish physicist Cormac O’Raifeartaigh was perusing documents at the Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in late 2013 when he discovered a handwritten manuscript by Einstein that scholars had never looked at carefully before. The paper, called “Zum kosmologischen Problem” (“About the Cosmological Problem”), had been erroneously filed as a draft of another paper, which Einstein published in 1931 in the annals of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. But it was not. It seems that even with Einstein, old notions die hard: This paper was his stubborn attempt to resurrect the cosmological constant he had vowed never to use again.

In a paper just filed on the electronic physics repository ArXiv, O’Raifeartaigh and colleagues show that in the early 1930s (the assumed date is 1931, but this is uncertain), Einstein was still trying to return to his 1917 analysis of a universe with a cosmological constant. Einstein wrote (the authors’ translation from the German):

“This difficulty [the inconsistency of the laws of gravity with a finite mean density of matter] also arises in the general theory of relativity. However, I have shown that this can be overcome through the introduction of the so-called “λ–term” to the field equations… I showed that these equations can be satisfied by a spherical space of constant radius over time, in which matter has a density ρ that is constant over space and time.”

But he was now aware of Hubble’s discovery of the expansion of the universe:

“On the other hand, Hubbel’s [sic**] exceedingly important investigations have shown that the extragalactic nebulae have the following two properties 1) Within the bounds of observational accuracy they are uniformly distributed in space 2) They possess a Doppler effect proportional to their distance”  (Quoted in O’Raifeartaigh, et al., 2014, p. 4)

And so Einstein proposed a revision of his model, still with a cosmological constant, but now the constant was responsible for the creation of new matter as the universe expanded (because Einstein believed that in an expanding universe, the overall density of matter had to still stay constant):

In what follows, I would like to draw attention to a solution to equation (1) that can account for Hubbel’s facts, and in which the density is constant over time.” And: “If one considers a physically bounded volume, particles of matter will be continually leaving it. For the density to remain constant, new particles of matter must be continually formed in the volume from space.”

Einstein achieves this property by the use of his old cosmological constant, λ:

“The conservation law is preserved in that by setting the λ-term, space itself is not empty of energy; as is well-known its validity is guaranteed by equations (1).”  (Quoted in O’Raifeartaigh, et al., 2014, p. 7.)

So Einstein keeps on using his discarded lambda—despite the fact that he invented it for a non-expanding universe. If the universe expands as Hubble showed, Einstein seems to be saying, then I still need my lambda—now to keep the universe from becoming less dense as it expands in volume.

Almost two decades later, a similar “steady state” universe would be proposed by Fred Hoyle, Hermann Bondi, and Tommy Gold, in papers  published in 1949. But these models of the universe are not supported by modern theories. In fact, a tenet of modern cosmology is that as the universe will expand a great deal (after an unimaginably long period of time), it will become very thinly populated, rather than dense, with stray photons and electrons zipping alone through immense expanses of emptiness, all stars having by then died and disappeared.

Views of the Cosmos, Old and New

As for why Einstein was so intent on maintaining the use of his discarded lambda, the constant represents the energy of empty space—a powerful notion—and Einstein in this paper wanted to use this energy to create new particles as time goes on.

Today we view the same energy of the vacuum as the reason for the acceleration of the universe’s expansion. Einstein presciently understood that the energy of the vacuum, unleashed by his cosmological constant, was too important to let die.

Einstein was far from the only person to wonder about the universe and whether it has always existed or was born at some point in the past and would die at a future time. This question has been pondered by people ever since the dawn of civilization. The origin and ultimate fate of the universe are highly interlinked with its overall geometry—the actual shape of the space-time manifold. In a closed geometry, the universe was born and will someday recollapse on itself. In an open geometry, it was born and will expand forever, and the same happens in a flat (Euclidean) geometry. Based on modern theories supported by satellite observations of the microwave background radiation in space, space-time is nearly perfectly Euclidean, meaning that the universe was born in a Big Bang and will expand forever, becoming less dense with time. Eventually, matter may decay into few kinds of elementary particles and photons, the distances among them growing to infinity.

Cosmology in Context

Between 1917 and 1929—the year Hubble and his colleagues discovered the expansion of the universe, implying the possibility of a beginning for the cosmos—Einstein and most scientists held that the universe was “simply there” with no beginning or end. But it’s interesting to note that creation myths across cultures tell the opposite story. Traditions of Chinese, Indian, pre-Colombian, and African cultures, as well as the biblical book of Genesis, all describe (clearly in allegorical terms) a distinct beginning to the universe—whether it’s the “creation in six days” of Genesis or the “Cosmic Egg” of the ancient Indian text the Rig Veda.

This is an interesting example of scientists being dead wrong (for a time) and primitive ancient observers having an essentially correct intuition about nature. And with the present explosion of models of the universe and sometimes outrageous “scientific speculations” about its origin and future, some commentators are clearly overstating what science has done. One recent example is the book by the physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe From Nothing, which claims that science has shown that the universe somehow sprang out of sheer nothingness.***

A century ago, Einstein’s powerful field equations of gravitation showed the way forward. His uncanny intuition about the universe prevailed despite temporary reversals, and his decades-old insights are now at the cutting edge of modern physics and cosmology, helping us shed light on the greatest mysteries of all: the nature of matter, gravity, time, space, and the mysterious dark energy pushing it all outwards.


*I was fortunate to be the first scholar to examine these letters before they became accessible to the public, translated them from the German with the help of my father, and published some of the results.

**It’s interesting that Einstein repeatedly misspells the name of Edwin Hubble (“Hubbel”). Had he not yet met Hubble in person? We don’t know. The spelling error does hint at the fact that Hubble’s discovery was not yet so strongly established that his name would be well known by all scientists.

***I take strong issue with this approach, and expand on the topic of what is known by science about the birth and fate of the universe, in a forthcoming book.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
  • cormacor

    This is a very nice, thoroughly-researched article and many thanks for the reference to our work. I have only one quibble; we have not seen any evidence that Einstein had discarded the cc before this point. In our view, it is in the months after this manuscript was written that Einstein decided to drop the cc, and embrace evolving models of the cosmos.
    Best wishes, Cormac

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

      Hi Cormac, Thanks!! I really appreciate this!! I think I read too much into: “Then away with the cosmological term!”. I should investigate it more carefully. I’ve been to the Einstein Archives a few times and they even showed my daughter E’s birth certificate and that famous letter to the little girl about her math problems. I appreciate the great work you did there! And I know what translating his German is like… It took me weeks with the Freundlich letters years ago. Many thanks for your great research! Cheers, Amir

  • David

    Sounds like Einstein was smart enough to realize the Big Bang was a fairy tale.

    • cre8iveman@aol.com

      you didn’t read the article too well, did you.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Keener

        and so didn’t you….

  • Zeref

    The answer lies in the beginning of all i believe.. I’m researching on QURAN .. and it truly amazed me

    • Astrodwarf

      Please share your insights

    • Bene Pendentes

      The Quran is, like the Bible, a book of folklore written by some Iron Age goatherds. It has nothing reliable whatsoever to say about the nature of reality, we have science for that.

      • Riri Ben

        What an ignorant comment that is.. “And it is We Who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We Who are STEADILY EXPENDING IT (Qur’an, 51:47)”. Check out the exactitude of the words used, “Steadily” which implies “Constant” and “Expending it”, it has been written 1400 years ago.

        • quietone

          expend means to “use up” as in resources .. check out Zecharia Sitchen and Sumerian myths and see if a few things don’t make sense

      • Herman

        science is not reliable for mastering reality, we have mushrooms for that

      • L Ron Gardner

        Bene Counter, unbeknownst to you, science is getting to the bottom of religion. For example, scientists recently, comprehensively scoured all of Mexico –and could not find a single virgin. Hence we now know that Jesus could not have been born in Mexico.

        • James R. Gray

          Neither could they find three Wise Men.

          • KonradAjster

            Je Einstein
            poznal zakone materije
            in energije zakoni
            narave? Einstein je pričakovati , da je narava v nekaj vesolja, da je človeštvo imelo še ni bila ugotovljena in dobro intuicijo, vendar je energija naravnih zakonov ni mogoče najti, in če je uspelo , bi danes bila znanost na zavidljivi višini znanja in na temeljih znanosti lahko najdete na naši Zemlji, ne v prostoru, kjer so veliko večje neznanke in še težje odkriti temelje snovi ali snovi, od katerih so vsi nastalo vesolje in ključnega pomena za življenje!

            Is Einstein
            knew the laws of matter
            and energy laws
            of nature?

            Einstein is anticipated
            that the nature of
            the universe something that humanity
            has not yet been identified and it had a good intuition, but the energy of natural laws is not found and
            if it succeeded,
            would today be
            science at an enviable amount of knowledge and
            to the foundations of science can be found
            on our planet Earth,
            not in space, where the much greater
            unknowns and even more difficult to discover the foundations of matter or substance,
            from where all the resulting universe and
            the key to life!

  • cormacor

    Anytime, Amir, loved your book. We;re pretty sure the manuscript shows that Einstein first dropped the cc in early 1931, when he realised that evolving models were less contrived than steady-state theories. Another interesting aspect of the manuscript is that Einstein’s attempt at a steady-state model is not motivated by a dislike of the problem of origins – it predates the Eddington/Lemaitre debate concerning theories of origins. (Btw, Slipher did not work at Mt Wilson, he carried out his pioneering observations of nebular redshifts at Flagstaff a decade earlier. Hubble combined Slipher’s earlier measurements of redshifts with his own measurements of nebular distance to get his first version of a velocity/distance relation in 1929, but neglected to acknowledge Slipher)

  • Charles G. Pilgrim

    I always viewed the universe pulsating ; expanding then deflating ; being pulled together by the gravity of planets, stars , etc; but then being pushed away by this dark energy! It’s almost as if the universe is breathing like a giant lung! I had thought about this in the early 90s; but of course knew nothing of dark energy or matter( the skeleton that holds the universe up & together ; so the theory says) I don’t pretend to be a great mathematician because I’m not: or understand all of these discoveries made by these incredible geniuses ! It was just a thought I had before I’d heard of any of these theories ! Hopefully I’ll still be living when the question is answered! How are we ( life) even possible? How could there even have been a beginning ? Something has to come from something! This means atoms; gases; energy ; time created itself out of nothing? We are a miracle! One day hopefully the human race will have its answer!

    • cre8iveman@aol.com

      no, the universe is eternal but transforming. no miracles required.

      • Tom_Arnall

        That nothing produces something is an assertion which has no more meaning than “A is B and A is not B”. That the second assertion is meaningless is self-evident, tho’ i suspect that some on this forum wd deny that it is meaningless, in order to protect the first, equally meaningless assertion.

    • Bene Pendentes

      “Something has to come from something” doesn’t really help either way — where did the steady state universe come from? If it was “always there from the beginning of time” then time had a beginning; where did time come from?

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Keener

        good one…and how about the ‘what blew up at the big bang??…..and a personal favorite is, if we view the universe as infinite largeness then there has to be infinite smallness…. can we keep cutting something in half until there is nothing?

    • Charles G. Pilgrim

      So you believe in the infinity theory ? The figure 8 sideways . Still I’m having a hard time believe that also. It had to start from some point. But then maybe your right ; our brains can’t fathom what decision to make? This may sound silly ; which came first the chicken or the egg? Then regardless which came first ; how did the chicken or the egg get there? Then once that’s figured out there’s another question; & another! Its endless but seems impossible! Big Bang has been proved. Infinity theory has been cast to the side, they both seem impossible to me? Has this not crossed your mind! With a light bulb question mark on the top of head- C g Pilgrim

      • Gorros

        The big bang myth was accepted as science round 1930. 1956 two renowned astronomers, Minkovski and Wilson, (MW) wrote a paper in a renowned paper
        that the red shift from distant galaxies was wavelength dependent. The Doppler effect is wavelenght independent. This makes me sure of 3 things:
        1. The very foundation of bigbangism is hereby ruined and non-existent.
        2. The facts above are known by the bigbangers because otherwise they would directed their damnedest efforts to refute MW’s findings.
        3. Bigbangism is not a science but a horrible lie, an effort to establish creationism on an universal level, squandering billions of $ on completely crazy investigations of mythical objects as dark matter, dark energy etc.. Please, presidents and governments, withdraw the money dedicated to the bigbanger’s mad projects and so stopping religion to invade science. You can use the money better.

    • Miguel Chappell Portella

      I believe we know the answers looking into ‘spirituality’ the ancients had devise such plausible theories from so early on, I agree with what you said about something cannot come from nothing – because it is defined and whatever else. I believe that Nirvana or the void is the ultimate reality (what Buddhists believe) and ‘consciousness’ sprung out of this void and is everything we see around us.

  • Matt

    your asterisks are off. the last one in the article only has two when it needs three ***. At the end of your penultimate paragraph, ‘sheer nothingness’ (not a scientist just an english nerd). I’m not a grammar nazi but journalist to journalist i know how much it sucks to miss a mistake! Also very fitting article considering the show (well the modern iteration) Cosmos just debuted and they talk about starting from a point of sheer nothingness, perhaps something to explore in your next article?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

      Thanks, Matt!! (it should be corrected soon).

  • Somebody_Else

    As to Einsteins misspelling of Hubble’s name, having met him in person means absolutely nothing. Can you name the last time you met someone and suddenly you knew how to spell their name when it’s different that what you are used to? Speaking of which, both Germans and British spell numerous words differently than Americans do, so that minor variation is perfectly understandable. Don’t make a Freudian mountain out of an irrelevancy.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

      It was only a Freudian FOOTNOTE (those are allowed!)

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

        Besides, have you even looked at the picture that appears with this article?? If your photograph with some person was broadcast around the world, and you realize that his work overturns your entire cosmological program (with lambda), and you visit with him for a while in California, and talk to him and see his data, look through his telescope, and meet his friends and colleagues and go out for dinners…you wouldn’t easily forget his name. (And I’ve looked at hundreds of Einstein’s letters, in Jerusalem, Berlin, New York, and Boston, and not once did I find a misspelling of a name.) But maybe it’s Froidean…

        • quietone

          or maybe a reference to Bel ….

  • John Paily

    Where Galileo, Newton and Einstein went wrong? – Gate
    way to Knowledge and Era Future Technologies

    But where did Galileo, Newton and Einstein Erred. Observation made in Nature is root of all science. Before Galileo the general thinking was that objects have its place by its weight in nature. It was thought heavy objects fall faster. Galileo is called father of experimental Science. He showed the world that free fall acceleration in gravitational field is independent of weight. To prove it he rolled the balls of same size but different weight on a slanted table. This became the foundation of science. Fallowing Galileo, Newton observed an apple falling to develop his famous three laws of science that caused the great revolution in science. When electromagnetism challenged it, Einstein observed a spider crawling on a Globe and blew up the globe in his
    vision and went ahead save Newton by developing his famous Relativity Theory.
    Had Galileo observed Himself and his role, had Newton observed the tree growing and the seed concealed in apple sprouting, had Einstein blew the spider instead of the globe, the situation of the world would have been different. We would not have been looking for the origin of the Universe or Big Bang in material world. We would not have been breaking atoms to seek God Particle. We would not have been dangling in midair in search Higgs Field, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and so on to know Truth. Most importantly the world would not have been endangered by immense heat and violent fluctuation of energy or
    unwinding and winding force, leading to all the natural calamities, instability of human mind leading to war and violence and self-destruction.
    Life has INNER SPACE-TIME FIELD that works against gravity and supports the universe. In this field it transforms gravity into anti-gravity. It is a creative field and has the potential to conquer time and initialize it. The only life that goes with gravity and leads it gravitational collapse is humans. The ego and self-centered mind of humans that has distanced from God and Truth in its ignorance digs its own grave. Ego of Humans that has become slave to material world and gets blown to a point of shrinking the world to its critical state. When the space-time in human life takes negative orientation, earth winds and shrinks to a collapsing state. We are seeing the after effect of global growth of
    humans with ego and self-centered negative thinking spiced with material power. If humanity has to survive it has to reverse and take the path not taken. This idea of inner space-time field of life controlling the universe can include all conceptual developments in science and lead to reinventing Big Bang origin sensibly and unite the western
    philosophy with Eastern philosophy to reveal the secret of Calvary Sacrifice. It can lead us to Golden age or Kingdom of God –

  • Richard Harkness

    Dr. Aczel,

    Interesting article. Doesn’t the abstract term “energy” just refer to a property of matter? That is, energy does not exist in the popular sense as a NON-physical “entity” apart from matter. Energy simply refers to the physical movement of particles/objects (matter) and their interactions with each other. Because of this, the term “pure energy” that physicists use to refer to photons seems to be a misnomer, in that there is no such thing as “pure” energy (energy apart from matter). By convention, it seems, physicists assign a “zero” mass to the photon and refer to photons as “non-matter” particles, which also seems to be a misnomer. I understand that it is possible that photons *could* have a very small mass (infinitely smaller than that of an electron and which would not interfere with the current equations, etc.). Indeed, a number of studies have done by physicists in an attempt to determine an upper limit to the mass of the photon. My understanding is that everything that exists has to be made of matter. People universally believe in the “non-physical” (supernatural), but what would something claimed to be “nonphysical” be made of? If it exists, it has to be made of *something*, right? What would that something be if not matter? Can you comment?

    Best regards, Richard H.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

      Good question. Well, Einstein taught us (in 1905) that mass and energy are essentially the same (through his famous equation). Paul Dirac, in 1928, provided an actual mechanism by which energy in the form of a photon can turn into a pair of particles with mass. The discovery of the Higgs in 2012 actually explains the mechanism (the Higgs Field) through which some particles have no mass (photon, gluon) and others receive their mass through interacting with the Higgs. For massive particles, other than the energy inherent in their mass (measured typically in electron volts) there is also the kinetic energy, which you described, and a potential energy (if a rock is held 10 feet above ground, it has potential energy, which turns into a certain kinetic energy when it falls…). Kinetic energy is obtained by mass times velocity squared, divided by two, etc. But when there is no mass, we obtain the energy of a massless particle, a photon, using another formula: Planck’s constant times the frequency of the wave (E=hf). So there are ways of handling the energy in any eventuality.

    • cre8iveman@aol.com

      Electromagnetic energy is non matter.

      • Richard Harkness

        Electromagnetic energy refers to photon particles.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

      “Concerning matter, we have all been wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.” Einstein’s take on the matter. It is much more difficult to deal mathematically with fluctuating energy fields than say a particle, that is why the current consensus defines matter as particles not orbs of confined energy..

      • Richard Harkness

        You seem to have it backwards, Physicists could do a much better job of explaining these things to prevent such popular misconceptions.There is only matter. Energy is a property of matter–it does not exist apart from–or independently of–matter. Energy is an abstract term that simply refers to the physical process of matter in motion and interacting with other matter. Matter is an entity, energy is not. Note also that “fields” refers to the physical “background” of the universe. Particles or quanta are sometimes referred to as “ripples” in these fields.

        • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

          Ok so Einstein got it backwards, sorry I just quoted him.

      • August Pamplona

        Sounds like a fake quote. I wonder if it is a fake quote? As it is meaningless gobbledygook resembling what you might hear coming from the lips of some beatific new age guru sitting cross legged spouting off “wisdom” to their attentive followers much more than anything an actual physicist might say, I would think so.

    • RCompton


  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    Here lately I’ve had the idea that energy parallels matter of all sorts. The easiest was to visualize this is to observe the sun and watch the energy expand away from it. The energy exits the surface and dissipates/expands outward in a spherical manner parallel to the center of the sun as it were. I imagine that from any measured distance from the center the amount of energy is equivalent to the energy at a distance that is further out yet expanded in volume(I think the inverse square law satisfies this mathematically) Most of this energy expands freely (the free expanse of energy and the speed of light are the same thing) until it encounters other forces of energy say from another sun then the leading edges(as observed) begin to apparently condense yet the following(constant) energy displaces it so that the same proportion remains causing space to expand thus no need for lamda or dark matter as it were to exist. I am no physicist and I’m sure this primitive observer butchered it with words but why can this not be the case.

  • Riri Ben

    And it is We Who have constructed the heaven
    with might, and verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it.
    (Qur’an, 51:47)

    • Pete Walk

      Dear Allah dude there are a few significant errors in the Koran it is not funny. You guys actually rewrote another religions Mesiah Jesus from 650 years earlier despite no Arabs being there. haha You can’t take a person from a time period and tell the people who were there that despite you not being there and holding no historical records you have a new history and sorry that’s it.

      It was done because Muhammad was launching his invasion through Christian land and knew it would help convert a few more people because hey we believe in Jesus to.

      Know you go and read the New Testament and actually hear what he said you will never go back to the Koran. Jesus is waiting for you Riri. If you know the Koran is correct it couldn’t hurt to read the New Testament. I read the Koran.

      • please

        Wow…I am commenting to point out that this comment was quite intolerant, arrogant, and a little hateful. Additionally, I would like to point out the irony of claiming that the Bible is a historical document and that the New Testament is somehow more true than the Koran, in a comment attached to an article about a science that would dispute much of what the Bible claims. Why would you, as a Christian, disrespect another’s religion and holy book? Please have respect.

        • Pete Walk

          So you respond by being rude to me? Wow way to lead by example. You make me sick.

        • sk1951

          Respect for supremest genocidal mythological fantasy believers…don’t think so.

          • quietone

            an interesting comment considering the crusades and inquisition could be considered genocidal… as each religion claims supremacy that might be a bit of the pot calling the kettle black

          • sk1951

            All Abraham religions are “black.”

          • hrgls

            And all religions – even Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy – have had their tryanical episodes. Most likely fomented from within by outside agitators. All religions share the precepts of do not do unto others that which… All share sentiment of peace and we’ll-being for all. When you dig down, it’s not the little faithful followers to those ideals that cause the problems, but a few within who stir the pot. Whether myth or actuality, “religion” does give guidance and some cohesion to morality that might crumble without it. If you are of the rare subgroup that inherently always does the right thing and is following the precepts anyway then pat yourself on the back, give yourself a gold star, or whatever you need to feel you are better than the myth lovers. Who are out feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and at least trying to solve some of societies ills. And I’m speaking of the little ones, the common, basic ordinary Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc, and even Muslim who are the majority and don’t make into the news because they are NOT terroristical wing nuts. You never know, in the end they might win Pascal’s wager. And science might be the source that proves them right. 😉

    • Dire Stress Grindcorizer

      sheer codswallop

    • MrDreamers

      600 years later :/’

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

    Right, there are other points of view (as in your aps synopsis). My favorite, actually, is Roger Penrose’s book “Cycles of Time,” which describes a similar model, with Big Crunches following Big Bangs. Whether you buy his argument (he doesn’t believe in inflation, accepted by most cosmologists), his writing is sublime and you learn a lot about physics and about how his great mind works…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    Light in reality is an emanation of energy through space, its nature is to expand spherically yet is effected by other fields and its own reversing which is where the action is. when light is directed at a flat plane it either passes thru it in a circular pattern or is redirected back into its own emanation. When it is reflected it takes the form of fluid tubes becoming spherical with distance. The mystery of the dual-slit experiment is only this while the leading edge makes it thru the slit the remaining light is redirected and expands as it can, leaving a bell shaped void behind the center entry point where the redirected emanation expands more freely to.The leading edge of the redirected emanation surrounding the void accelerates rapidly enough and is deflected enough by the passing light that the geometry of space hyper extends which causes the immediate area to condense thus becoming a particle which is immediately displaced by the emanating energy from the source and assumes its velocity. The fluid nature of this only gives rise to the phenomenon randomly. Once it is a particle it becomes subject to other forces especially gravitational fields which deflect the path of the particle to the sensor. This could easily be proven true by changing the geometry of the flat plane to one of a parabolic cone and placing the slits on the leading edge of it and if the reversing emanation has sufficient space to expand no particle will form. Interesting things occur as you change the shape of the plane and that of the holes the light passes thru as well.

    • quietone

      Now that was interesting

  • Laura Cordova-James

    Krauss was not overstating a Universe from Nothing with wry humor. Its really about the equations pointing us to that concept.

  • Laura Cordova-James

    Krauss was overstating the statement, “The Universe from Nothing” with wry humor, not so much overstating it when the math points to that conclusion.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Amir D Aczel

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks for the comment (and thanks to other readers with similar ones). This was an article on Einstein and lambda, so I could only place that concern in a footnote. So let me explain. Krauss is a great physicist, and he does have a unique sense of humor. But the question of whether the universe came out of pure nothingness all by itself is a deep one, and Krauss’s take on it is controversial. In my own book, I trace the idea to a cosmological paper by Alex Vilenkin, on which Krauss’s entire argument relies. Well, after reading Vilenkin’s paper and e-mailing him, it became clear to me that the entire premise is wrong (as I had suspected). You see, ’empty space’ is NEVER really empty. The best way to see this is to think of inflating a balloon. When you do that, if you touch the surface of the balloon, you notice that the balloon heats up as you it expands. This is the result of the ENERGY you expend to inflate the balloon. In a similar (although far more complicated) way, space and time were created in the Big Bang, and because our space had to be ‘inflated’, it is immediately filled with energy. In the universe, this energy is in the form of fields–electromagnetic, gravitational, Higgs, lambda, strong, and weak. So there is never anything like a piece of empty space without energy. Out of pure nothingness, no universe can arise. This is my view.

  • Silas Kane

    surely …. some goose kinks who cant even cook a pizza well …are trying to explain origins of universe dats ……. lol

  • L Ron Gardner

    Nothing could be more farcical than the idea that something can come from nothing. The Absolute Substratum may be formless, and empty of emanated content, but this does not reduce it to nothingness.

  • Brayhan Ocampo


  • David D Myers

    I really enjoyed your Interpretations of Albert Einstein’s theories And mathematical facts.
    I grew up as an atheist With no need for even algebra in my life Let alone physics or quantum theory or whatever. it wasn’t until things that happened to me in my life that are unexplainable only by a higher power to which I have yielded.
    example… as a new Christian I was suffering from a knee injury for about a week and could barely walk. I was getting low on money and I prayed to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy spirit to heal my knee so I could go back to work and feel better. Well within 15 seconds my knee was healed…. there’s no mathematical equation…it’s that there is a higher power. If you want to see how the universe expands After being created, pick a very large pan of water and set it down somewhere where a footstep vibration or air current will not disturb it at all..! Knowing that there is static on top of the water Surface Take a pinch of any substance and drop it in the very middle. Some of it will sink and others will expand outward on the surface. Once again air currents will have a negative effect on this experiment. Experiment with everything from iron filings all away to just flour And sifted dirt. The longer you wait the more interesting things you will see. the items that stay afloat will have their own space and the things that have fallen to the bottom will have developed their own pattern… it’s important to remember that there are no interference is by floor vibrations or by air currents.
    If you want to see what a black hole looks like on earth go sit next to a babbling brook and look at the miniature eddies ( cone-shaped swirling water that has a shadow) and drop some fine granular into that and watch what happens to them and where they end up.
    Regarding the comment about respecting other peoples religion, I would have to ask, what do you consider a religion as opposed to a war plan disguised as a religion to take over the Earth.
    Some things are just a constant like the water rising on earth Due to erosion from rain At its most basic Cause. The only other major way of reversal of water rising is a large ice age.
    In Genesis in the Bible it never States where God receive the matter that we call earth or other planets, the Bible statesa God created the heavens and the earth. Where does it say how old these particles are that he used to make the heavens and the earth?
    When any scientist comes up with the answer of where and how the universe was invented along with how DNA was designed…. then I’ll believe that my knee was healed by some other strange Factor Besides God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
    I’ve had more miracles than that happened to me.
    To know the power of God is to know the power of love.
    I use the voice activated texting program so hopefully it wasn’t too hard on you.

  • TincanJoey

    Interesting piece. I find that this one & others like it always are sure to mention Einstein, Higgs, Hubble, and the like; but always seem to leave out any reference to Lemaitre.

  • Rohan Talkad

    amazing article!

  • Wardell Lindsay

    Excellent article. Einstein was smarter than his mathematics! The Universe is not Expanding! GR has become a religion. Hubble’s did not believe the Universe was Expanding. Hubble said the redshift was an hitherto unknown principle of nature. Rather than profess they did not know something, they followed the Big Bang, from the “creation story”.

    Einstein was right about a stationary Universe. Einstein created lands to keep the Universe from collapsing by Gravity. When he jumped on the Big Bang, he accepted his bad math.

    The Universe is stationary and the proper physics and math confirm. The Universe is a Quaternion Space, a scalar component s and three vectors V, e.g Q=[s,V].

    Newton’s Law of Gravity is
    W=[,V][,P]=[-V.P, ]=[-vp, ]= [- mGM/r, ]

    Newton’s Law is a scalar energy derived from a vector space.

    The real Law of Gravity is
    W=[c,V][, P ]=[- vp, cP ]= [-mGM/r, cP ]

    This is the proper Law of Gravity.
    The Stationary Condition is

    0=XW=[d/dr, Del ][-vp, cP]

    0=[ vp/r – cDel.P, cdP/dr – Del -vp ]

    0 = [ vp/r – cp/r, mdV/dt + mGMR/r^3 ]

    Hubble’s H= c/Radius of Universe.

    The radius =cT = 150GP meter and T is the Age= 500MGseconds = 15.8 G years.

    The density rho= 60E-27 kg/m^3

    The mass = 2.025E53 kg.

    The power of the universe is 36450E48 watts.

    The Big Bang and creating something out of nothing is religion, not science. Quaternion Physics is the answer.

    Hubble’s V=HD = D/T !

  • Mick Malone

    WMAP results conclude the universe is flat and therefore infinite.
    AE’s arguments against this included the obsevation that the average density of the universe would be zero in this case (Meaning of Relativity, 6th Ed, Equ. 123)
    It surprised me he would consider only the case of bounded infinity, i.e. denominator approaches infinity, and not also the case of unbounded infinity which would require a completely different model, starting with a new definition of what we mean by “the universe”.
    In the abscence of conclusive proof of the finite universe proposition, he must have considred this, but still I cannot find any notes to this effect. Anyone know of any, AE or indeed anyone else?

  • Austin jacobs

    the reserch really helped me though out some theorys

  • John Dillane

    Here is the actual reality people. All of your gobblety gook aside. The soul is a form of energy beyond what exists within the corporeal world of the universe. In fact calling it energy does it a great disservice. YOU and I and NO ONE else on earth has a clue what it is. But it exists by the very fact that we are aware we exist. Science is fascinated by String Theory, Interconnectivity, etc. The very FACT we dream and we often have what seem to be coincidental apparent real life occurrences related to either random thoughts or dreams, or we think of someone and suddenly they appear, these are the examples however seemingly minimal of an ability to transcend anything we are aware of or can perceive in this universe. Believe whatever you want, use the building blocks of math or theory to come up with whatever conclusions you will, Einstein said it best “ “Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable” Simple as that. Sorry keep calculating !

  • Robert Karl Stonjek

    There is one historical inaccuracy in the first lines: Hubble did not discover the expansion of the universe, such a claim would have horrified Hubble. What he actually discovered was the correlation between redshift and distance, red shift having already been measured for 40 galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1914.

    Hubble firmly believed that the redshift was caused by something other than the expansion of the universe but upon the insistence of Tolman in particular he described the redshift in terms of radial velocity in his famous 1929 paper, but not in others.

    In the 1935 paper written with Tolman ‘Two Methods of Investigating the Nature of the Nebular Red-Shift’ Hubble takes the case for an alternative explanation to the redshift, in his 1936 book ‘The realm of the nebulae’ he argues against radial velocity as an explanation of redshift and says, for instance “The expanding universe of general relativity would still persist in theory, but the rate of expansion would not be indicated by the observations.(redshift)” And in his 1942 paper ‘The Problem of The Expanding Universe’ he not only argues against redshift as radial velocity but gives a list of reasons why this can not be the case.

    In other words, Hubble not only did not discover the expansion of the universe, he didn’t even believe in any more than a modest amount of expansion and believed that there would one day be discovered an alternative explanation for the Redshift. He also did not propose Hubble Flow or the Hubble Constant.

    • Gorros

      Hubble was right. About 25 years ago Prof. Jian-Miin Liu discovered the true nature of the redshift, with the background theory of just only A.Einstein’s GTR. Google him! It’s depressing to think over his fate, according to the bigbangers he doesn’t seem to exist. I’m a Swede and if I had a saying I would have given him the Nobel prize three times in a row.

  • Gorros

    “This is an interesting example of scientists being dead wrong (for a time) and primitive ancient observers having an essentially correct intuition about nature.”
    Well, I put my money on the ones being “wrong”, Newton and Einstein. Almost all cosmologists nowadays believe in the Big Bang Theory (BBT), but that doesn’t mean that it’s true. Let me here investigate the BBT for development of spiral galaxies. Galaxies, according to BBT, are the reason that the Universe, as we know it, exists, as the galaxies gathered the gas that the universe consisted of after the inflation period, and produced the stars in their spiral arms.

    Leaving for the moment the completely unanswered question of how galaxies began to form without stars, I have the following theory of galaxies.
    Since many years it is known that theory and measurements does not agree for spirals and two different solutions have been proposed; either the existence of so called “dark matter” or a MOdified Newtonian Dynamic, MOND. But a very significant fact has recently been discovered in our own galaxy, the Milky Way; the stars there move away from the centre as Arnaud Siebert and Benoit Famaey, astronomers at the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory and others have discovered. I don’t doubt that almost insane lovers of a Creation will argue that our galaxy is an exception; in every galaxy but our the stars move in against the centre with the help of dark matter or MOND or whatever.
    My simple theory is that the star masses are produced by the centres of spirals by TWO black holes, >800×10^6 sun masses each, moving round each other, tracing two thin ellipses so that they accelerate almost directly against each other, turning sharply round each other. In the turn material/energy is thrown out via the bar. The traces slowly turns, (as the trace of Mercury), forming the spirals. I would really want to see really good mathematicians (I’m not) investigate this theory.
    Old stars die and wander slowly out in space, where they are gathered up by other galaxies and reignited in the bulbs. Ellipticals has only one centre and cannot by themselves form any stars, just capture dead ones.
    I really think it’s time to start Cosmology as a science; it’s time to really bury abbé Georges Lemaitre, together with the Big Bang, MOND and Dark Matter. But respectfully, with all honours, of course.
    If you want to do away with Dark Energy as well, google professor Jian-Miin Liu. With only Einsteins GTR, no other assumption or unproved theory, he’s done away with the BBT’s theory about the interpretation of redshift as a Doppler effect. Wow, there’s a Mathematician.
    How did it then begin? Easy question: Never.

  • Trip

    Eddington did not think the Sun was at the precise center of the galaxy. If you look at the full referenced paragraph in Chapter II of “Stellar Movements and the Structure of the Universe” (the copyright has expired, so it is available online via Google Books), he thought observations indicated that the Sun happened to be very close to the center of the galaxy, but slightly north of the galactic plane. While he was wrong about the eccentricity, his text makes it clear he wasn’t arguing for Sun having some sort of naturally privileged position, he just thought the Sun happened to be “fairly” close to the galactic center. The article should have made that clear, both to be fair to him and to avoid spreading any misconception about scientific thought at the time.

    “It is believed that the great mass of the stars with which we are concerned in these researches are arranged in the form of a lens- or bun-shaped system. That is to say, the system is considerably flattened towards one plane. A general idea of the arrangement is given in Fig. 1, where the middle patch represents the system to which we are now referring. In this aggregation the Sun occupies a fairly central position, indicated by +. The median plane of the lens is the same as the plane marked out in the sky by the Milky Way, so that, when we look in any direction along the galactic plane (as the plane of the Milky Way is called), we are looking towards the perimeter of the lens where the boundary is most remote. At right angles to this, that is, towards the north and south galactic poles, the boundary is nearest to us ; so near, indeed, that our telescopes can penetrate to its limits. The actual position of the Sun is a little north of the median plane ; there is little evidence as to its position with respect to the perimeter of the lens ; all that we can say is that it is not markedly eccentric.”

  • Ivan_2068

    Hubble didn’t discovered the Big Bang or the red shift, both were discovered by the Belgian astrophysicist and Priest, Monsignor Georges Lemaitre.

    As a fact Lemaitre published the Hubble Law two years before Hubble, but he was discriminated because he was a priest .

  • Gorros

    If the photon has a gravitational field of its own, it will, according to GTR, lose energy in a gravitational field. I believe that the photon has a such a field, and it seems that Newton believed the same. The photons gravitational field is the cause of the loss of energy of the photon, not the Doppler effect or the expansion of the space.

    • Robert Karl Stonjek

      That would cause a reddening rather than redshift (a version of ‘tired light’ theory).

      Redshift includes time dilation which also has to be explained though the expansion camp must explain the anomalous of redshift in the case of quasars.

      • Gorros

        Thanks for such a fast answer, but I must confess that I don’t know the difference between redshift and reddening. Is the result of Jian-Miin Liu’s calculations a redshift or a reddening?

  • Prabhjot

    Traditional Indian belief in distinct beginning and end of universe is debatable. Rig Veda was written nearly 3000 years ago in line with the thinking of those times. A lot of writings have evolved having been written and rewritten many times over. For example, according to ancient Sanskrit texts written by Valmiki, Rama was an ordinary prince who later became king. However, centuries later, Tulsidas’ Ramayana turned him into God. In Sikh scriptures written in 15-16th century, Guru Nanak describes universe with no beginning and no end, “Aad Sach, Jugad Sach, Hai Bhi Sach, Nanak Hosi Bhi Sach.” Many other good examples relating to universe and the purpose of humanity on earth in Sikh scriptures.


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About Amir Aczel

Amir D. Aczel studied mathematics and physics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was fortunate to meet quantum pioneer Werner Heisenberg. He also holds a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics. Aczel is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Sloan Foundation Fellow, and was a visiting scholar at Harvard in 2005-2007. He is the author of 18 critically acclaimed books on mathematics and science, several of which have been international bestsellers, including Fermat's Last Theorem, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Award in 1996 and translated into 31 languages. In his latest book, "Why Science Does Not Disprove God," Aczel takes issue with cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss's theory that the universe emerged out of sheer "nothingness," countering the arguments using results from physics, cosmology, and the abstract mathematics of set theory.


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