Cosmologists: Often in Error, but Never in Doubt

The history of the universe, according to the Big Bang Model.

In 2004, Dr. Simon Singh wrote a book entitled, Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About It. On page 265 of that book he attributes a quote to Dr. Lev Landau, a Nobel Laureate in physics. According to Singh, Landau said:

Cosmologists are often in error, but never in doubt.

Regardless of whether or not Dr. Landau actually said this, it is an insightful statement. Most cosmologists have absolutely no doubt that the Big Bang Model is an accurate description of the history of our universe. When that model seems to contradict observational data, rather than doubting the model, they add something to it in order to force it to be in compliance with the data.

For example, in 1998, some observational data indicated that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This didn’t agree with the current interpretation of the Big Bang Model, which suggested that the rate of universal expansion should be decreasing, since gravity should be attracting all sources of mass to one another. As more and more data supported the acceleration, cosmologists started to rely on dark energy, a mysterious form of energy that counteracts the effects of gravity.

In the currently-accepted form of the Big Bang Model, just under 70% of all the energy of the universe is dark energy. Cosmologists don’t know anything about it, but most of them have no doubt that it exists, because it forces the Big Bang Model into compliance with observations. Since they have no doubts about the Big Bang Model, they have no doubts about the existence of dark energy. It’s just that simple.

Now, of course, I am happy to entertain the notion that nearly 70% of the universe is made up of a form of energy that we have absolutely no understanding of. I am also happy to entertain the Big-Bang-required notion that about 25% of the matter in the universe is in one or more forms of “dark matter,” which once again is matter we know nothing about. In other words, I am happy to entertain the Big Bang’s conclusion that only 5% of the universe is made up of the energy and matter that we have been able to analyze. However, those percentages should lead any reasonable person to doubt the model upon which they are based. Unfortunately, there is little doubt among cosmologists.

Recently, I ran across two studies that should lead to even more doubt. Both studies reference a mystery: inconsistent values for the Hubble Constant. In the Big Bang Model, the universe is expanding, and the rate of that expansion can be characterized by this constant. The larger the constant, the faster the universe is expanding. However, two different high-precision measurements provide different results. Based on the characteristics of observed supernovas, the Hubble Constant is supposed to be 73.24 +/- 1.74 km/(sMPc). The “+/-” part is the error bar, which indicates precision. The smaller the error bar, the more precise the measurement. However, analysis of background radiation that seems to be coming from everywhere in the universe indicates that the Hubble Constant should be 66.93 +/- 0.62 km/(sMPc).

Now error bars aren’t perfect. All they say is that the value should lie within the range given by the error bar. However, notice that if you subtract two error bars from the first value of the Hubble Constant, you get 69.76. If you add two error bars to the second value, you get only 68.17. So even if you double the error bars, you can’t get the two values to agree. Of course, I am skeptical of the error bars to begin with, but remember, most cosmologists have no doubt, so they think the error bars are completely accurate.

How are they supposed to reconcile these values? According to their model (which is true, no doubt) they should be the same. That’s where the two studies I recently read come in. The first study says that the problem lies in an assumption made about dark energy. Currently, cosmologists think that dark energy had a constant contribution to the expansion of the universe throughout its history. The study says that if you allow that contribution to vary, you can understand the discrepancies between the two values of the Hubble Constant.

The second study doesn’t refer to dark energy at all. Instead, it uses observational evidence to indicate that the earth (indeed, the entire Milky Way Galaxy) exists in a part of the universe that is unusually sparse when it comes to matter. Well, the first Hubble Constant measurement I listed is based on the assumption that over large distances, the universe is pretty uniform. This is called the cosmological principle, and despite the fact that observations demonstrate that it cannot be correct, most cosmologists have no doubt that it is, because it is a fundamental principle of the Big Bang Model. So this study says that the first value I reported can be ignored, because it is based on an assumption that is wrong.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not “poking fun” at these studies or trying to say that they aren’t valuable. Obviously, the more data we have, the more we can try to understand the universe. What I am “poking fun” at is the unwavering faith of cosmologists. In order to fix a problem associated with the Big Bang Model, we either add more complexity to something that has already been added to fix the Big Bang Model (dark energy), or we ignore the cosmological principle, which is fundamental to the Big Bang Model. But none of this can lead to any doubt in the Big Bang Model itself!

Fortunately, not all cosmologists are so fervent in their faith. There are those precious few cosmologists who are willing to doubt the Big Bang Model and explore other possibilities when it comes to the history of the universe. Despite the fact that such cosmologists can be under a lot of pressure to conform, I pray that they continue to follow the data and not wed themselves to the currently-fashionable model.

31 thoughts on “Cosmologists: Often in Error, but Never in Doubt”

  1. I feel a couple of Robert Jastrow quotes are in order.

    ““Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

    ““At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

  2. I am way out of my field of expertise when discussing this topic, so I’ll gladly let others correct my comments. The problem I have a great deal of difficulty with is the inflationary period as described by widely accepted Big Bang cosmology. Inflation is said to have occurred within the first 10^-32 seconds. If I understand correctly, that would be the same as one over 10^32 seconds. My mind couldn’t conceptualize that small amount of time so I tried to think of ways to visualize it.

    The reason I was trying to understand that amount of time is because so many things are said to have happened within that period of time…. including extremely rapid expansion along with tremendous amounts of heating and cooling. Some figures I saw a few years ago suggested the universe expanded by a factor of 10^26 or more during that small amount of time. I also read the universe dropped in temperature by a factor of 100,000 and then increased by the same factor in order to warm back up to the pre inflation temperature. Once again I am open to correction about the events of inflation. My point has to do with the small amount of time and all the things that had to happen during the time in which inflation occurred.

    To visualize the amount of time during inflation I suggest a sand grain experiment. A line of coarse one mm sand grains will be used to represent one second. For example, a line of 100 one millimeter sand grains in a row would be one second. The first grain of sand in that line about 4 inches long would represent one out of 100 or 1/100 of a second. Now, imagine the entire Earth filled with the same coarse one mm sand grains. My rough estimate is that would give about 10^30 sand grains. Not as big of a number as 10^32, but close enough for the illustration. Now imagine putting all those sand grains in a line just like we did with the 100 sand grains. If I am correct, that line of sand grains would be so long that it would extend far beyond our Sun. The line would be over 6×10^23 miles long. It would extend more than the distance across our Milky Way Galaxy.

    Now that we have a line of sand grains longer than the distance across our galaxy, imagine that entire line represents only one second. If you take the first grain in that long line of sand grains, it represents one part in 10^30 or one over 10^30 (10^-30) seconds. That is even more time than the Big Bang allows for the inflationary period, but again it is for illustrative purposes.

    My point of all this commentary is to say that no one can come close to measuring that amount of time with an instrument. It is purely a mathematical calculation to make the Big Bang model work. Personally, I’m inclined to be very suspicious of a calculation involving initial conditions supposedly billions of years ago being described to the supposed degree of accuracy that is being claimed. We can’t even empirically measure an event occurring today with anywhere near that degree of accuracy.

    1. I guess it depends on your point of view, Bill. I work with objects we can never see (nuclei), distances we can never measure (10-15 meters), and temperatures that sometimes exceed that of the sun. Nevertheless, I have no problem dealing with such things. The problems I have with inflation have nothing to do with the timescale. As Dr. Paul Steinhardt (who helped develop inflation and now argues against it) says

      The deeper problem is that once inflation starts, it doesn’t end the way these simplistic calculations suggest…Instead, due to quantum physics it leads to a multiverse where the universe breaks up into an infinite number of patches. The patches explore all conceivable properties as you go from patch to patch. So that means it doesn’t make any sense to say what inflation predicts, except to say it predicts everything. If it’s physically possible, then it happens in the multiverse someplace.”

      A theory that predicts everything is utterly useless from a scientific point of view.

  3. I have a request: quote more Landau. That does indeed sound like a Landauism.

    I don’t know much more than I hear from general colloquia or the joint cosmology/particle theory seminars at my department, but one of my best friends works for Adam Riess, so I occasionally hear about the fight over the value of the Hubble constant. And it’s absolutely true that these scientists possess close to zero doubt in their theories and enterprise. In their minds, enough data exists to make the various philosophical criticisms of scientism irrelevant. Though I can’t necessarily blame people for thinking this way when they’re around someone as successful and skilled as Riess.

    I’m sorry for dropping off a while back when we were arguing about the evolutionary argument against naturalism; life and research got too busy, and I’ve only now been able to catch back up. If you don’t mind, I might say more on that topic, as I still think you’re wrong.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I would be happy to continue our discussion. I suspect that comments on that thread have been closed. I will waive my general desire to keep comments related to the original post and happily continue the discussion on any thread.

  4. Dr Wile,
    Its frustrating trying to get differing perspectives on the cosmos when it seems most of the cosmologists working today are dug-in atheists. It seems like the only people who have access to the instruments and the interpretation of results are from one specific point of view.
    I have been reading about the James Webb telescope that will be launching in the next few years. Any thoughts on what you think this might reveal about the “early universe”? Is there any good evidence that the universe is not 13.8 billion years old? Hasn’t the universe been shown to be very old based on all the studies done with regards to the red shift?
    Lastly, I just want to make sure I get this right: the inflation theory of cosmology was postulated to account for the relatively uniform cosmic background radiation and how it didn’t square with how “young” the universe appeared to be. Is that right?
    ps. my kids have been enjoying your homeschool curriculum!

    1. Thanks for your questions, Tim. I think there are a lot of theists in the cosmological community. Indeed, mathematical physicist Robert Griffiths said, “If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.” Many cosmologists think that the Big Bang supports the Christian worldview, since it tells us that the universe had a beginning.

      When you ask about how old the universe is, that’s a tricky question, because time passes at different rates in different parts of the universe. This is experimentally verified every day by the global positioning system. It has to take into account that time passes more quickly on the satellites than it does on earth, because of the reduced gravity they experience. Thus, some parts of the universe look old, because time has been passing very quickly there. Other parts look young, because time has been passing slowly there.

      The universe has not been shown to be old. In fact, universe-dating methods make an assumption we know is not true. They assume that on very large scales, the universe is essentially the same everywhere. All observational evidence says the opposite. In addition, while the most reasonable explanation for the red shifts we observe is universal expansion, we don’t even know that’s really the reason. There are those who propose other explanations for the red shifts we observe, and I can’t refute some of those proposals.

      The inflation hypothesis was introduced only to fix the uniformity problem. The universe is too uniform compared to the predictions of the original Big Bang model. As a result, inflation was added to “smooth out” the predictions of the Big Bang. I don’t think it had anything to do with the apparent age of the universe.

  5. Thanks for your reply to my earlier comments Dr. Wile.

    I’ve seen this quote from Internationally renowned astrophysicist George F. R. Ellis several different places. It may have even been a quote from one of your blog articles. Ellis is writing about the origin of the universe. The quote follows. “People need to be aware that there is a range of models that could explain the observations….For instance, I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observations….You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds. In my view there is absolutely nothing wrong in that. What I want to bring into the open is the fact that we are using philosophical criteria in choosing our models. A lot of cosmology tries to hide that.”

    Based on that quote, it seems like there is more than mathematics that is used to determine models of the universe. The initial quote by Landau said: “Cosmologists are often in error, but never in doubt.” If they are using philosophical criteria to choose a model, perhaps they should have a little more doubt.

    1. I couldn’t follow all of his arguments, because he seems to be trying to get through way too much information in way too little time. However, he has made one very basic error in his understanding of physics: the gravitational force is the weakest of the forces. Thus, it’s not that a change in gravitational potential doesn’t affect the frequency of light – it’s that the effect is very hard to detect. Nevertheless, it has been detected.

      Also, he seems to have not paid attention to the literature, since we have confirmed the time-change effects of relativity even in laboratory conditions, demonstrating that the effect does happen in real time. As a result, his entire argument based on measuring the light travel time in the cross-shaped setup is false. It has been done, and it turns out to confirm the predictions of general relativity.

      For anyone who doubts that the GPS confirms general relativity, this paper lays it out in no uncertain terms.

  6. All good points. I know that Hatch has read the Ashby paper and disagrees with it’s conclusions. I would guess he would argue about the validity of the light frequency experiment (probably attribute the results to other physical phenomena) but it’s good to know the experiments are out there so thank you.

    There’s a plasma physicist named Dr. Wolfgang Engelhardt (retired from the Max Planck institute) who published a paper on this as well.
    It’s pretty interesting – mentioning Ashby, Hatch, rotating inferometer, and the invalidity of SRT’s precursor – Voigt’s postulate.

    He’s also recently written the Nobel committee to voice his concern about the validity of LIGO results (missing calibaration data).

    Interesting guy.

    1. You simply can’t argue that the GPS confirms relativity. We know that it does. Without using BOTH equations (which come directly from special and general relativity), the GPS starts making errors. As soon as you use both equations, it works perfectly. Also, please note that LIGO has seen two more sets of gravity waves. They are different from the first and consistent with different masses. The last one was confirmed by VIRGO in Italy:

      The time difference between the two detectors was also consistent with the speed of light, which once again is predicted by relativity.

      Thus, the idea that it’s a calibration error makes little sense.

  7. The “dark matter” argument sounds suspiciously similar to me to “the ether”. Scientists describe something they can’t find by the properties it must have to make their theory work. I think that at some point a second Einstein will propose a better model of the universe that explains the effects we see without the presence of “matter” we can’t detect

  8. I have an odd thought experiment I was wondering if you’d weigh in on.

    Suppose you have a pair of twins. One is traveling at near the speed of light and one is standing still. However the one traveling at near c is riding a bike on a treadmill. These twins are in the same room and can look each other in the eye. Despite the fact that the rider is traveling at near c, no distance gain is measured between them – the treadmill takes up the distance. Even though the twins are not moving in relation to each other they have vast differential in energy potential. Stop the treadmill and one will go flying whilst the other stays still. A third observer in the room measures their speeds as equal.

    Are these twins aging at a different rate?

    1. No, they do not age at different rates. Remember, the entire point behind relativity is that the laws of nature must stay the same regardless of motion. That’s why time changes with speed and gravitational pull. It must happen so that two people observing the same experiment come to the same conclusion about the natural laws, regardless of whether or not one of them is in motion relative to the other. Since they are not in motion relative to one another, any experiment one does will be observed exactly the same by the other, so there is no need for time to change for either one of them. Your energy state has nothing to do with relativity. Only your motion relative to something else.

  9. One more question, and THANK YOU for being so patient.

    Suppose the treadmill was made infinitely long. Add a triplet to this situation who steps on the treadmill and is carried away at near c – from both the brother on the bike and the brother standing in the room. In just dealing with the two brothers on the treadmill; How or to whom do we apply dilation.
    They are traveling away from each other at near c. One is expounding energy to maintain velocity, whilst one is merely being carried away by the treadmill.

    Is one an inertial observer or is this a cancellation effect. Is there any paradox with the 3rd brother in the stationary room who observes both?

    I know there are a lot of these paradox type questions floating about but I have yet to find one which a system is provided which will yield an intrinsic velocity in its own frame but no motion in relation to a stationary observer due to fluid resistance. I suppose this experiment could also be tried in a wind tunnel.

    1. I am happy to help. I still think you are not quite understanding what’s important. Whether or not someone is expending energy has nothing to do with relativity. The issue is simply relative motion, because that affects how they would observe an experiment going on in a different reference frame. So…the triplet in the room and the one that is running on the treadmill experience time exactly the same. The one that is being carried away by the treadmill sees the clocks on the other two running slowly. However, the other two see the clock on the one being carried away on the treadmill running slowly as well. There is no paradox anywhere.

      The two in the room can look at each other’s clock and see time passing normally, because light bounces off the clocks and hits their eyes. Since they are not moving relative to one another, there is nothing odd from one second to the next. However, when they look at the clock on the one moving away, light must bounce off that clock and then travel back. During that time, the triplet that is moving is moving away from them. So…suppose everything starts at 12:00. They all see that, and then instantaneously, the treadmill is moving at the speed of light. Light must now bounce off the moving triplet’s clock and then come back to them. Since the moving triplet is moving away at near the speed of light, it takes time for the light to travel from the moving triplet to them, so in the end, it takes more than a minute for them to see the moving triplet’s clock tick to 12:01.

      The triplet that is moving away experiences the same issue looking at the other two clocks. Light must bounce off the clocks on the other two and travel to him. Since he is moving away from them at near the speed of light, it takes time for the light to travel, so it takes more than a minute for the light to get to him to tell him their clocks have turned to 12:01. So the two triplets not moving relative to each other see their clocks keeping the same time, but they see the other triplet’s clock running slow. The other triplet sees his time moving normally, but he sees the other two triplets’ clocks running slow.

      Whose clock is “really” running slow? NEITHER. They are all running normally. However, the relative motion affects how the time is measured. While this is typically referred to as a “paradox,” it is not. Relativity tells us that there is no paradox, provided that all natural laws behave the same regardless of the relative motion of the observer.

      I would strongly urge you to read Paul Davies’s book About Time. This might help you better understand relativity.

  10. I’ll have to get the book and take a gander. It seems like the world has to do a lot of acrobatics so that c can remain constant. Thanks!

      1. Good morning Jay,

        You have made a statement that the speed of light is a constant. This is not correct. The speed of light depends on two characteristics of the medium in which the photons (or electromagnetic fields) are traveling, the permitivity and the permeability of the medium. As such, to use the base assumption that space is a vacuum is only an approximation which we know is false. We make the assumption without actually verifying the veracity of it.

        Engineers can and do create situations where both the permitivity and the permeability of a region can be changed by the use of both charged and uncharged objects.

        Mathematics is used as a tool to simplify the models we use. We make assumptions about what we can ignore for the purposes of a specific situation.

        There is a variety of evidence that says indicate that red-shift may be caused by other phenomena other that movement away from us. This is based on images of galactic objects that are related to each other and have very different red shift factors.

        Mathematics uses singularities with aplomb, yet we do not see singularities in nature, irrespective of the declarations by both astrophysicists and nuclear physicists.

        The more I look at things, the more the realisation that we understand even less about the universe around us.

        By the very nature of God, there is a definite absolute frame of reference. Yet all we see at this present time are relative frames of reference. We are limited by communication times which are in turn limited by the speed of light through the various media in the universe.

        Lastly, what we consider to be the “laws” of physics can be environmentally and/or belief determined. Your example of crystalline structure variations and how this concept was changed shows this.

        I don’t doubt we live in a universe governed by specific “laws”, for me that is based on my belief in God. However, to say that we categorically know what these are is to move towards “dogma” instead of investigation. We lack too much information about the actual conditions elsewhere in the universe. I don’t have a problem with making assumptions but we need to be clear that they are assumptions and not “facts”.

        At any rate, I need to get back to daily activities of life for the time being. May God bless you and your house and keep you close in your day to day life.

        1. I don’t think you understand what the speed of light being constant means, Bruce. It doesn’t refer to different mediums. Of course the speed of light depends on the medium. That’s what the index of refraction is all about.

          And yes, it depends on both the permittivity and permeability of the medium. How do we know that? Because Maxwell’s Equations derive the speed of light from the laws of elecromagnetism. This is why relativity uses it as a proxy for the laws of physics. If the speed of light stays constant, the laws of physics stay constant. Obviously, “constant” means “constant in a given medium.”

          I agree that there are many possible explanations for the red shift besides motion. Indeed, cosmologists do not explain the cosmic red shifts using motion. They explain them using the expansion of space. There are many other possibilities, as pointed out by people like Dr. Halton Arp.

          Certainly, the championing of theories can become dogma if experimental evidence is ignored. However, that’s not what relativity does. In fact, it predicts the results of experiments, and those predictions have been routinely confirmed.

          There may, indeed, be an absolute reference frame. If there were, it would not affect the predictions and confirmations of relativity in any way. All relativity says is that experiments cannot detemine what it is.

        2. Thank you Jay,

          When photon path bending is considered, the only effects that I have seen discussed are the effects due to the gravitational bending, I have yet to see any papers discuss interstellar and intergalactic refraction due to media changes. These effects appear to be ignored at that level. Whether or not we are able to develop appropriate tests for such effects, what we see is the automatic assumption that all such bending is due to gravitational warping of space/time.

          I know there are recent papers (in the last 5 – 10 years), that discuss gravity as being a fourth order effect of atomic level dipoles. What I find interesting about these formulations is that they give results on the right order of magnitude and they are always attractive. This is of interest to me in an engineering context as it may lead to some way of controlling gravitation in a local environment.

          I have some papers that were originally developed in the early sixties which derive the strong force from the same electric field theory. It incorporates v/c squared factor that limits the effect to atomic nuclei.

          That particular model also incorporated a geometrical “algorithm” to calculate the binding energies of at all nuclei (including every isotope) that were smaller that Fe to an accuracy (from what I saw) that was significantly closer to what was experimentally measured than the accepted theory at that time (less than 1% difference). Now, the author made it quite clear that this was a model only and that one should not conclude that reality matched the model. As far as I know, all of his papers are stored in the National Archives of Canada, he died many years ago now.

          I am seeing more and more papers coming out are analysing SR in both a historical and accuracy aspects. Some of these papers are stating that SR has incorporated some simplifying assumptions to allow it to match experimental results and if these assumption are not used (as in don’t apply them to the theory) then SR actually predicts at least twice the measured precession of Mercury. I am reviewing much of my engineering mathematics to see if I would follow and derive the same results.

          It may end up like the theoretical basis for black holes. The theoretical basis does not apply to our universe. I am happy to accept the LIGO results as indicating that something enormous has happened. But I am not willing to accept that it relates to any “black holes” (as per the entities as proselytised by theoretical astrophysicists). Even neutron stars (as described) give me the irrits, I don’t have a problem with super dense materials, but not neutronium – good for SF but not a reality product – I love good SF and even enjoy mediocre SF.

          It is like the penchant for high energy physics to create new particles. From my perspective, the majority of the particle zoo consists of meta-stable or unstable combinations of a small number of fundamental particles. When you have something like a neutron that is meta-stable only in combination with protons and is unstable otherwise, one perspective can look at most of the particle zoo as complex combinations of protons, electrons, photons and neutrinos (and the antimatter versions).

          I know, I know, I am not an astrophysicist or a nuclear physicist but I was trained as an engineer and have had a long fascination with a broad set of science fields. I used to believe in most of these things but, over time, I have become sceptical of the pronouncements made. Particularly when there are inherent problems in the models and theories which are glossed over. The rule that was drummed into us in my long-ago undergraduate engineering days was that models and theories have a limited field of use. The base assumptions within any model and theory will break down when you go outside the applicability of those assumptions.

          At any rate be blessed in today by our great and holy God.

        3. Bruce, medium is not considered when analyzing cosmic photons because there isn’t a medium in space that can affect the motion to any measurable degree. For example, the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to its speed in air we breathe is 1.000277. There isn’t anything in the path of these photons that is even close to the density of the air we breathe, so there is no way for the medium to affect the path of the photons that are being analyzed.

          I am all for alternate theories of gravity. However, until they routinely make successful predictions about data that have not been measured, and then the measurements confirm those predictions, they are not the best theories. The best theory is the one that has done that repeatedly, and that’s general relativity.

          I think you need to study this issue in a lot more detail, because special relativity (SR) is not the key to analyzing the motion of Mercury’s perihelion. General relativity (GR) is. Any paper that says “simplifying assumptions in SR” are used to explain Mercury’s precession is not a reliable source!

          For someone who just voiced concern about science becoming dogmatic, you seem rather dogmatic about the non-existence of black holes. I prefer to follow the data, and several observations lend strong evidence to the existence of black holes, including the speed of orbiting gas clouds in several different galaxies, X-ray emissions from entities like the binary star system Cygnus X-1, the variation of brightness in the swirling gases in M87, and the X-ray observations of Chandra. I suppose you can come up with alternate explanations for each of theses classes of observations, but the existence of black holes not only explains them all, but predicted them all before they were analyzed.

          I don’t care about your educational background or training. However, I do care about the experimental data, and the experimental data strongly support general and special relativity, and they strongly support the existence of black holes.

        4. Love reading these exchanges with you and Bruce. Just wanted to add something… I’ve always been fascinated with the sewing like motion that waves exhibit. Their oscillations weaving through everything makes for a romantic picture. But it’s also caused me to wonder why frequency exists for every form of energy. You’d think there would be a straight line energy form. That light exhibits a wave nature has always made me come back to the Aether. In researching this morning I did come across an interesting blog. In the second link posted I noticed a similar penchant for wave motion / Aether.

        5. I have always been mystified by why people would want to move away from the only theory of light that actually derives the speed of light from the laws of physics. Obviously, there are lots of problems with the aether idea, but that’s not the reason I am not persuaded by it. All theories have problems, especially in their early stages. My reason is simple – the electromagnetic theory of light not only is consistent with the experimental data, it predicts many things, including light’s speed.

        6. Good morning Jay,

          You are making an assumption that (though it may be justifiable) cannot be stated as a “fact”. This assumption is that in interstellar and intergalactic regions the permitivity and permeability of those regions is equivalent to a completely empty region (a perfect vacuum). Since we cannot actually measure these values, we do not know if there are unknown effects in these regions. This is the problem I have, the declaration of “fact” as to what we will see here.

          Even in the air we breath, we see path changes over short distances due to temperature differentials. Considering the actual distances traveled in interstellar and intergalactic regions, even the tiniest of changes in permitivity and permeability will effect paths. It is a possibility and to dismiss it out of hand (even when we see evidence in air of these effects) without at least investigating the possibility to say yay or nay is a bit short sighted.

          In relation to “black holes”, by the very theory that predicts them, they cannot exist in our universe. The underlying assumptions about the universe in which they could exist do not match our universe. I don’t have any problems with massive gravitational bodies or super-dense materials. However, these high gravity bodies are not the entities that are described by the “black hole” theoretical model.

          Within the framework of the theory used, time dilation effects require an infinite amount of time for any event horizon to form (of any of the various theoretical event horizons – at last count, one supporter [famous theoretical physicist] was saying that there were at least three kinds of event horizons). From our perspective, which is the only one that counts, no event horizon can ever form in finite time. Hence no theoretical “black hole” can ever form in a finite aged universe. In every description, where they declare that the “black hole” forms, they change the perspective of the observer. What they do NOT do is have that observer look outwards and watch the universe at large. Think about this and ask the question “What would I observe of the universe at large, when I approach the even horizon of these theoretical entities?”

          In addition, the model assumes a uniform distribution of force around the centre of a collapsing body and that external forces will overcome the electric repulsion between protons within nuclei to allow gravity to assume a ruling factor in the collapse. Since we are talking about solar sized objects (at a minimum), one would have to demonstrate that this uniformity is justified and that chaotic disruption to the process would not occur. Included in that is the increasing gravity towards the centre of the object in question, one must ask what is the actual distribution.

          Jay, it doesn’t matter how “good” a model seems and how “accurate” it may appear to be, if that model is based on faulty assumptions, it ends up being useless. As they say, correlation does not equate to causation. We need to be careful that we don’t fall into that trap. The universe is vast, strange and wonderful. We see through a mirror darkly at the “laws” that underpin the universe. Keep in mind that “It is to God’s glory to hide a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out”.

          We need to keep in mind that any understanding we have (all the various theories, models, mathematics, etc) is but a very shallow and very superficial understanding of the nature of creation. Keep in mind that our God is beyond any concept we have. His subtlety is far beyond us and how He upholds the universe is forever beyond us. But, this is the sweet and wonderful thing, we have been given the ability to investigate and to learn about his wonderful, hugely variable, amazingly complex creation.

          You care about the experimental data. It is well to recognise that the experimental data has presented enough holes in the various accepted theories to give cause to question these very theories. You are entitled to your view on these theories based on your interpretation of the evidence as I am entitled to question these same queries based on my interpretation of that same evidence. This does mean either one of us is correct. As I learned from God long ago, I often have arguments about something and find that I am no where near the page God is on.

          The wonderful thing is that we can learn from one another, even if we don’t agree. I have had some interesting insights in our discussions, even when I disagree with your POV. Thank you for your thoughts about the subject matter at hand. I enjoy the discussions.

          Finally, in all my readings over the years on the predictions of the precession of Mercury, the reference has only been to SR and not GR. When I get home in a couple of weeks, I’ll do a further study on that.

          At any rate, may our Father God and Jesus Christ continue to bless you and your family in every way. May your lives be to His Glory and to the praise of His Name in every day and in every place you walk.

        7. I think you need to study this a lot more, Bruce, because you seem to have a lot of misconceptions. I don’t have to assume the regions through which cosmic photons travel are perfect vacuums. Indeed, the cosmic photons could travel through regions that have a lot more gas than earth’s atmosphere, and it still would not affect the path of the photons to any significant degree. Remember, the ratio of the speed of light in earth’s atmosphere to a vacuum is 1.000277. Even if a region of space were so dense in gas that light’s speed decreased by 10% (rather than the 0.03% it does in earth’s atmosphere), that still wouldn’t bend the light to the degree that we see it being bent by gravity. Even the most extreme temperature differences on earth do not produce the bending we see due to gravitational effects. This is why know that gravity does, indeed, affect the path of photons.

          You also don’t seem to understand the formation of an event horizon. It doesn’t take an infinite amount of time at all. Indeed, an event horizon forms instantaneously. Now, at the event horizon, time does stretch out indefinitely, but that’s simply an effect of the gravity of a black hole. It doesn’t indicate anything about the time it takes for the event horizon to form. However, let’s say you are correct. Let’s say that relativity’s explanation for black holes has fatally-flawed assumptions. Who cares? That just means we don’t understand how they form. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The fact is that you can calculate the radial density of a black hole from Newtonian physics (M/r = c2/2G). We have observational evidence of many things that are more dense than that. Thus, we have theory-independent observational evidence that black holes exist.

          I agree that correlation doesn’t mean causation, but that’s not why I understand that relativity works. I understand it works because it accurately predicts the results of experiments before they have been performed. That’s the hallmark of a scientific theory, and relativity has done it over and over and over again. I agree that the universe is vast, strange, and wonderful. Indeed, it is wonderful enough to contain incredible structures like black holes. And in the spirit of Proverbs 25:2, black holes are well hidden, but we have searched them out.

          I understand that you don’t like the concept of black holes. However, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the observational evidence, and it strongly supports their existence, whether or not general relativity is true. Of course, general relativity is more true than it is false, or it wouldn’t be so wildly successful in predicting the results of experiments.

          Once again, if your sources say that Mercury’s motion is explained mostly by special relativity, they simply have no idea what they are talking about.

          Please educate yourself on a theory before trying to claim it isn’t reasonable!

        8. Greetings Jay,

          I know that you think I have a lot of misconceptions about the various subject matters.

          Let us start with the first you point out. You make the comment that the path of light through interstellar and intergalactic regions will not deviate in any significant way. You are claiming this as a fact (when it is an assumption, which may be valid or not). The problem in this assumption is not taking into account the vast distances that we see between objects that emit light and those that bend light (where it is assumed that this is due to gravity) and the differences over those distances of even the smallest of changes in permitivity and permeability. We see an effect of mirages on the planet. This effect is also a reasonable explanation in other regions of space.

          You make a statement that i don’t understand the formation of an event horizon. Theory describes this formation. It is very dependent on the idea of bending space by increasing the density of matter within a specific region. This density increases the gravitational effects inside the region further accelerating the bending of space.

          There are major problems with this. The first being that sufficient force can be applied uniformly to compress material (charged matter) into a form where the electrostatic forces are neutralised to allow gravity to be the dominant force. Notice that I have used the word uniformly (this is one of the basic assumptions). Not only is this assumption unlikely, it has never been demonstrated. Even nuclear explosions don’t demonstrate this.

          Second point is that if the gravity is increasing, the model specifically states that for a distant observer, time dilation will occur. Therefore, as the bending of space occurs, time as observed remotely will slow down and throughout the entire region we will see the event horizon creation slow down. If followed, we won’t even see the creation of the event horizon in finite time.

          Thirdly, as density increases throughout as region, the gravity experienced inside that region decreases as one moves towards the centre of mass. One therefore no longer has the space bending that is required for black hole formation.

          I am not saying that there are no massive dark bodies. What I am saying is that they are not the “black holes” of theory.

          Let me put it this way, if “black holes” are possible, then the “big bang” is not. No matter how much they try, the two entities are not compatible.

          Finally, before I go out to do some repairs around the house, I’ll repeat the following statement (made by others and appropriate for here). All models are wrong, some are useful.

          At some point (in a comment for a later blog post that you have written), I may make a metaphysical comment related to these discussions. Before I do comment, I will try to make it short and succint.

          Once again, thank you for your willingness to discuss these things. Your responses are always worth reading and thinking about even when we don’t come to any agreement about the subject matter.

          May our Great and Holy God and His Saviour Son Jesus Christ keep you and your family in His grace and peace.

        9. Bruce, you do have many misconceptions about physics. In fact, virtually everything you say here is a misconception. Let’s start with the light travel issue. You claim that I am neglecting the vast distance over which light travels when I say that there is nothing dense enough to bend cosmic photons to the extent that we see them bent. No, I am not. Indeed, I am taking it directly into account. The power of a lens is given by:

          P = (n_lens – n_nolens)/(n_nolens)*(1/R1 + 1/R2)

          Where “n_lens” is the index of refraction of the lens, n_nolens is the index of refraction without the lens, R1 is the radius of curvature of one side of the lens, and R2 is the radius of curvature of the other side. (The traditional equation uses a subtraction sign between the inverses of the R’s, but since they are defined based on coordinates, one is the negative of the other. Thus, I am making this coordinate invariant.)

          You want the vastness of space to save your desire for the medium to bend light enough for us to see it. Well, the vastness of space requires R1 and R2 to be huge, which makes the power of the lens very, very small. This is not an assumption. It is a simple result of the math. If the medium is large enough for you to detect the photon (remember, the number of photons that hits you falls of as 1/R2, so the lens has to be huge for you to see any of the photons), then the power of the lens is simply too small to make an noticeable effect on the photon’s path.

          Your statements about black holes also are also fraught with misconceptions. You seem to think that if an observer takes an infinite amount of time to observe something, then that something takes an infinite amount of time to occur. Of course, that is utterly false. What an observer sees depends on the signals that the observer receives, and as something approaches an event horizon, those signals take longer and longer to leave. As a result, the observer is limited by what can escape the black hole. He has no effect on the black hole itself.

          You are making a mistake that is very common among students who don’t understand the math that underlies the formation of black holes. I don’t expect you to learn the math, but if you really care to evaluate the existence of black holes, you really need to learn it. This is a good primer on black holes that is mathematically rigorous. Even if you don’t want to learn the math (which once again, you should), perhaps this visualization will help. Once again, I urge you to actually learn the theory you are trying to argue against.

          You say that the force required to compress matter somehow forbids the formation of black holes. Once again, that is not true. One obvious thing you are forgetting is that matter is already compressed like that – in the nucleus. This happens because over short distances, the exchange of pions mediates the strong force, and electrostatic repulsion is not an issue anymore. This is why stars can fuse matter. Even without the power of a black hole, matter can be compressed by gravity to overcome electrostatic forces. It happens in all stars! In addition, as compression increases, electrons and protons fuse to form neutrons. This gets rid of electrostatic repulsion altogether.

          You correctly point out that as density increases, the gravity experienced inside that region decreases as one moves towards the center of mass. But then you incorrectly claim that this negates the bending of space. No. That is caused by the bending of spacetime, and it is true for all massive bodies, regardless of density.

          You say that there might be massive dark bodies, but not black holes. The fact is that whether you use general relativity or Newtonian Mechanics, the things we have observed indirectly are dense enough that light cannot escape them. Thus, they are black holes. You can try to say those aren’t the black holes described by general relativity, but until you actually learn what general relativity says about gravity and black holes, your claim carries no weight. The fact is that these bodies seem to have several of the characteristics predicted by general relativity, and they are consistent with the equations of general relativity. Thus, until some other theory comes along and predicts these observables, the most scientific conclusion is that they are the black holes of general relativity.

          You can claim that “all models are wrong,” but there is no reason to believe that. There are many models that accurately predict all observations. In my mind, those models are more likely to be right than wrong. You may hope that they are wrong, but until you design an experiment that falsifies them, you are simply making statements that have no evidence behind them. Now, I do agree that there is something wrong with either general relativity or quantum mechanics or both, since they are incompatible at a fundamental level. However, we have no idea where the problem is at this point.

          I think your problem is that you don’t believe math can describe reality. Thus, if something is mathematical but you can’t visualize it, you don’t want to believe it. I understand that tendency, but the fact is that if you take that approach, you are ignoring more than a century’s worth of physics. Physics has demonstrated that math is the fundamental description of the physical universe, as posited by Galileo and the Merton Calculators hundreds of years ago.

  11. Well, Dr. Wile, there is something that >I< have no doubt about. And it is that the overwhelming majority of cosmologists don't want to buck "the system" wind up like Halton Arp. They's rather keep their jobs. See also:

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