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From the Editor

The Origin of the Universe

By:  David Deschesne

Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal

June 29, 2011

As creatures of supposedly advanced intelligence, we humans sure do succumb easily to illusions as if they were reality. The main reason for this is ‘groupthink’, where the majority of people want to feel they are a part of the crowd and not be ostracized by thinking opposing thoughts or views.

There was a time when the majority of people thought the earth was flat. However, in 240 B.C. Eratosthenes, roughly calculated the Earth's radius by using the distance between two cities and measuring the length a shadow cast at each city at noon on the summer solstice. Because this new information violated the accepted view of the majority, people simply refused to accept this conclusive evidence until almost 2,000 years later when Magellan sailed around the world in 1521 A.D.

Another false perception was that the earth was the center of the universe. Around 1543, Copernicus wrote down his discovery that the earth goes round the sun in his book, De revolutionibus orbiam coelestium. This discovery, would be violently opposed by ignorant Christian churches for the next three hundred years. The Catholic Church, which condemned Copernicus for that heresy, officially acknowledged its mistake 450 years later, in 1993.

People can be forgiven for incorrectly perceiving reality based on false information. Sometimes the necessary tools and information-gathering equipment simply isn’t available at the time of the observation to accurately discern what is being perceived.

Eventually we learned the Earth was round and that it orbits the sun, but only after careful, objective measurement and a continual sales and promotional campaign to convince others that it is indeed real. People are resistant to changing their ideologies and beliefs because they have invested so much time and energy forming those beliefs they do not want to feel like all that time and energy was wasted, for they would have to admit that is the case if they were to accept an opposing viewpoint.

Progressing from the flat earth through the earth-centered universe we find ourselves today at a point where a scientific theory has been embraced as “fact” just as those two former theories were, but is being accepted without our having all the necessary tools or understanding to accurately distill the data from the observations we are perceiving. That theory is the so-called “Big Bang” origin of the universe.

There are three primary theories for the existence and origin of the universe. Einstein endorsed a ‘static state’ where the universe simply exists; Hoyle proposed a ‘steady state’ where the universe is steadily expanding outward by having its current matter displaced by newly created physical matter from a form of ‘dark matter’. The third theory is the “Big Bang” theory where all matter in the universe was once concentrated at a single point and exploded outward to form stars, galaxies, planets, etc.

I’m not here to say which theory is right or wrong, but I do want to look closer at the most popular—the Big Bang theory—to show how the general consensus of both the scientific community and society may have accepted a theory as fact without having access to all the necessary information to come to an accurate conclusion.

The first evidence for a Big Bang theory was established by astronomer, Vesto Slipher in 1912 when he discovered spectral lines in photographs of the Andromeda galaxy were shifted toward the red end of the spectrum. The so-called ‘Doppler Effect’ suggested that all stars with such a shift are moving away from us at incredible speeds. It was also observed that the further away an object is, the further its light spectrum is red shifted, which indicates that further objects are moving away from us faster than closer objects.

Relying on the Doppler effect to construct their model of the Big Bang, astronomers attempt to reverse-engineer the universe back to a single point and claim this as empirical evidence for their belief. However, there are some things that they may be ignoring in order to hold up their theory.

There are a couple of things to consider with regard to what could be causing the Doppler shift of spectral lines. The first, of course, is the objects emitting the light are speeding away from us. However, what few scientists have put forth yet is the fact that we still don’t fully understand how light behaves in interstellar space.

We do know that light curves around massive bodies due to gravitational effects. We have also proven that the stronger a gravitational field, the slower time ticks in relation to a clock in a weaker gravitational field—this is called Gravitational Time Dilation and has been consistently proven accurate in many experiments.

While the light we observe from distant stars and galaxies is red shifted, only using the Doppler effect to explain it is as naive as claiming the Earth is flat because we can’t see the other side, or is the center of the universe because everything seems to revolve around us. When one opens their mind to other possibilities—things we do not yet have the tools or measuring devices invented to test with—the Big Bang exploding universe theory may unravel as quickly as a flat earth scenario.

Now, let’s analyze the Doppler shift. There could be other effects we still don’t understand that are causing the red shift. For example, in interstellar space, where gravitational fields are different, light may behave much differently than it does when it finally gets to our galaxy, solar system and Earth where gravity is much stronger. In Einstein’s static universe, maybe the fabric of the universe is stationary and it is the effects of non-gravity, or some other yet to be discovered principle in physics, that is causing the red shift. The further light travels in that realm, the further its light will red shift, as our observations conclude. Of course, this is just a theory I am proposing to give another explanation for the red shift other than the Doppler Effect.

A more intriguing theory is one of dark matter. Dark matter neither emits, reflects or obstructs light or radio waves so it cannot be detected by our modern optical or radio telescopes. However, it can be confirmed to exist by the gravitational effects it has on neighboring stars and galaxies. Perhaps as light travels through this “dark matter” it has its spectral lines red-shifted and the more dark matter it goes through (because it is further away from us) the more it’s shifted, thus giving us the illusion based upon our understanding of red shifting light that the object is moving away from us. But, our conclusions may in fact be incorrect simply because we lack the proper instrumentation to accurately describe why the red shift is occurring.

The point I’m trying to make here is not that the Big Bang theory is necessarily wrong, it’s just that we may not have the proper tools, technology and understanding of physics yet to say that it’s right. Using the Doppler Effect alone to describe the red shift and origin of the Universe in a Big Bang is as crude a science as accepting the physical description of an elephant from a blind man who can only feel its trunk.

There, now if you made it this far in this issue’s editorial, you will see that I really can write on more than just politics and religion.




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