The present Big Bang Theory of the formation of the Universe has been in trouble since the 1990s, since it was discovered that the Universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate.
Since then, the terms ‘dark energy’ and ‘dark matter’ have entered the scientific lexicon, although there’s no evidence that either of these things exist. They are are just ‘fillers’ that satisfy mathematical equations*.
*There have been some observed spaces in the Universe by the space probe GLAST that measures WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles) showing the possibility of dark matter (link).
Now, Wun-Yi Shu, a physicist at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University, has come up with a variation of the old ‘Steady State’ theory of the Universe in which the Universe goes through cycles of expansion and contraction:
A new theory explains the accelerating universe without invoking mysterious, unseen dark energy to account for the expansion. But it also gets rid of singularities, an unchanging speed of light…and the most famous astrophysical phenomenon of all, the Big Bang.
The observation of certain supernovas in the late 1990s led astronomers to the very unexpected discovery that the universe is expanding, and that the expansion is speeding up. There was nothing in the existing laws of physics to account for this, and so the only solution was dark energy – a mysterious force so named because we’ve never detected it, and yet it has to make up 75% of all the energy and mass in the universe for it to account for this cosmic acceleration. Also, the existence of dark energy weakens the supposedly inviolate law of conservation of energy, if not negates it completely. Cosmologically speaking, that’s a problem.
And yet, clumsy and unlikely as that all sounds, it’s the best explanation we’ve got for our observations of the universe…until now. Wun-Yi Shu, a physicist at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University, has come up with a bold new cosmological framework that solves the dark energy problem. At its most basic, the theory states that the universe has three basic dimensions – mass, time, and length – and these three properties can be converted between each other. He then proposes two new constants, κ and τ, as the conversion factors between time and length and mass and length respectively.
So what does that all have to do with cosmic expansion? Shu’s theory holds that, as the universe expands, mass and time get converted to length and space, and then this conversion happens in reverse when the universe enters a period of contraction. The universe then becomes a neverending cycle of expansion and contraction, an eternal cosmos without beginning or end. So bye-bye dark energy…but bye-bye Big Bang as well. On the plus side, we do get the conservation of energy back.
Still, the Big Bang isn’t the only singularity removed from existence in this scenario – all the singularities thought to be at the centers of black holes have to go as well. And maybe the craziest part is that his two new constants, κ and τ, mean that Einstein’s old constants, c and G, are now free to change over time. Considering c is the speed of light and G is the gravitational constant, the fact that they might vary – even if it’s only in minute amounts over billions of years – is a very big deal, and maybe the most exciting part of this new theory.
Shu points out that his theory has already produced good results, as it explains better than any other cosmological framework the supernova data that started this whole mess over a decade ago. That said, he does face one major stumbling block – his theory can’t yet explain the cosmic microwave background, the faint radiation that permeates the universe and is thought to be left over from the Big Bang. As such the race is on – either Shu can account for the background radiation, the cosmology community can find hard evidence of dark energy, or a third, perhaps even weirder theory is just waiting to be formulated that will knit all the mysteries together.
Hmm…can’t account for the cosmic background radiation, eh?
Maybe our Universe is a microCosm in someone’s Large Hadron Collider?
In mainstream science, especially rocket science, building a rocket that is capable of attaining the speed of light is akin to fantasy, like using a mirror to enter Wonderland.
Now however, there are two physicists who insist that using black-holes (or singularities) to power spaceships is not only possible, but it’s the very reason black-holes are in the Universe to begin with:
In August, physicist Jia Liu at New York University outlined his design for a spacecraft powered by dark matter (arxiv.org/abs/0908.1429v1). Soon afterwards, mathematicians Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland at Kansas State University in Manhattan proposed plans for a craft powered by an artificial black hole (arxiv.org/abs/0908.1803).
No one disputes that building a ship powered by black holes or dark matter would be a formidable task. Yet remarkably there seems to be nothing in our present understanding of physics to prevent us from making either of them. What’s more, Crane believes that feasibility studies like his touch on questions in cosmology that other research hasn’t considered.
Aside from the technological challenges, Crane thinks black hole starships may also have remarkable philosophical implications. Crane first started thinking about artificial black holes 12 years ago when physicist Lee Smolin, now at Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, asked Crane to read the manuscript of his book The Life of the Cosmos.
Nobody knows what happens at the singularity of a black hole, the point where space and time become so warped that the laws of relativity break down. In his book, Smolin suggested that a new universe could be created and bud off. So universes in which black holes are likely to arise will give birth to more and more such universes. This means that our universe could be a baby universe, and is more likely to have come from one that is good at making black holes than one that isn’t.
Crane then wondered what would happen if intelligent civilisations could make black holes. This would mean that life in these universes played a key role in the proliferation of baby universes. Smolin felt the idea was too outlandish and left it out of his book. But Crane has been thinking about it on and off for the last decade.
He believes we are seeing Darwinian selection operating on the largest possible scale: only universes that contain life can make black holes and then go on to give birth to other universes, while the lifeless universes are an evolutionary dead end.
His latest calculations made him realise how uncanny it was that there could be a black hole at just the right size for powering a starship. “Why is there such a sweet spot?” he asks. The only reason for an intelligent civilisation to make a black hole, he sees, is so it can travel the universe.
“If this hypothesis is right,” he says, “we live in a universe that is optimised for building starships!” (italics mine)
That’s quite a hypothesis to pronounce and one that will no doubt be tested to the maximum in the near future.
From tunneling to entanglement, the special properties of the quantum realm allow events to unfold at speeds and efficiencies that would be unachievable with classical physics alone. Could quantum mechanisms be driving some of the most elegant and inexplicable processes of life? For years experts doubted it: Quantum phenomena typically reveal themselves only in lab settings, in vacuum chambers chilled to near absolute zero. Biological systems are warm and wet. Most researchers thought the thermal noise of life would drown out any quantum weirdness that might rear its head.
One of the most significant quantum observations in the life sciences comes from Fleming and his collaborators. Their study of photosynthesis in green sulfur bacteria, published in 2007 in Nature [subscription required], tracked the detailed chemical steps that allow plants to harness sunlight and use it to convert simple raw materials into the oxygen we breathe and the carbohydrates we eat. Specifically, the team examined the protein scaffold connecting the bacteria’s external solar collectors, called the chlorosome, to reaction centers deep inside the cells. Unlike electric power lines, which lose as much as 20 percent of energy in transmission, these bacteria transmit energy at a staggering efficiency rate of 95 percent or better.
To unearth the bacteria’s inner workings, the researchers zapped the connective proteins with multiple ultrafast laser pulses. Over a span of femtoseconds, they followed the light energy through the scaffolding to the cellular reaction centers where energy conversion takes place.
This is a very intriguing theory. Biologists have been studying the process of photosynthesis for generations and have yet come up with a plausible explanation as to why it is as efficient as it is. They know the chemical process that produces and powers it, but not the extraordinary speed in which it operates.
Also the article goes on to postulate the sense of smell and consciousness might have at their core a quantum component.
The article doesn’t claim to have the last word on the nature of these things, but the quantum world is the foundation on which all things are built.
That is fact.
Whither dark matter?
Newton’s theory is questioned by many modern cosmologists, whose competing theories of gravitation seek to explain the large number of discrepancies between actual measurements of astronomical phenomena and predictions that are made using theoretical models. The idea that ‘dark matter’ might be behind these inconsistencies has enjoyed much attention in recent years. However, proof of its existence is incipient.
In this latest research, Professor Kroupa and colleagues examined ‘satellite dwarf galaxies’, which, according to theoretical models, exist in the hundreds around most of the major galaxies, including the Milky Way. Some of these smaller galaxies are thought to contain only a few thousand stars (by comparison, the Milky Way, for instance, is estimated to contain more than 200 billion stars).
However, to date, only 30 dwarf satellite galaxies have been observed around the Milky Way. This large discrepancy is commonly attributed to the fact that they have few stars, which makes them too dim to be seen from so far away. But their detailed study has yielded some surprising results.
‘First of all, there is something unusual about their distribution,’ said Professor Kroupa. ‘The satellites should be uniformly arranged around their mother galaxy, but this is not what we found.’
The researchers found that all of the Milky Way’s ‘classical satellites’ (the 11 brightest dwarf galaxies) are located on approximately the same plane, forming a kind of disc. They also observed that most of the 11 galaxies rotate in the same direction around the Milky Way, in much the same way as planets revolve around the Sun.
The physicists’ explanation for these phenomena is that the satellites must have been created through collisions amongst younger galaxies. ‘The fragments produced by such an event can form rotating dwarf galaxies,’ explained Dr Manuel Metz, also of the Argelander Institute for Astronomy. However, he added, ‘theoretical calculations tell us that the satellites created cannot contain any dark matter’.
I don’t know about what most thinking folks take is on dark matter. In IMHO it’s a “cover” giving term encompassing phenomenon that mainstream astrophysicists have no idea what the hell it’s about, much like the all purpose term “ether” was during the 19th Century.
Oh sure, there’s photos of “stuff” the various scientific satellites have taken over the years that “might” be dark matter, but the jury is still out on most of them.
Maybe this is the start of a rethinking of the “standard model” of the Cosmos that uses gravity as its building block?
Ever since researchers first hypothesized the existence of a mysterious force known as dark energy in the mid-1990s, they’ve scrambled for proof that the force exists, and that it is indeed gradually causing the universe’s expansion to accelerate. Now, Hawaiian astronomers say they have found evidence of dark energy’s work by looking at microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang, and how it acts as it traverses strange regions of the universe.
The findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters [subscription required], focus on regions of space called superclusters, which are dense with galaxies, and supervoids, which are unusually empty of galaxies. “When a microwave enters a supercluster, it gains some gravitational energy and therefore vibrates slightly faster,” [lead researcher Istvan] Szapudi said. As it leaves the supercluster, he said, “it should lose exactly the amount of energy. “But if dark energy causes the universe to stretch out at a faster rate, the supercluster flattens out in the half-billion years it takes the microwave to cross it,” Szapudi said. “Thus, the wave gets to keep some of the energy as it entered the supercluster” [Honolulu Star-Bulletin].
Dark energy has been tagged as the culprit for the ever expanding universe recently in many scientific journals. Even one where manipulation of it can be used to power an “FTL” (faster than light) warp drive by creating a “bubble” around the spaceship ala Star Trek ( link ).
Whether humans can ever tap this energy in the future is another matter. Some say in the far future, some say never. But it never ceases being a controvertial thought exercise.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that marine fossil records show that biodiversity increases and decreases based on a 62-million-year cycle. At least two of the Earth’s great mass extinctions-the Permian extinction 250 million years ago and the Ordovician extinction about 450 million years ago-correspond with peaks of this cycle, which can’t be explained by evolutionary theory.
Early last year, a team of researchers at the University of Kansas came up with an out-of-this-world explanation for the phenomenon. Their idea hinges upon the fact that stars move through space and sometimes rush headlong through galaxies, or approach closely enough to cause a brief cosmic tryst.
Our own star moves toward and away from the Milky Way’s center, and also up and down through the galactic plane. One complete up-and-down cycle takes 64 million years- suspiciously close to the Earth’s biodiversity cycle.
Once the researchers independently confirmed the biodiversity cycle, they then proposed a novel mechanism whereby which the Sun’s galactic travels is causing it.
Since we are made of the stuff of the Universe, I have no problem with this theory. In fact, this goes along with many Vedic ( India ) and Native American cultures’ traditions that time is cyclic instead of linear, as it is postulated in Western scientific thought. One can Google up any article on Mayan culture and the ‘2012’ end of time date that is viral all over the ‘Tubes now. In fact, the Mayans never said it’s the end of the world, just the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. It has been forever thus they claim.
Now we might have a little verification.