“In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.” -Quentin Crisp

The Universe is expanding. The farther away a galaxy is, the faster it appears to be receding from us. The standard story tells us that space itself is expanding, and that’s the cause, but it’s only natural to wonder if perhaps space is static, and everything else within it isn’t shrinking instead? Many laypersons choose to go this route, and question the entire field of cosmology as a result.

The various galaxies of the Virgo Supercluster, grouped and clustered together. On the largest scales, the Universe is uniform, but as you look to galaxy or cluster scales, overdense and underdense regions dominate, and the Universe appears very non-uniform. Image credit: Andrew Z. Colvin, via Wikimedia Commons.

But is this fair? Or is this a road to not only ruin, but to physical inconsistencies? Could we flip the story on its head, and do some sort of test to see if atoms, the planet, or some other ‘local’ entity is shrinking, instead? Or, using the principle of relativity, could we declare that all frames are equally valid, and choose a frame where space isn’t expanding, after all?

The atomic transition from the 6S orbital, Delta_f1, is the transition that defines the meter, second and the speed of light. Image credit: A. Fischer et al., The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (2013).

These are all interesting thoughts, but there’s only one correct, valid, and consistent way to view the Universe. Sabine Hossenfelder has the explanation!

Comments

  1. #1 Pentcho Valev
    July 28, 2017

    Sabine Hossenfelder: “The first clue you need to understand the expansion of the universe is that general relativity is a theory for space-time, not for space. As Herman Minkowski put it in 1908: “Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.”

    Spacetime is a consequence of Einstein’s constant-speed-of-light postulate, and this postulate is OBVIOUSLY false. When the observer starts moving towards the light source with speed v, the frequency he measures shifts from f=c/λ to f’=(c+v)/λ=f(1+v/c):

    Quote: “The Doppler effect – changes in frequencies when sources or observers are in motion – is familiar to anyone who has stood at the roadside and watched (and listened) to the cars go by. It applies to all types of wave, not just sound. […] Moving Observer. Now suppose the source is fixed but the observer is moving towards the source, with speed v. In time t, ct/λ waves pass a fixed point. A moving point adds another vt/λ. So f’=(c+v)/λ.”

    Quote: “Now let’s see what this does to the frequency of the light. We know that even without special relativity, observers moving at different velocities measure different frequencies. (This is the reason the pitch of an ambulance changes as it passes you it doesn’t change if you’re on the ambulance). This is called the Doppler shift, and for small relative velocity v it is easy to show that the frequency shifts from f to f(1+v/c) (it goes up heading toward you, down away from you). There are relativistic corrections, but these are negligible here.”

    Does this mean that the speed of the light relative to the observer shifts from c to c’=c+v, in violation of Einstein’s relativity? Yes, any correct interpretation of the Doppler effect unavoidably leads to this conclusion:

    Quote: “Let’s say you, the observer, now move toward the source with velocity vo. You encounter more waves per unit time than you did before. Relative to you, the waves travel at a higher speed: v’=v+vo. The frequency of the waves you detect is higher, and is given by: f’=v’/λ=(v+vo)/λ.”

    Quote: “vo is the velocity of an observer moving towards the source. This velocity is independent of the motion of the source. Hence, the velocity of waves relative to the observer is c + vo. […] The motion of an observer does not alter the wavelength. The increase in frequency is a result of the observer encountering more wavelengths in a given time.”

  2. #2 Pentcho Valev
    July 28, 2017

    Sabine Hossenfelder: “The solution of general relativity that describes the expanding universe solves Einstein’s equations on average; it is good only on very large distances. But the solutions that describe galaxies are different – and just don’t expand. It’s not that galaxies expand unnoticeably, they don’t expand at all. The full solution, then, is both the cosmic and the local solutions stitched together: expanding space between non-expanding galaxies. (Though these solutions are usually only dealt with by computer simulations due to their mathematical complexity.)”

    A mathematical concoction obviously – physically this is absurd, to say the least.

    There is no expansion of the universe – it is STATIC. Star light slows down as it travels through the space vacuum, an effect caused by a factor equivalent to vacuum friction. For not so distant stars this is expressed as Hubble redshift but beyond a certain distance the star light does not reach us at all (Olbers’ paradox).

    The idea that vacuum can slow down light is largely discussed, but only in a quantum gravity context:

    Sabine Hossenfelder: “It’s an old story: Quantum fluctuations of space-time might change the travel-time of light. Light of higher frequencies would be a little faster than that of lower frequencies. Or slower, depending on the sign of an unknown constant. Either way, the spectral colors of light would run apart, or ‘disperse’ as they say if they don’t want you to understand what they say. Such quantum gravitational effects are miniscule, but added up over long distances they can become observable. Gamma ray bursts are therefore ideal to search for evidence of such an energy-dependent speed of light.”

    That photons lose energy/speed as they travel through vacuum is a dangerous concept so hints in that direction are rare:

    Nature: “As waves travel through a medium, they lose energy over time. This dampening effect would also happen to photons traveling through spacetime, the researchers found.”

    Quote: “Some physicists, however, suggest that there might be one other cosmic factor that could influence the speed of light: quantum vacuum fluctuation. This theory holds that so-called empty spaces in the Universe aren’t actually empty – they’re teeming with particles that are just constantly changing from existent to non-existent states. Quantum fluctuations, therefore, could slow down the speed of light.”

  3. #3 Denier
    July 28, 2017

    @Pentcho Valev wrote:

    Does this mean that the speed of the light relative to the observer shifts from c to c’=c+v, in violation of Einstein’s relativity? Yes, any correct interpretation of the Doppler effect unavoidably leads to this conclusion

    No. Of course not. No correct interpretation of the Doppler effect leads to that conclusion.

    Take for example; sound. If a man with a trumpet is standing on a train headed for you plays a note 100 meters from you at the exact same time another man 100 meters plays the same note while standing on the ground, you’ll hear two different notes. The sound coming from the man on the train will sound higher than the one from the stationary trumpeter.

    Even though the pitch is different, the two sounds get to you at the exact same time. The train did nothing to alter the 340.29 m / s speed sound is able to travel through air. The sound doesn’t come at you at ((340.29 m / s) + (train speed)). It is only the frequency of the sound waves, not the speed of the sound waves that is changed by the Doppler Effect.

  4. #4 Pentcho Valev
    July 28, 2017

    @Denier #3

    In my examples the observer was moving, not the source. When the observer is moving (and changes his speed), for both sound and light the speed of the wave (relative to the observer) varies with the speed of the observer.

    If the source is moving, you are right – the speed of sound is independent of the speed of the source. However that is not the case for light – there Einstein’s 1905 light postulate is directly refuted. Here it is:

    “…light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.” Albert Einstein, On the electrodynamics of moving bodies, 1905

    This independence from the state of motion of the light source is only possible if the motion of the source is able to change the wavelength – an ability existing for sound waves but not for light. The following two conditionals are both valid:

    (A) If the motion of the source DOES change the wavelength, the frequency shifts the observer measures ARE NOT due to changes in the speed of light – Einstein’s relativity is saved.

    (B) If the motion of the source DOES NOT change the wavelength, the frequency shifts the observer measures ARE due to changes in the speed of light – Einstein’s relativity has to be abandoned.

    Einsteinians universally teach the antecedent of (A) of course:

    Stephen Hawking, “A Brief History of Time”, Chapter 3: “Now imagine a source of light at a constant distance from us, such as a star, emitting waves of light at a constant wavelength. Obviously the wavelength of the waves we receive will be the same as the wavelength at which they are emitted (the gravitational field of the galaxy will not be large enough to have a significant effect). Suppose now that the source starts moving toward us. When the source emits the next wave crest it will be nearer to us, so the distance between wave crests will be smaller than when the star was stationary.”

    Note that, in this interpretation, “the distance between wave crests will be smaller” because the moving source is chasing the fleeing wavecrest, just as the moving source of sound does. But this implies that the speed of the wavecrests relative to the moving source is smaller than c – if I run after you, your speed relative to me is smaller than if I’m not running.

    The principle of relativity is obviously violated – by measuring the speed of the emitted light, or the wavelength of the emitted light, the source would know whether it is stationary or moving. Accordingly, the underlying assumption – that the moving source emits shorter wavelength – has to be rejected.

    The moving source does not emit shorter wavelength – it emits faster light. If the speed of the source is v, the speed of the light relative to the observer is c’=c+v, in violation of Einstein’s relativity. The increased frequency the observer measures (Doppler effect) is due to the increased speed of the light and can be regarded as an experimental refutation of Einstein’s 1905 light postulate.

  5. #5 Denier
    July 28, 2017

    @Pentcho Valev wrote:

    The moving source does not emit shorter wavelength – it emits faster light.

    No. It doesn’t. We are able to measure this in great detail and it has been tested many, many times.

    Here’s what it all boils down to. You’ve got to experimentally prove a GR prediction wrong. Thought experiments don’t count. You need a real experiment and collect real data that disagrees with GR predictions.

    No one has managed to do that so far, and it is not for a lack of trying. Einstein’s work hasn’t been enshrined as beyond question. He’s certainly made mistakes. His Cosmological Constant, rejections of Quantum Indeterminism, and condemnation of Georges Lemaitre’s work are three examples that come to mind. I know there are others. In all of the above cases other scientists kicked Einstein in the teeth and ate his lunch.

    With GR and SR, literally thousands of attempts have been made to falsify Einstein’s work. All they’ve managed to do is further confirm the robustness of the theory. Here we are over a century later and no bully has managed to so much as sniff this lunch of Einstein’s. The delicious chocolate cake is his alone.

    Until you can point to a real experiment all you do is discredit yourself. Rather than proclaim everyone who has spent their lives studying this phenomena as idiots, I’m thinking you should perhaps investigate more deeply why they think you’ve gone astray.

    Just my 2 cents. You can take it or no.

  6. #6 Pentcho Valev
    July 28, 2017

    @Denier #5

    Consider this:

    Paul Fendley, University of Virginia: “First consider light shined downward in a freely falling elevator of height h. […] By the time the light hits the bottom of the elevator, it [the elevator] is accelerated to some velocity v. […] We thus simply have v=gt=gh/c. […] Now to the earth frame. When the light beam is emitted, the elevator is at rest, so earth and elevator agree the frequency is f. But when it hits the bottom, the elevator is moving at velocity v=gh/c with respect to the earth, so earth and elevator must measure different frequencies. In the elevator, we know that the frequency is still f, so on the ground the frequency f’=f(1+v/c)=f(1+gh/c^2). On the earth, we interpret this as meaning that not only does gravity bend light, but changes its frequency as well.”

    Substituting f=c/λ (λ is the wavelength) into Fendley’s equations gives:

    f’ = f(1+v/c) = f(1+gh/c^2) = (c+v)/λ = c(1+gh/c^2)/λ = c’/λ

    where

    c’ = c+v = c(1+gh/c^2)

    is the speed of light relative to an observer on the ground or, equivalently, relative to an observer in gravitation-free space moving with speed v towards the emitter. Clearly the speed of light varies with both the gravitational potential and the speed of the observer, as predicted by Newton’s emission theory of light and in violation of Einstein’s relativity. Many scientists know and sometimes even teach that, more or less explicitly:

    Quote: “If we accept the principle of equivalence, we must also accept that light falls in a gravitational field with the same acceleration as material bodies.”

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “Consider a falling object. ITS SPEED INCREASES AS IT IS FALLING. Hence, if we were to associate a frequency with that object the frequency should increase accordingly as it falls to earth. Because of the equivalence between gravitational and inertial mass, WE SHOULD OBSERVE THE SAME EFFECT FOR LIGHT. So lets shine a light beam from the top of a very tall building. If we can measure the frequency shift as the light beam descends the building, we should be able to discern how gravity affects a falling light beam. This was done by Pound and Rebka in 1960. They shone a light from the top of the Jefferson tower at Harvard and measured the frequency shift. The frequency shift was tiny but in agreement with the theoretical prediction. Consider a light beam that is travelling away from a gravitational field. Its frequency should shift to lower values. This is known as the gravitational red shift of light.”

    Albert Einstein Institute: “One of the three classical tests for general relativity is the gravitational redshift of light or other forms of electromagnetic radiation. However, in contrast to the other two tests – the gravitational deflection of light and the relativistic perihelion shift -, you do not need general relativity to derive the correct prediction for the gravitational redshift. A combination of Newtonian gravity, a particle theory of light, and the weak equivalence principle (gravitating mass equals inertial mass) suffices. […] The gravitational redshift was first measured on earth in 1960-65 by Pound, Rebka, and Snider at Harvard University…”

    Pound, Rebka and Snider knew that their experiments had confirmed the variation of the speed of light predicted by Newton’s emission theory of light, not the gravitational time dilation predicted by Einstein’s relativity:

    R. V. Pound and G. A. Rebka, Jr, “APPARENT WEIGHT OF PHOTONS”

    R. V. Pound and J. L. Snider, Effect of Gravity on Gamma Radiation: “It is not our purpose here to enter into the many-sided discussion of the relationship between the effect under study and general relativity or energy conservation. It is to be noted that no strictly relativistic concepts are involved and the description of the effect as an “apparent weight” of photons is suggestive. The velocity difference predicted is identical to that which a material object would acquire in free fall for a time equal to the time of flight.”

  7. #7 Omega Centauri
    July 28, 2017

    Ethan, speak for yourself. Some of us have to struggle mightily to fight the tendency to expand!

  8. #8 Pentcho Valev
    July 28, 2017

    @Denier #5

    The truth about the Michelson-Morley experiment: Without recourse to miraculous ad hoc hypotheses (in Banesh Hoffmann’s words, “without recourse to contracting lengths, local time, or Lorentz transformations”) the experiment unequivocally confirms the variable speed of light predicted by Newton’s emission theory of light and refutes the constant (independent of the speed of the light source) speed of light posited by the ether theory and adopted by Einstein as his special relativity’s second postulate:

    John Norton: “”To it, we should add that the null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment was unhelpful and possibly counter-productive in Einstein’s investigations of an emission theory of light, for the null result is predicted by an emission theory.”

    John Norton: “The Michelson-Morley experiment is fully compatible with an emission theory of light that CONTRADICTS THE LIGHT POSTULATE.”

    Banesh Hoffmann, Relativity and Its Roots, p.92: “Moreover, if light consists of particles, as Einstein had suggested in his paper submitted just thirteen weeks before this one, the second principle seems absurd: A stone thrown from a speeding train can do far more damage than one thrown from a train at rest; the speed of the particle is not independent of the motion of the object emitting it. And if we take light to consist of particles and assume that these particles obey Newton’s laws, they will conform to Newtonian relativity and thus automatically account for the null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment without recourse to contracting lengths, local time, or Lorentz transformations. Yet, as we have seen, Einstein resisted the temptation to account for the null result in terms of particles of light and simple, familiar Newtonian ideas, and introduced as his second postulate something that was more or less obvious when thought of in terms of waves in an ether. If it was so obvious, though, why did he need to state it as a principle? Because, having taken from the idea of light waves in the ether the one aspect that he needed, he declared early in his paper, to quote his own words, that “the introduction of a ‘luminiferous ether’ will prove to be superfluous.”

    Wikipedia: “Emission theory, also called emitter theory or ballistic theory of light, was a competing theory for the special theory of relativity, explaining the results of the Michelson–Morley experiment of 1887. […] The name most often associated with emission theory is Isaac Newton. In his corpuscular theory Newton visualized light “corpuscles” being thrown off from hot bodies at a nominal speed of c with respect to the emitting object, and obeying the usual laws of Newtonian mechanics, and we then expect light to be moving towards us with a speed that is offset by the speed of the distant emitter (c ± v).”

    Richard Feynman, “QED: The strange theory of light and matter”, p. 15: “I want to emphasize that light comes in this form – particles. It is very important to know that light behaves like particles, especially for those of you who have gone to school, where you probably learned something about light behaving like waves. I’m telling you the way it does behave – like particles. You might say that it’s just the photomultiplier that detects light as particles, but no, every instrument that has been designed to be sensitive enough to detect weak light has always ended up discovering the same thing: light is made of particles.”

  9. #9 Alan G.
    Nelson, B.C.
    July 28, 2017

    Can’t wait to pop the corn and pop the top for reading these Sunday night. This is gonna be epic, and the start is not disappointing…

  10. #10 eric
    July 28, 2017

    PV@6

    Clearly the speed of light varies with both the gravitational potential and the speed of the observer

    Point 1: so get yourself a couple of accurate cloclks, some detectors, an elevator, a flashlight, and do the experiment. Report your actual results. If you measure a different c, and it’s reproducible, you’ll have something. Until you do that,

    Point 2: your equations rely on treating macroscopic objects (like elevators) like photons. They use lambda*v = c to substitute in a frequency for the elevator.

    Point 3: could you provide a cite for Dr. Findley’s paper or article? I put in your quote and the only thing the internet brings up is..you quoting him. More interestingly, sometimes you claim this is a quote from a “Paul Findley” and sometimes you claim it’s a quote from “Michael Fowler” (see here for an example of the latter). This makes me suspect some level of misrepresentation or sock puppeting. Are you claiming two different professors, both at UVA, are both relativity skeptics and both said exactly the same thing in different papers or reports? Oh and incidentally, there is no “Paul Findley” on staff at UVA in either the astronomy or physics department.

  11. #11 Pentcho Valev
    July 28, 2017

    @eric #10

    Google for “Lecture 35 Paul Fendley Yumpu”.

    You wrote: “This makes me suspect some level of misrepresentation or sock puppeting. Are you claiming two different professors, both at UVA, are both relativity skeptics and both said exactly the same thing in different papers or reports? Oh and incidentally, there is no “Paul Findley” on staff at UVA in either the astronomy or physics department.”

    Perhaps you don’t understand the quotations and are more interested in this thriller-like story in which I appear to be a fraudster. He is “Paul Fendley”, not “Paul Findley”, and may or may not be on staff at UVA currently. Also, both Michael Fowler and Paul Fendley are faithful Einsteinians (perhaps). But, believe me, all this is totally irrelevant. I have been quoting Michael Fowler and Paul Fendley for many years, and if there had been “misrepresentation or sock puppeting”, vigilant Einsteinians would have tarred and feathered me long ago.

  12. #12 John
    Baltimore
    July 29, 2017

    The “everything is shrinking” was never an engaging idea for me. Perhaps it was because I was inculcated with the Einsteinian world view early on.

  13. #13 dean
    July 29, 2017

    Look at UVA for Paul Fendley. Get this

    No information about this person is available

    What a surprise considering who referenced him

  14. #14 eric
    July 31, 2017

    But, believe me, all this is totally irrelevant. I have been quoting Michael Fowler and Paul Fendley for many years

    Indeed, you not only quote them both, you quote them both saying exactly the same words!

  15. #15 Alan G.
    Abu Dhabi, UAE
    July 31, 2017

    Pentcho Valev #11:
    Quote: “But, believe me, all this is totally irrelevant.”

    It’s good to see you finally make this admission. It truly is the first step in the reconciliation process. Good on you.

  16. #16 Graham dickin
    August 5, 2017

    Reading the posts it’s amazing that people with an interest in finding answers get so annoyed at other people’s thoughts.We are all wrong time will show that some wrongs were closer to the truth .Open friendly discussion a willingness to consider other view points will find the truth no quicker but in a lot more informative manner with a fuller and rounder appreciation.

  17. #17 Graham dickin
    August 5, 2017

    Picture if you will the universe on the skin of a balloon.Sometimes the balloon inflates sometimes it deflates so space time increases and decreases along the same lines.In the centre of the balloon is the 96 percent of matter that appears to be missing.Its there in the same state as at the moment of inflation.The black holes at the centre of galaxies are crushing matter and feeding the inside of the balloon .Quasars are feeding the excess mater back on to the skin.The ratio of Quasars to black hole activity varies according to the balance required.Back ground radiation remains a more or less constant.The visable universe is always around 90 or so billion light years.But there isn’t just one balloon there is an infinite number all linked with wormholes ,space and time overlaps and bend and warps and all the other things we have yet to discover.Now you will say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one!!

  18. #18 Graham dickin
    August 6, 2017

    The actual size could be anything up to 250 times the visible.At inflation the drag of time allowed the space to fill because there was no time .When time made the forth dimension then a a space time layer enclosed the balloon the centre is still timeless so nothing will be formed in there.The space time layer is thick enough so a refraction can take place of 90 degrees thus looking outward means we are looking along the space time layer endless emptiness.

  19. #19 Vidyardhi Nanduri
    visitor-chicago
    August 7, 2017

    sub; cosmological index- Creative Spirit beyond heart of the Universe.One needs to look at cosmos quest- Alfven’s beyond Van Allen belts, add Carl Sagan Search-cosmology myth to Science-need to interlink base concepts- source, fields, Flows, reflectors and protective Index to prime concepts.
    invisible-Visible Matrix of the universe has super-imposition at milky-way Galactic frame. plasma Regulated electromagnetic phenomena in Magnetic field environment.
    horizontal mode integrates to vertical Mode-see Spinal Column- ad Consciousness heps to revise Cosmology studies-no big-bang , chaos, black-hole psychology or our ignorance. Look beyond dark concepts-let there be light and lead kindly Light. New dimensional Science at your doorstep through nature and Science in philosophy.15 Books at LULU,5 Books on global distribution-the Subject on Cosmology vedas interlinks need bst of brains trust.

  20. #20 fredrick
    Ohio, USA
    October 12, 2017

    The drawing at the top of this page is nearly identical identical to one used by Dr. David Silva, NOAO, tonight in his lecture on deep field maps at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This not a plagiarism question and I am not a scientist so perhaps this question has a simple answer and my confusion is rooted in a 2d representation, but here goes . . . .

    Both graphics depict the big bang as spewing stuff in one direction, as if the explosion were specifically directed by a sort of shape charge similar to those used in mining and building implosions. In other words the stuff is all traveling east, metaphorically from the point of the bang. However, explosions that are not constrained, as the big bang presumably was not, spew stuff in all directions.

    It follows that just as the stuff in which we reside is escaping to the metaphorical east and expanding more rapidly now, other stuff should be traveling metaphorically west from the bang, and metaphorically north from the bang and metaphorically south from the bang and in all other compass points around the entire circumference of the bang at the same speed.