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Do quasars ignore time dilation?

Leo Vuyk was intrigued by a new interesting paper by Mike Hawkins:

On time dilation in quasar light curves
Phys Org, Nude Socialist
Sadly, the author instantly gets 5 points according to rule 8 of Baez's index. ;-)

Hawkins has observed power variations of 900 quasars with frequencies between inverse months and inverse decades. Because quasars at apparent distances 6 or 10 billion years differ by the redshift as seen through the frequency of the electromagnetic waves, the corresponding light variations should be slowed down or sped up by the same factors.

But they're not.

Hawkins offers two explanations. One of them tries to cancel the time dilation by the black hole growth. The size of the black holes inside the quasars depends on the redshift (age) in such a way that the spectrum ends up to be nearly identical.

The other explanation is that all these variations originate as the photons arrive here - by "microlensing". Well, I don't think it necessarily has to be "microlensing" but anything that modifies the light on its path. However, quasars may be driven by the accretion disks around galactic black holes - and their radius could actually be comparable to a light year so that the variations could be caused by the complex dynamics inside the accreation disk.

Of course, one needs to mention a more dramatic possible explanation, the heretical theory by Halton Arp claiming that the quasars are actually not super-far at all but they're connected to the nearby galaxies by ropes so all the previous conclusions derived from the observed quasar redshifts have been wrong: the redshifts originate as their "intrinsic redshift". :-)

While I still view this Arp's possibility as a remote one, it would seem foolish to me to reject it a priori, especially given the tantalizing observations such as Hawkins' ones. Hawkins' observations are not quite new: he published a nearly identical paper in 1993 and 2001.

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reader Dizzy Ringo said...

You have commented "the heretical theory by Halton Arp claiming that the quasars are actually not super-far at all but they're connected to the nearby galaxies by ropes".

Actually Halton Arp was a specialist in plasma physics so, if I might be so bold, the "ropes" you mention are probably Birkeland currents.

Sadly plasma physics is not a requirement of an astrophysicist's degree as the indications are that we may well be dealing with an electric universe. ( for references)

Please do not fall into the University of East Anglia delusion that the "science is settled" - it is never settled until we are dead!

reader Tero said...

I have believed for a while now that there is something seriously wrong with our understanding of how redshift works.

I watched a tv-documentary about the subject. Well, not so much about the subject, than what happened to the scientists who dared to claim there was something inconsistent with the redshift theory.

Their treatment was eerily similar to how scientists questioning AGW or the cholesterol myth are treated.

Personal assaults, destruction of careers, cancellation of grants, dirty PR-stunts, organised media ridicule etc.

I'm not a scientist, much less astrophysicist, but I think I can tell when there is something wrong with the "consensus".

Finding problems with the redshift theory could help to explain away such ugly hacks as dark energy.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear supertero,

as you may have noticed, I am somewhat open-minded about this particular Arp's far-reaching theory even though the general statements about "intrinsic redshift" sound nearly excluded to me.

But your comments are hardcore populist anti-scientific nonsense. Science always has to use empirical and logical criteria to eliminate wrong hypotheses. This is what the science is all about.

If a physicist doesn't understand the Doppler redshift or gravitational redshift, then he is simply a lousy physicist and his or her career simply should be terminated because he or she has no business in physics.

Physics *is* about phenomena. it is about explaining thousands of number measured in experiments such as the frequency ratios. Who can't do it simply shouldn't be there. Physics is not democracy. Physics is not about flattering towards uneducated morons and average people who have no clue.

Your analogy linking two completely random hypotheses in science - such that their validity are completely uncorrelated - is completely irrational. There's no link between Arp's theory on one side and AGW or the negation of it on the other side.

The real problem with the climate science is that the cranks who advocate various disaster scenarios have *not* been eliminated in time. It's clear that when human garbage with no competence to do proper science starts to pile up in a discipline, it has a vested interest for similar lousy stuff to pile up even more and for the competent people to be squeezed out of the field because they become inconvenient.

So I am really annoyed by this populist screaming of your type, effectively assuming that every crackpot speculation is always equally meaningful as any other tested theory. It's surely not. The elimination of falsified theories is the key process for all of science - and the elimination of people who can only create wrong theories is a key to a working sociology of science.

You don't like it? Screw you, Ken.


reader Bob said...

Dear Lubos,
there is no chance that Arps "Quasars" are local objects.

Quasar spectra are used to constrain the filamentary distribution of neutral matter via measuring absorption lines of hydrogen (and more recently even less abundant atoms). Quasars are used since the have a continuum energy spectrum and are very bright. From the positions of these absorption lines in the Quasar spectra one can easily calculate the redshift of the absorbers.
This effect is named Lyman-alpha forest and well known among astronomers.

Even more Quasars are sometimes (gravitationally) lensed by normal galaxies. Some part of the lensed quasar light goes through parts of the galaxy where it can be absorbed etc.
It is impossible to explain this behaviour other than to accept that quasars are distant objects.

I didn´t read the paper but I´m confident, that the solution to the problem is very simple. The physics behind accretion disk is much more complicated than thought and instabilities within the disk can occur on all timescales...

Best regards,

reader UFO said...

Why we accept a 'space' evolution and do not discuss instead 'matter' evolution?
The ever spreading fields must be fed on something, for sure.
Consider atoms larger in the past as compared to the ones we observe locally. Atoms are the physical reference standards from where 'rulers' are defined.
Then in the past we have: more mass, shorter distances and larger time units as compared to actual ones (as 'c' is constant).
Physical Laws as keep as usual with no extra parameters.
Redshift can be linked to actual age of matter instead of distance.
The physcal model was presented (and not discussed elsewere) here:
A relativistic time variation of matter/space fits both local and cosmic data

With a simple shift of viewpoint the need of dark matter, goes away. And a lot more...

May be we shoud read the tantalizing paper.

Congratulations to the author of this blog for sharing his knowledge.

reader Brian G Valentine said...

Observing quasars, it tacitly assumed that time (has "always") been one dimensional.

I predict that quasar (apparent) anomaly, and a whole lot more, will become understood when that assumption is dropped.

reader UFO said...

One can find here a conception of Quasars that do not correspond to the usual representation:
"Quasar, a Estrela Oca"
It corresponds to a 'hollow star' formed by the intersection of 6 growing voids(*) of similar size.
It is written in portuguese language.

The history of Universe from a radically different perspective is written in that blog thru a conversation between four characteres with distinct sensibilities and knowledege.
The last post is the tentative abstract of a paper to be with the title:
"Generalizing Relativity Principle to Comoving Coordinates allows the fitting of cosmic data with no dark matter or dark energy"

(*) the voids have an accelerated growing as demonstrated there:
(google chrome and google reader eases the translation and the ordered readind of the chapters of the book)

It is not my intention to polute this excellent 'Reference Frame' blog that I really do appreciate.
Therefore I respectfully ask permission to the author of this blog to make this propaganda.

reader borman said...

"How do quasars ignore time dilation?" might be a related question if further observations support the paper's conclusions.

While Classical Mechanics was discovered centuries prior to Quantum Mechanics, this does not justify a view that QM is somehow "newer physics". To be considered is if it is Classical Mechanics that is the "newcomer" some 13.7 Ga. QM may have been around indefinitely "earlier" albeit only with symmetrical time. The question is then if it is possible that pockets of symmetrical time could have survived the Great First Decoherence. Quasars trspped within these pockets would not recon time the same way we do with linear time outside these pockets. Once outside the pockets, the emitted light would still suffer the usual redshift common to linear spacetime. Inside the pocket may reside a possible image of a pre-linear time ancient universe.

reader Unknown said...

This is indeed highly unusual, that quasars could ignore time dilation.

It can only be caused by a highly unusual equal and opposing force, and that is quite obviously the push back from the unnatural night time energy powering the Spanish solar grids.

reader Unknown said...

Quasars could ignore time dilation if their extreme massive dark matter halos are wormhole particle accelerated by tunnels that collapse form visible light matter inside the galaxy. Halos of constant density surround the entire galaxy like a squashed beachball. dark matter is not consumed by black holes, and would stabilize active galactic nuclei, allowing visible matter an exit for what the black hole had consumed. Please read entire article at

reader G said...

The reason why time dilation is not observed could be simply because the universe is not expanding.