The Big Bang Theory has been, for the last 75 or so years, the scientific explanation for the formation and existence of the world; it follows a long line of prior scientific theories meant to account for same. It should be borne in mind that before the turn of the last century scientists did not even recognize galaxies outside our own. Well now they are as accepted as the stars, but despite years of working on it, scientists have yet to determine the actual distance these foreign galaxies are from our now “cosmologically insignificant” Earth.
Accounting for this Fall of Earth in scientific circles, from this planet’s once being the center of the universe as Ptolemy thought, to it being now a “trifle,” or a “speck,” perhaps from an interpretation of what Copernicus thought, is no simple matter. As with dating methods, the assumptions and quality of the science meant to support the Big Bang need to be studied. We need to understand how this theory works, and get a handle on the processes by which it is justfied. We need to seek its proof.
The picture which heads this post earned its creators the Nobel Prize, and is actually supposed to be showing the birth of the universe, the seeds of the universe! It is also a major point of contention in science right now, and if successfully challenged and proved to be something else, as one scientist claims, it would strike all but a death blow to conventional Big Bang Theory. Read about it if you can, one place is here and about the scientist questioning it here.
History and Hubble
There is no better way to start this than by our old reliable History. And clearly, regarding this subject, the first person we should bring up is he by whose work the Big Bang owes its existence, and that person is Edwin Hubble, or as I might refer to him as on occasion, Mr. Telescope.
Before 1939, when Hubble began studying Andromeda, it was assumed by the science that Andromeda, the supernova, was found in our galaxy. In fact it was believed by the space experts and astronomers before Hubble that ALL the objects of the night sky were contained in our own galaxy.
Well with Hubble that all changed. While a few people before him postulated that these novae and supernovae were other galaxies, by his work the picture of our universe was altered significantly, because, it is said, he was the first to provide proof. Let’s try to find out then about Mr. Telescope’s proof that those hazy objects in the night sky, with small white dots are really galaxies and not nebulae.
Red Shifts and Doppler Effects
Now as radioactive dating uses the special, and questionable term “half-life” to describe the decay of elements, the special tool used by Hubble is what we call red shifts. It is by virtue of the supposed values of these red shifts that we have now placed Andromeda lights years outside the Milky Way galaxy, from its more cozy confines prior. I wish to restate one thing before we get into these red shifts. Whenever we start to get into the deeper explanations of these devices, like red shift, like Doppler effect, or like half-life, we usually find that their existence and validity rarely come into question. In short, too many don’t bother to question the presumptions that lead to their “results.”
When you consider that these explanations get more technical, or as one scientist writes “they cannot be comprehended by the layman,” you begin to realize that it is not the layman’s common sense that is failing him. Rather, it is the science that seems to be incomprehensible, and lauding itself as superior nevertheless. As Occam said, for any theory to be any good, it has to be comprehensible. Making up their own vocabularies, their own language and mathematics, to explain their “progress,” I think we can all agree, is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, asking people to invest in something that might make them feel better for the time being, but which in the end will only benefit the scheme’s creator.
Off the dais now, let’s see what we can discover about these red shifts. If you will remember from High School, the colors of the light spectrum are ROYGBIV, or red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The difference in their appearance is due to the frequency and length of the waves. Scientists have determined that the further left you go on the spectrum–that is, red being the least active–the less active are the optical waves. Compare the Doppler effect, which measures sound rather than light waves relative to an observer, like when an airplane passes overhead and the sound changes to your ear. The sound appears closer because the wave lengths are changing. A red shift is similar to this Doppler effect, only regarding luminosity—light waves—rather than sound waves; a red shift apparently means an observed light is moving away from you, while its converse, a blue shift, would imply the light is moving closer to you.
According to Wikipedia:
“Any increase in wavelength is called “redshift”, even if it occurs in electromagnetic radiation of non-optical wavelengths, such as gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet. This nomenclature might be confusing since, at wavelengths longer than red (e.g., infrared, microwaves, and radio waves), redshifts shift the radiation away from the red wavelengths.”
Here is an idealized picture of the Doppler effect, coming from the left:
So, while we can use the red shifts to determine whether the universe is expanding or contracting, we are told at the same time that other non-optical waves, like electromagnetic waves, can alter the actual measurements we obtain.
The special relativistic redshift formula (and its Newtonian approximation) applies only when spacetime is flat. Where gravitational effects are important, redshift must be calculated using general relativity. Two important special-case formulas are the so-called gravitational redshift cosmological redshift formula which applies to the expanding universe of Big Bang cosmology. [ibid].
A special theory to support a special theory.
The Milky Way, Milky Way Bars, and New Discoveries
But we still need to know, how then can these shifts help us understand whether the universe is expanding, which is probably likely (think of the converse possibility…) but not necessarily indicative of a Big Bang. More importantly, how far away are these celestial objects? And how do we know it?
Consider a photo of the Milky Way galaxy. We have all seen these. How, do you ask, can we get such a picture? No human or satellite has ever gone outside the galaxy to snap it. We must, it seems, be able to do no better than get a portion of it in our lenses. We need better proof for even what I have always believed to be fact, namely, that those things in the sky are really galaxies, like our own, and not, as supposed previously by science, nebulae.
The Milky Way, we have now found out despite the renaming of the nebulae, is no ordinary galaxy. Studies of the stars in the center of the Milky Way, by astronomers and physicists at the University of Wisconsin, led by Edward Churchwell and Robert Benjamin, seem to demonstrate that our galaxy uniquely possesses a “definitive bar feature” that distinguishes it from other galaxies. This bar feature is supposedly over 27,000 light years in length. This makes it also different than other bar “galaxies.” But since we only can see portions of our galaxy at a time, even this science is bound to change.
If our galaxy is not like the other galaxies, what makes those other nebulae galaxies at all? As we search for this answer, all we seem to be able to obtain is theory upon theory, and proofs based on other theory. Indeed, if those tiny white specks found in those fuzzy space fogs are not stars, as we thought before Hubble, then the existence of any galaxy beyond our “lowly” Milky Way would be doubtful. Everything celestial would be within the Milky Way, which would for all practical purposes be the extent of the universe.
In fact, recently we have made what I would call a major discovery, given the circumstances, which states that our very own galaxy no longer has four spiral arms as once thought, but now has only two, and actually resembles the ancient symbol of the swastika, very holy in the East to this day. More information on this very good read can be found here and about the swastika being ancient symbols for the Universe (or our galaxy) here. Compare the artist’s rendition, based on the new research, above, with this diagram below:
Measuring Distances in Space
Science uses various methods to determine the distance celestial objects are from us. All the methods, however, rely on the assumption that light consistently, on Earth as well as in space, moves at the tidy speed of 300,000 kilometers a second. I will not challenge this at this time, but we must admit the number is awfully precise.We should also add that other types of rays such as we have discussed, such as radio waves, microwaves, visible light, and X-rays, are also said to move at that rate.
For distances within the solar system, we often use radar. More specifically, and easily explained, we take a laser beam, aim it at the object, and wait for its return. The time it takes for the beam to return, calculated along using the speed of light, determines the distance. It is the most reliable method but limited. It would take thousands of years to get a return of that light if the beam is just aimed at a remote star in our own galaxy.
Astronomers usually use the method known as stellar parallax when they wish to study nearby stars in our galaxy. The object must be closer than 100 light years (!) away. Using the geometry of the earth’s revolving around the sun alone, this method uses the general parallax theory and adapts it to the observed star. General parallax theory states more or less that an object varies in distance relative to our position. Starchild at NASA gives this, I think adequate explanation of general parallax:
“Hold out your thumb at arm’s length, close one of your eyes, and examine the relative position of your thumb against other distant (background) objects, such as a window, wall, or tree. Now look at your thumb with your other eye. What do you notice? Move your thumb closer to your face and repeat the experiment. What was different this time? This is a demonstration of the parallax effect: the apparent shift in position of a relatively nearby object against more distant ones when viewed from different vantage points”
So, as the Earth revolves around the sun, our perspective of a particular star changes. From the same source, “…knowing the size of Earth’s orbit and measuring the angles of the light from the star at two points in the orbit, the distance to the star can be derived. The farther the star is, the smaller the angles. For stars more than about 100 light-years from Earth, we cannot measure any shift and the method fails.” Read more here.
Using Cepheids, or stars which pulse, or dim and brighten and grow and shrink, at what appear to be regular intervals, is how we measure the distance of the more remote stars in our galaxy, and sometimes even those in other nebulae galaxies. NASA itself has noted the problems with the procedures used for plotting and measuring these distances:
“There have been a number of difficulties associated with using Cepheids as distance indicators. Until recently, astronomers used photographic plates to measure the fluxes from stars. The plates were highly non-linear and often produced faulty flux measurements. Since massive stars are short-lived, they are always located near their dusty birthplaces. Dust absorbs light, particularly at blue wavelengths where most photographic images were taken, and if not properly corrected for, this dust absorption can lead to erroneous luminosity determinations. Finally, it has been very difficult to use ground-based telescopes to detect Cepheids in distant galaxies: Earth’s fluctuating atmosphere makes it impossible to separate these stars from the diffuse light of their host galaxies.
Another difficulty with using Cepheids as distance indicators has been the problem of determining the distance to a sample of nearby Cepheids. In recent years, this problem has lessened. Astronomers have developed several very reliable and independent methods of determining the distances to the Large Magellanic Cloud and Small Magellanic Cloud, two of the satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Since both of the Magellanic Clouds contain large numbers of Cepheids, they can be used to calibrate the distance scale” (source here [note 2-10-2013 – these NASA links are down. Gone, where, why, or for how long I do not know. I’ll keep them up for the time being to see if they reappear]).
Problems never stop science, nor should they. However the extremely tentative nature of all these mega-measuring devices could use a great deal more scrutiny than I will provide right now. We’ll need for now to call this an experimental method, and accept that the nature of Cepheids are as we are told they are, despite their great distance away, and despite the conjecture regarding them. Read a very good critique of this method, albeit from a Biblical point of view, in this PDF document here.
Finally, for remote distances, scientists today use either the aforementioned red-shift-Doppler plottings, or they use data based on supposedly measurable, constant qualities of–yes they still exist– supernovae. Since, however, the distances of these supernovae to our Earth are determined by the other methods we have just discussed, it would, logically, rise or fall with the fate of those. For our purposes, our need for truth that makes sense, so far science’s foundations for the Big Bang Theory seem to be hyperspace hyperbole, another instance of science’s building mega-structures on shaky foundations. As theory or legend, like Zeus and his thunderbolts, that is fine. As science, our measurements and methods are becoming more and more an example of circular argumentation, and a massive brainwashing scheme, than a relaying of facts deserving of merit.
Let’s close this section of introduction and keep our fingers crossed that something that doesn’t rely on this grasping at straws will pop up as we dive into the Big Bang Theory proper next time.