While my science posts don’t generate the same interest as those on shyness, autism, dreams, etc., I can’t stay away from scientific disputes.
To me, the question of what we know and what we don’t know is important. And surely the creation of the universe is as important as our personal psychology.
This morning I was reading a post on listverse.com, detailing 10 alternative explanations for the existence of the universe. Most of them are the same old debates resurrected, but there are 2-3 new ones, including one that I really like – #4 – Cold Big Bang and Contracting Universe.
Cosmologist/particle physicist Christoff Wetterich at the University of Heidelberg proposes that the universe is not expanding, but contracting. As it contracts, the concentration of matter increases, which increases the strength of gravity across the universe, which then causes the the redshift of the light from distant galaxies.
Well, something like that has been proposed by others. Examining Wetterich’s site, that is not all he is saying. Part of his proposal is that the universe began in a ‘frozen’ state rather than a hot one, and only gradually heated up later. Because electrons would have been more subdued in those conditions, he suggests that the photons they emitted in the distant past were already in the red part of the spectrum when they were emitted.
By the way, when scientists talk about the universe expanding, no one has measured any movement. The expansion is based on the idea that the redshift of distant galaxies is a kind of Doppler effect, the expansion causing the wave lengths of light from those galaxies to be ‘stretched’ into the longer-wave red end of the spectrum. The more red the redshift, the more expansion. It’s not a linear calculation if you see what I mean.
So if the photons have always been ‘redshifted’ there is no reason to talk of expansion, or contraction for that matter. While we have been told by mainstream science for decades that the universe around us is getting larger and larger, it may instead be getting smaller, everything getting closer together. Or maybe neither is happening.
It is worth noting here that the famous physicist Richard Feynman, who received the Nobel prize for his work on quantum chromodynamics, once said that he did not understand why the effect of gravity had not been considered in the redshift debate.
The idea that the universe could contract is not new. It is allowed in Einstein’s equations, which started the whole expansion discussion in the first place. But the proposal that the evidence can support the possibility that it is contracting right now, not in the far future after it finishes expanding, is new to me.
Critics point out that there is no way to prove Wetterich’s theory. In response, he says that he is not trying to prove it. He would just like everyone to understand that a contracting universe fits the facts just as well as an expanding one.
In other words, if we really want to know the truth, for the time being it would be best if we just admit that we don’t know what is going on out there.