Sunday, May 25, 2014

Claims: Universe is not expanding

Fred Singer sent me a link to an article in Sci-News,
Universe is Not Expanding After All, Scientists Say
which describes a recent U.S.-Spanish-Italian paper
UV surface brightness of galaxies from the local Universe to \(z\sim 5\) (arXiv)
that was just published as International Journal of Modern Physics D Vol. 23, No. 6 (2014) 1450058.

It is quite a bold claim but not shocking for those who have the impression based on the experience that these journals published by World Scientific are not exactly prestigious – or credible, for that matter. The sloppy design of the journal website and the absence of any \(\rm\TeX\) in the paper doesn't increase its attractiveness. The latter disadvantage strengthens your suspicion that the authors write these things because they don't want to learn the Riemannian geometry, just like they don't want to learn \(\rm \TeX\) or anything that requires their brain to work, for that matter.

While the vigorous attempts to revert the quantum revolution are alive and kicking in the Academia – and indeed, also among the celebrated Nobel prize winners – the efforts to "debunk" general relativity with its curved spacetime are confined to less renowned corners. John Hartnett who is writing similar papers works in the Kangaroo School of the Thirsty Australian Desert (not sure whether I remember the name of the institution exactly).

I discussed a very similar claim about the non-existence of expansion by Wetterich last summer. Wetterich is an achieved cosmologist and his paper had at least some mathematical sophistication.

The authors of the new paper work as CEOs of their own plasma physics company (Eric Lerner), a guy in an observatory (Renato Falomo), and a Canary astrophysicist (Riccardo Scarpa). But enough sociology. Of course that such people may in principle make important discoveries in such a journal, too.

The point of the paper is that the expanding Universe of modern cosmology should be abandoned because there is a simpler model one may adopt, namely the static, Euclidean universe. Their claim or their argument is that this schookid-friendly assumption is completely compatible with the observations. In particular, it is compatible with the observations of the UV surface brightness of galaxies.

Some sentences in the popular articles about the preprint suggest that the observations of the distant galaxies contradict the prediction of the big bang theory. The latter is supposed to predict "fainter but larger galaxies". Well, there's no contradiction here, as they admit elsewhere. The galaxies are surely fainter. But if they had been as large as they are now, they could appear larger because they would occupy a larger fraction of the Universe. But one must also calculate how large the galaxies were etc. and things just work out. Of course that if they could write a clear paper falsifying The Big Bang Theory, they would formulate the paper in that way. They don't because they realize that the theory works.

However, they say that their "simple" model is able to achieve the same thing as the usual theory of the big bang. A big claim, too.

The first thing I must say is that I don't really care about the surface brightness of galaxies (used in the so-called Tolman's test of the cosmic expansion) much. From my point of view, the expansion of the Universe is an inevitable implication of general relativity. And general relativity is an equally unavoidable consequence of the special theory of relativity combined with the existence of gravity. So their "simplified" model is bound to be incompatible with special relativity (or the existence of gravity). It doesn't look like a victory to me.

But even from a purely empirical perspective – i.e. if we ignore the broader context in which the theory have to be peacefully incorporated – their self-worshiping claims seem indefensible. They claim to explain something beautifully. But what is it? At the bottom of page 2, we read:
For this study, we adopt the simple hypothesis that the relationship \(d=cz/H_0\), well-assessed in the local Universe, holds for all \(z\). It should be noted that this cosmological model is not the Einstein-De Sitter static Universe often used in literature.

You should realize several things. First, the linear relationship between the distance \(d\) and the redshift \(z\) is indeed working (plus minus noise) for \(z\ll 1\), i.e. in the local Universe. General relativity agrees with that claim for a good reason: in a small enough "filled cylinder" strip of the spacetime, it is guaranteed that the spacetime is flat. It is no coincidence. So if they had an alternative simple theory, and I would say it is too strong a claim to make, its agreement with general relativity would be understandable because general relativity is simple in the local Universe. As I argued in March, the big bang expansion locally is an explosion.

If you go beyond the local Universe i.e. to \(z\sim 1\) or \(z\gt 1\), you shouldn't forget that such a significant redshift of order one – they want to claim that their picture is OK up to \(z\sim 5\) – is due to the relative speeds that are comparable to the speed of light. In special relativity, the \(z\) is given by\[

\frac{f_s}{f_o}-1 = z = \sqrt{ \frac{c+v}{c-v} } - 1 \approx \frac{v}{c}+O(v^2/c^2)

\] To calculate what happens in that regime, \(z\sim 1\), you surely need – at least special – relativistic effects to be taken into account because \(v\sim c\). But I have already mentioned that they need to ignore special relativity as well because general relativity sort of unavoidably follows from special relativity combined with the existence of gravity. So how can they verify their intrinsically non-relativistic theory is OK up to these high redshifts \(z\sim 5\)?

It's easy. They are actually denying the Doppler-like origin of the redshift, too. You shouldn't distinguish the Doppler redshift from the cosmological redshift too fanatically here because they're locally the same thing. However, these guys say that the redshift of galaxies we observe has nothing to do with relative motion – distances changing as a function of time – at all. Instead, the sentence preceding the quote I have already offered you says:
In this paper we are testing a static cosmology where space is assumed Euclidean and the redshift is due to some physical process other than expansion.
Nice. They admit that they have no idea what this "other physical process" could be. So "their" distance-redshift formula\[

d = d(z) = \frac{cz}{H_0}

\] is actually a fudge function, a whole functional dependence that they are free to choose and they choose it to "predict" another function of one variable, namely the surface brightness of galaxies \(\mu=\mu(z)\) as a function of the redshift. But by changing the function \(d=d(z)\), you may clearly get any relationship for \(\mu=\mu(z)\) you want! So they aren't explaining a damn thing. This situation is very different from the situation in relativity where the formula for the redshift \(z=z(v)\) may be explained already in special relativity and the Hubble law \(v=Hd\) may be derived from general relativity if you need some accuracy. If you combine them, you get a \(z=z(d)\) relationship, but the "price" you have to pay for this correct explanation is the relative speed of the galaxies \(v\neq 0\) at the center of the explanation.

Needless to say, the claim that the redshift could be due to something occurring in a simple flat spacetime and completely unrelated to relative motion is ludicrous. Redshift is nothing else than a rescaling change of the frequency. The frequency \(f\) in Hertz is nothing else than the number of periods or cycles per second. You may employ someone to stand there and press a button every time they see the maximum of the electromagnetic wave. Your assistant will press the button \(f\) times per second.

If the waves remain sine waves everywhere between the source and the observer, the rate of pressing the button has to be the same everywhere. The light is a consequence of some periodic process (in time), and because the laws of physics are time-translationally-symmetric, the observer has to see a periodic process (light of the same frequency) as a consequence. In non-relativistic physics, assistants who are not moving relatively to each other – the three men want that – are just clearly recording the same frequency \(f\) of the light. If you convert the frequency to the energy of photons via \(E=hf\), you may invent slogans about "tiring light" that suggest that the photons may be losing (dissipating) energy due to some friction-like effect. But if you keep on talking about frequency – and in non-quantum physics, the color is given by the frequency and photons are infinitely small in this classical limit – it is spectacularly clear that the frequency can't change if several people are standing, not moving, in a completely flat spacetime.

Incidentally, because \(E=hf\) in quantum theory, the "self-evident" argument for the preserved frequency (periodic perturbation creates periodic responses with the same periodicity) actually implies something about the energy, the energy conservation law (if the background is time-translationally symmetric). This possibility to derive the energy conservation law from the simpler argument showing the conservation of frequencies is essentially Noether's theorem – and quantum theory with its \(E=hf\) actually simplifies the reasons behind Noether's theorem relatively to classical physics. In the case of energy, the energy operator (the Hamiltonian) is the generator of the translations in time. So these translations are symmetries for the same reason why the energy is conserved, namely \([H,H]=0\). The argument is easily adapted to other conserved quantities and symmetries. Quantum mechanics is hated by many people because it's so abstract and difficult but it is conceptually simpler than classical physics in some respects!

But let me return to the non-expanding Universe.

So these three men – and a few others – who are struggling to "liberate" physics from the curved spacetime geometry have to reject simpler parts of modern physics – special relativity as well – and they have to make indefensible or manifestly wrong claims about "mysterious new sources of changing frequency". The only result of these problematic steps is that they "explain" one function of distance (or redshift) by another function of distance (or redshift) that they freely invented – it means that they don't explain anything at all. The paper is spectacularly free of correct or meaningful claims or insights.

Let me emphasize that according to general relativity, the 4D spacetime – and our Universe – is inevitably curved when matter is present, and it is present in our Cosmos. However, the 3D slices are nevertheless flat or almost certainly flat; their curvature radius is at least hundreds of billions (and probably trillions) of light years, orders of magnitude larger than the age of the Universe (or the typical curvature radii of the 4D spacetime). This flatness of the slices is indeed a mystery in a generic setup of general relativity or the old big bang theory. However, the cosmic inflation explains this nearly perfect flatness.

So I don't think it's necessary for you to read the paper about the non-existence of the expansion.


  1. My God, you've just displayed utter rigidity in thinking. It seems there's not the
    slightest wiggle room for new ideas to enter your brain.
    Redshift is nothing else than a rescaling change of the
    frequency. How do you know that? It's just an assumption.
    The sloppy design of the journal website and the absence of
    any TEX in the paper doesn't increase its
    attractiveness.Right, because formatting is always the most
    important thing when considering a science paper.schookid-friendly assumptionSo,
    ad hominems is the way to rebut new ideas?And general
    relativity is an equally unavoidable consequence of the special theory of
    relativityWhat if special relativity is wrong? There is no
    clinching proof for it, it's based on assumptions which may be wrong.

    Have fun with all your imaginary, meaningless particles, and your dark matter and dark energy. Clearly The Reference Frame is not the place for new ideas, but is simply a vehicle for worshiping the present laughable cosmology.

  2. Hi idiot, I "discovered" the idea of that paper when I was 7 years old. I was also able to see why it's wrong when I was a bit older - and this is a good thing to see that ideas are often wrong. It's a part of critical, scientific thinking.

    Of course, the general idea that our Universe is a flat Euclidean space isn't new and it isn't even my 1980 invention. It's more than 2,000 years old idea. Your comment that it is a "new idea" proves that you don't have the slightest clue what you're talking about.

    You ask "How do you know that redshift is a rescaled frequency? It's just an assumption." No. It is the definition of the redshift, idiot. It's why it's called "red shift". Light such as yellow with frequency around 500+ terahertz is changed to red light with lower frequency above 400+ terahertz. In physics, "red" is *defined* as the color that has the frequency of 400-480 terahertz. It's not an assumption, it can be directly measured. The only assumption I made is that the reader isn't a completely ignorant aggressive imbecile - and indeed, this assumption would have been wrong in your case.

    Formatting isn't important for me and I've spent a huge percentage of my time by reading badly formatted texts, indeed, so it's nonsensical to criticize me for not being open-minded to them. However, it is also true that there is a rather strong yet imperfect correlation between the formatting quality of a paper and its scientific quality.

    I won't respond to your claims "what is special relativity is wrong", and so on, and send you to your psychiatrist instead. It's just not my job in any sense to deal with stupid obnoxikous animals like yourself.

  3. I often almost cant believe that there really exist such stupid people who have no clue about anything concerning science, but feel comfortable to write pompous aggressive comments everywhere where commenting is possible ...

    But obviously they do exitst and in countries with a retarded governement such as the US, they are even applied in too powerful positions to highly enjoy their power and live out their anti-science agenda unfortunately ...

    See for example what happens to physics professors in the US these days here

    Personally I am angry with Jay Wacker though, because he wrote a partily very unfair (the spamming issue) about PhysicsOverflow at Quora ...

  4. OK... I won't read this then ;-)... I'd rather go voting...

  5. Haha, this papger seems to have exactly the same quality as the ubiquitous comments, posted by crackpots in certain blogs and below too popular articles, intended to advertize too their personal pet theory while claiming QM is wrong, GR is wrong, etc at the same time, LOL !

    And this International Journal of Modern Physics D accepting such nonsense makes it rather look like a crackpot journal too. In addition, "World Scientific" sounds in my ears rather like a label for a publisher of popular science stuff than serious cutting edge research ...

    As so many crackpot stuff appears in popular media streams, I always wonder who is responsible for this: incompetend journalists/editors who browse the ArXiv for the most nonsensical papers with the most spectacular claims that promise the "best story" , or the "original thinkers themself" who happily fetch any opportunity to publish their crack in popular streams that have a larger radius of impact than simple comments in blogs ...?

    I immediately thought that this nonsense paper, together with this to the point debunking TRF article, would make a nice submission/review pair for the Reviews section of PhysicsOverflow. But then I am slightly unsure if it is a good idea to devote space to such nonsense papers at all on PhysicsOverflow, as the community can expect at least a minimal scientific standard of the papers that get reviewed... ?

    What do you think Lumo ;-)

  6. Я философ, зто значит, на каждый ответ у меня есть вопрос.
    Но у тебя нет филосовского подхода!

  7. From Google-Translate, I get the impression that this comment is rather nonsensical, as philosophy is off-topic to this TRF review ... ;-)

    "I am a philosopher, the LRA means each answer I have a question.
    But you do not approach philosophy!"

    IMHO today philosophers should mind their own business and keep their nose out of physics, in particular fundamental physics including cosmology etc ...

  8. "I am a philosopher, that means that for each answer I have a question. But you don't have a philosophical approach". I can agree with you that every one should mind his own business, but - as for the atlas contest and as for many other challenges - a cooperation among experts of different fields (e.g. big data scientists and high energy physicists) could be useful... I'm simply suggesting to chill out! There is a very funny Murphy's law: Never argue with a fool. People might not know the difference. :-)

  9. Are you a Russian philosopher???

    I like the answer "don't argue with a fool".
    I think Solomon said something similar.

  10. Yes, reasonable cooperations among experts are a very good thing of course, such as the Atlas contest, mathematicians and physicists working together in research of theoretical physics, etc ...

    But apart from a few exceptions, I have never explicitely seen something constructive coming out of philosophers interfering with science and in particular with physics these days (I know that in very ancient days philosophers and natural scientists have been indistinguishable, but this is no longer the case today) ...

    To often, I have seen bad interviews with or articles written by "science philosphers" featured in magazines like Scientific American, Nature etc, where such philosphers are pompously trolling and bad-mouthing specific fundamental physics topics, feeling entitled to patronize perfectly capable physicists by telling them what they are allowed to be interested in (what is science and what it is not) etc, even though these philosophers have no deeper technical knowledge about the topics at hand at all ...

    Yep, people who are laypersons with respect to a topic but nevertheless feel entiltled to patronize expersts who exactly know what they are doing and why always drives me up the wall ;-).


  12. It is reassuring to me that you wrote the word "almost" - re: "I often almost can't believe....". ;-]

  13. Lubos, my advice is that you stop torturing yourself by dwelling on such comments by simply and swiftly deleting them.
    Mind you, I wish I was much better than I am at ignoring all the stupidities and written and spoken expressions of self-assured people with a high but shallow form of intelligence. :-<
    Grrrrrr! ;-)

  14. The to me best version on this theme goes something like this: "If you argue with a fool there is a good chance s/he is doing just the same."

  15. The WISE results have determined that black holes are not donuts!!!!

    Too bad. :-((
    But may they are Austrian pastries instead.
    Or twisted up like German pretzels.

    They czhecked 170000 super massive black holes and and found a non random distribution. Something about the hidden ones have more jelly xxxx er I mean dark matter around the galaxies.

    This is for real. Just czhech the internet.

  16. Do you work on cms or atlas or just strings?

    My former boss worked seasonal shifts at CERN until he got tired of the commute.

    Are you from italy.???

  17. I'm from Italy, I'm learning Russian ;-)

  18. Očeň chorošo, Giulio, bellissimo! ;-)

  19. Wow. Maybe we should all be learning Russian these days.

  20. Thanks for this analysis Lubos. I had seen the paper answering a question on their fusion project which is the site they have put up their preprint, and was too lazy to go through it critically.

  21. A real hun. He escaped in 56. Did a master in Italian. And worked for the CBC. Died in 85.
    And he is Canadian too. Eh.

  22. Special relativity is validated continuously with all the High Energy Physics experiments. If the fact that the spectra of atoms are shifted is not a clinching evidence for red shift, then it must be demons playing ball with the spectra of the atoms at distant galaxies.

  23. If you -or the authors - have a new idea other than expansion to explain the redshift, what is it?

  24. "The sloppy design of the journal website and the absence of any TEX in the paper doesn't increase its attractiveness. "

    Your site crashed my browser in Firefox this morning. Just sayin'.

  25. It is not Special Relativity that is validated by the experiments, only the Lorentz Transformations are.

  26. Mind your manners, Luboš, you are blinded by your boundless arrogance. You are trying to argue against observed facts by claiming that they are incompatible with a theory (GR), which you seem to unquestioningly accept. GR saves the phenomena, as Ptolemaic astronomy did, and conforms to observations, but that does not mean that it is a true description of the physical universe. It is vitiated by a logical inconsistency (mass causes space to curve and the curvature of space accounts for the observed effects of mass. So is the curvature of space a cause or an effect? Only by Einsteinian logic can it be both. GR is entirely dependent on Minkowsky’s loony idea of time being a fourth dimension. It is no such thing, the physical universe is three-dimensional as all our observations confirm. This implies that both space and time, the most fundamental constituents of our universe, are also three-dimensional. But time is not an additional dimension of space, as the famous crank Minkowsky surmised and Einstein unquestioningly accepted, it is a three-dimensional entity analogous to three-dimensional space. At speeds approaching the speed of light objects can be observed moving in co-ordinate time as well as in co-ordinate space, which elegantly accounts for the observations. Space is indeed Euclidean, but so is time. It is the Cartesian system of reference which proves unequal to the task of representing motions such as gravitation in their true aspects. All of the capacities of the Cartesian system of reference are exhausted in representing one-dimensional motion, but in a three-dimensional universe motion can and does operate in three dimensions. Trying to fit the a three-dimensional universe into a one-dimensional references system (one-dimensional in terms of its capability to represent motion in only one dimension) is the root cause of the crisis in physics that became evident ca. 1900 and that Einstein failed so miserably to solve. Yes, he invented mathematics (with a lot of help from others) that were able account for the phenomena, much as Ptolemy invented epicycles that actually worked better in representing the planetary motions than the Copernican alternative. How are Einstein’s tensors fundamentally different from Ptolemy’s epicycles?

  27. It's really yummy when hardcore cranks like you try to moralize.

    The reason why intelligent people rely on theories when making statements about Nature is that it is the most robust, and the only rationally justifiable, way to develop the knowledge about Nature.

    The reason why it's similar to the GR-vs-Ptolemaic is that the proposed non-expansion flat-space theory is indeed analogous to ancient theories. The reason why intelligent people robustly choose GR is that GR agrees with tons of experimental tests - and even with principles that may be deduced from large bodies of these tests- while the ancient cosmologies don't.

    Minkowski is spelled with an "I" not "Y" and his idea you referred to isn't "loony" but a cornerstone of the modern scientific thinking about spacetime.

    Incidentally, people who are as stupid as a doorknob or you have absolutely no credentials to use the epicycles as a symbol of imperfection because however imperfect epicycles were, they were still vastly more accurate and intellectually valuable than everything that stupid animals like yourself can ever learn, read

    Sorry, I instantly banned you because I don't want to lower the average comment thread quality by several IQ points.

  28. This statement makes absolutely no sense. Lorentz transformations are mathematical operations, not statements about Nature, so they cannot be validated at all. It's like if you do an experiment with the elephant and you claim that you validated the theory that it's spelled with an PH and not F or that PH may be pronounced as F. You just couldn't do such a thing.

    Only theories/hypotheses such as the theory of relativity may be validated.

  29. Flatness exceeding by orders of magnitude the extent of the universe is functionally equivalent to flatness. To claim otherwise seems to be hand-waving appeals to the immeasurable.

  30. What you write is completely wrong. It's the kind of a widespread delusion of those laymen who thinks that science collapses almost in every context.

    "Orders of magnitude" doesn't mean that the ratio is infinite or unmeasurable. It's only 2 orders of magnitude at most. We haven't been able to measure it so far. But it is perfectly conceivable that it will be measured to be nonzero tomorrow. In this science, it is surely in principle possible to measure the 3D slices' overall curvature even if it is several - more than 2 - orders of magnitude longer than the age of the Universe.

  31. You have completely discredited yourself with this post, Luboš. I leave it to your readers to make up their own minds as to which one of us is able to present logical arguments and which one is unable to grasp, much less to respond, to a logical argument. Is it just mental sloth, or does it go deeper than that? Your most uncivil discourse seems to be just a cover for your utter intellectual bankruptcy.

  32. Luboši, věř mi, naprosto ses v této debatě znemožnil. Mimochodem, nenapsal jsem, že souhlasím se závěry oné studie, jen že tvá argumentace je nelogická. Neargumentuješ fakty, ale tím, že závěry oné studie jsou v nesouladu s GR. Z toho, že experimenty jsou v souladu s GR nelze vyvodit, že je GR správná, neboť stejné experimenty mohou být v souladu i s nějakou zcela odlišnou terorií. Teorie nelze dokázat, jen vyvrátit. To snad víš i ty, nebo si prostuduj Poppera. Věř mi, že způsobem, kterým se zde vyjadřuješ shazuješ sám sebe. Já se neurazím, kdy mi nazveš zvířetem, ale co si o tobě pomyslí tví čtenáři?

  33. +1

    I won't respond to your claims "what is special relativity is wrong",
    and so on, and send you to your psychiatrist instead. It's just not my
    job in any sense to deal with stupid obnoxious animals like yourself.

    I pity the psychatrist who has to treat "CarbonFooledYa" but hope the treatment is successful : )

    By the way, it seems your clustrmap is getting busier, congrats!