Archive for the ‘theoretical astronomy’ Category

Cosmology, Dark Matter, and Assumptions

January 13, 2013

Written in answer to a comment by my Australian friend Gavan. FWIW, we’re both members of International Mensa and he’s a believer in currently-accepted theories in Cosmology. I’m a skeptic.

I’ve heard that, Gavan; but at the same time, I maintain that there is much ordinary matter that has simply not coalesced into something that’s visible to us here in any of the spectra that we can detect. As evidence, I cite the emergence of new galaxies and within galaxies, new star systems. And we also keep discovering dim, barely visible items that only our new, more powerful, viewing instruments can detect.
Consider this, as well: most of what we view is seen through a time machine. We’re looking at the events of billions of years ago. We have no way of viewing things that happened this year, or a hundred million years ago. The radiation from those distant events won’t be here for another hundred million or billion years.
So estimating the current total mass of ordinary matter based on an unimaginably ancient photo is simply silly. It’s similar to looking at human populations on the Earth of 1 million b.c. and estimating the current human population…and then declaring that our estimate must be correct, without regard for change that might take place over that time.
We might as well use gravitational influences, which we can detect, as indicators that there was much more unconsolidated matter a billion years ago than there is now.
I could, for example, pencil in a few million new galaxies, enough of them to actually balance the estimates of mass and the observed gravity. And point out that we won’t see them for another billion years, because they’re that far away, and have only begun emitting energy within the last few million years and so aren’t yet visible because the energy hasn’t arrived yet.  Is that less logical than claiming that perhaps 90% of the gravity in the universe is due to some invisible, undetectable (at least, so far) ‘matter’?
Those new star systems and such that we observe in the process of formation and describe with great excitement because they just became visible this week? That happened a few hundred million years ago.
So apply Occam’s razor; there are masses in the universe that we can’t yet see because they’re so far away, or there is some sort of undetected invisible matter that’s here because we need something to balance the equations?
That’s my problem with the math of the universe; the equations may well be right, but the assumptions and estimates and interpretation are much less certain.

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A Philosophical Approach to the Physics of Astronomy

September 27, 2011

My philosophy regarding science, and particularly theoretical physics: It seems to me that there’s a tendency to examine observations and then interpret those observations in ways that have no basis in the observation.  First the theory, then a long and expensive search to attempt to prove it.  Not observed: dark matter, dark energy, strings.  And yet, any number of researchers and theoreticians are busily spending enormous sums in an attempt to find these, all to bolster the interpretations and resultant theories.

Not considered in all this is the question: what if the theories are wrong?  Note that I’m not challenging the observations, just the subsequent interpretations.  And, for my part, there’s a basis for these interpretations that depends on one or more assumptions.

I have a problem with the dual-nature of particles and light.  I don’t challenge this, because I don’t personally have a better explanation.  But my problem comes from Einstein’s equation, E=MC^2.  Note that in this, if you hold the C^2 in abeyance, the formula says that energy is equal to mass, and that C^2, an enormous number, is simply the conversion factor.  And so somehow mass is also energy but without consideration for the difference in their relationship that’s demanded by Einstein.  It’s a problem for me.  I watch, and wait for someone to come up with a better explanation.  The quantum mechanical atom, and the levels of the electrons in their orbitals, provides a good model (I think) for absorption/release of energy of a specific amount, a quantum.  But I don’t understand how jumping from one quantum level to another generates something that is non-energy, the other half of the dual-nature question.

But when looking at the current ideas involving dark matter, dark energy, strings, and such, I note that the theorists and their fellow-travelers have not addressed an assumption.  That same assumption has much to do with the ‘expanding’ and ‘accelerating’ universe.  This current model is accepted by most theoreticians because Doppler’s work gives an explanation, and so they don’t waste their time looking for other explanations.  Despite the picture this Doppler shift gives of a universe in which the further an object is, the faster it’s going, somehow accelerating in all directions away from Earth, speeding up as you get further away.  The assumption here is that this is a true picture and so an explanation is sought, and if there’s no reasonable or logical explanation, then something unreasonable and non-logical is postulated.  Any search for evidence is therefore directed in this specific direction.  There’s no Nobel prize in going back to reexamine the assumptions that led up to the conclusion.

All of our observations, theories, everything depends on our understanding of light, with the term used here as representative of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  So my question is, what if our understanding of light and how it behaves is wrong?  Are we making an assumption when we look at light?  And the answer is yes.

That assumption is that the light emitted from a distant object arrives at the observer unchanged, except in ways perfectly understood (e.g., Doppler shifted due to relative motion).  There’s also the absorption of specific lines in the spectrum of the light from the source, which again changes the light in ways that are understood.

Suppose there’s another agency, another method, that changes the light in some way?

I didn’t know what that could be, and of course I’m not certain even now.  But I do have an alternative explanation to be considered.  It’s based on elementary science, known to everyone who ever studied modern physics.

A common, well known experiment uses one or two slits in a barrier and a light beam is passed through it.  An interference/reinforcement pattern of light and dark areas is created past the barrier, and the interpretation is that this shows the wave nature of light (and some other particles, such as electrons; but that’s not what I’m concerned with here).  No argument with this.   But what isn’t realized (or at least I haven’t found anything in the literature to show that this interpretation is considered to be important) is that this experiment demonstrates something else: that light can affect other light.  In this case, one light wave is either adding to or interfering with another.  There may also be other ways in which one light field, for lack of a better word, can affect another.  We know that different frequencies of light respond in different ways to phenomena, such as a prism, being differentially deflected; whether there’s a differential response to other light fields based on frequency is something that might happen.  Not proved, so I’ll only mention it as something that could profitably be investigated.

So: the further away an object is, the more likely it is that the light it emits, over the thousands of light-years that it’s traveled, will have encountered and possibly have been affected by light from other sources.  Only the closest light sources, our own sun and probably Alpha Centauri, may be exempt from this.  But even these may have transited the same space as other light waves, so I suspect that these objects show minimal effects from any influence of other light, but not absolute absence.

I don’t make the claim now, nor ever, that the explanations I’ve put forward are true, or that others are false.  I haven’t invented any dark whatzit or used little green men or added 15 new dimensions.  I simply have taken standard, accepted ideas from past scientists and put them together in new ways.  And I do this because it seems to me that assumptions don’t get examined often enough, and that preposterous theories are too-quickly adopted into the mainstream without being backed up by observational proof.  And my explanations are simple and don’t require 10 years of study of mathematics to understand.

I’ve always thought Occam’s Razor doesn’t get used nearly often enough.