I think it's unlikely that there's something really new in the observations
Two days ago, the Daily Mail (plus colleagues) has excited many readers by the following esoteric article:
Mystery of the 'spooky' pattern in the universe: Scientists find that supermassive black holes are ALIGNEDThe Very Large Telescope has found some weird pattern in the locations of quasars and the rotation of the central supermassive black holes. And these patterns are far-reaching – seem to correlate objects that are billions of light years away from each other, i.e. distances comparable to the size of the visible Universe.
This is just an artist's depiction of an alignment.
The probability that such patterns emerge by chance – according to the current models with their probability distributions defining chance – is said to be 1 percent.
A Belgian team has used the VLT to look at 93 quasars as they existed almost 10 billion years ago. The quasars seem to belong to lines – which shouldn't be the case according to the current theories of structure formation, they say. And the direction of the large black holes' angular momenta seem to coincide despite their cosmological distances.
It's said to be "very unlikely" (1%) that such patterns emerge by chance. I find this claim a bit controversial and requiring verification. After all, the usual pictures of the "webs" associated with the structure formation don't look too different. Our state-of-the-art models of structure formation surely imply non-uniformities of the distribution of galaxies and some filaments and voids in the structure. The apparent fact that the researchers seem to be silent – and maybe even ignorant – about this elementary insight seems to reduce their credibility in my eyes.
I feel that the observation that the angular momentum of distant black holes has the same direction could also follow from a realistic emulation, after all. Note that almost all the celestial objects' spin as well as the orbital angular momentum (around the Sun) in the Solar System have the same direction; Venus' spin is the famous exception. This is not shocking: the material from which the Solar System was born had some angular momentum and this conserved angular momentum had to be divided to various terms, and it's not shocking that they were proportional to each other i.e. equally directed.
The research was described in a September 2014 preprint
And just the nearly infinitesimal probability that some of these things could be right was enough for me to write this blog post.
The paper – even its abstract – is more accurate than the media echoes and says that the quasar polarization vectors seem to be surprisingly orthogonal to the surrounding large-scale structure. And if that's not the case and the directions are (nearly) parallel, the emission line width seems to be significantly smaller than for the prevailing orthogonal ones. These two comments may possibly imply that the quasar spins are parallel to the host large-scale structures. In other words, the quasars seem to be spinning around the axes that are drawn in the sky with these quasar dots.
Well, that's nice if true but I don't find it shocking at all. These "lines" result from the gravitational clumping of material close to an axis. This clumping eliminates most of the orbital angular momentum and puts almost all the angular momentum to the spin. And the vanishing of the orbital angular momentum is of course mathematically equivalent to the statement that the surviving spinning objects (quasars) are sitting on the axis of the spin! ;-)
You know, if you want \(\vec L=\vec r \times p\) to carry no contribution in the direction of \(\vec S\), you want \(\vec L \cdot \vec S = 0\) and \(\vec r = \alpha \vec S\) is a solution! I don't believe that the structure formation models (or modelers) don't realize this obvious fact.