The Ten Cosmic FallaciesAuthor: John Prytz
A key question in modern cosmology, rarely asked, its answer usually assumed, is whether or not the Big Bang event actually created space and time, as well as producing or providing our supply of matter/energy that we observe all around us. The central foundation of the Big Bang event, apart from the observational evidence of an expanding cosmos, was that the Big Bang event somehow created time and space, out of nothing for apparently no reason, and thus, the often assumed answer is "Yes". But, there's no evidence for this (and if they did that would exhibit causality lacking in the standard Big Bang scenario). No laboratory has ever created time and/or space. There's no real even theoretical recipe textbook way of doing this.
What if one rejects that premise? So, what if the answer instead is "No"? What if the Big Bang was created out of something, and for a reason? Then it's a whole new ballgame! If time and space pre-existed the Big Bang event, 13.7 billion years ago, then that suggests that because time existed prior to the Big Bang event, that there was a chain of events (a cause) that led up to and included the Big Bang (an effect). In fact, I invoke the principle of causality (cause and effect) which is one of the, if not the, foundation upon which all science is based, to ‘prove' (as far as that's possible, but which is as close to certainty IMHO as makes no odds) that the Big Bang event had a cause. Therefore, there had to have been a before-the-Big-Bang. Hells, bells, even "The Bible" attributes a cause to the origin of the Universe – ‘In the beginning, God created…". Ditto that for all other major religions.
Faced with a choice between accepting a Big Bang event that had a cause, and a Big Bang event that had no cause, I'll accept the former (hands down) and consign the latter to the fantasy land occupied by such notables as Santa Claus, James Bond, Little Red Riding Hood, Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Tooth Fairy, Harry Potter, the Easter Bunny, assorted elves, goblins and the Loch Ness Monster! Anyone believing that all of time, space, matter and energy, were created out of absolutely nothing, for absolutely no reason, is living in that same fantasy land.
Now if space existed prior to the Big Bang, then clearly the Big Bang event had coordinates (a centre or defined place) where the event happened. Also, it suggests that our Universe is currently expanding throughout that pre-existing space. Until such time as cosmologists can actually explain in detail how the Big Bang event created space and time, I'll assume the opposite and follow the implications trail of that. But that's not the end to what I consider the cosmological fallacies, IMHO.
#1: The origin of our observable universe (and in fact the Universe) can be traced back to as close to time equals zero, and space equals zero, as makes no odds. However, astronomers can't really see beyond roughly 380,000 years after the Big Bang event. It's only then that the Universe would have cooled enough to allow for atoms to exist and for the Universe to become transparent enough to allow electromagnetic radiation to pass. The remnants of that are observed as the cosmic microwave background radiation, now cooled to a temperature of some 2.7 degrees Kelvin. It's like with the Sun. At the core, the Sun is opaque to photons. It's only when they worm themselves up to the solar surface that things are cool enough, and transparent enough, to race away into space. However, although there's no way we can observe any electromagnetic radiation at an earlier era, astronomers can, using their equations, extrapolate further back – in fact back to very tiny micro-seconds after the Big Bang when those equations break down. At such time, the universe would have been small enough that quantum physics ruled. But, just because one can theoretically extrapolate earlier than 380,000 years after the Big Bang, doesn't mean that such theoretical cosmology represents what actually happened – again because there's no observable evidence. At 380,000 years old, the Universe wouldn't have been a quantum universe, but a fully formed macro Universe. Perhaps something happened at an earlier stage but that something just wasn't within the realm of quantum physics. [It must be noted that the search is on for primordial gravity waves, which, if found, would be observations of an even earlier era. So far, no luck, but in fairness, gravity waves (past or current) would be very hard to detect. Stay tuned!]
Actually, in other words, it's not so much that I object to extrapolating back towards the beginning (time equals zero) but rather uniformly extrapolating the ever decreasing volume of the Universe to where it (for all practical purposes) vanishes or becomes quantum-sized. The contracting volume of the Universe IMHO gets to a finite (macro) volume where it then ceases decreasing further in volume, and that point is reached well before time equals (near) zero. That volume might be in the range of a stellar to galactic sized object. That might be a reasonable volume to cram the contents of the Universe down into. It's more believable than cramming the Universe into a volume less than that occupied by an atom!
#2: You can not squeeze, IMHO, all the matter/energy contents of our observable universe, far less the entire Universe, into a volume that is properly the realm of the quantum or micro-verse. That's just common sense. However, that's what apparently the standard cosmological model (the Big Bang scenario) calls for. Now if you really believe the Big Bang was a quantum-sized event, then I suggest you can also be easily persuaded to believe that politicians have first and uppermost our best interests at heart, and not their best interests at heart – especially around election time!
#3: And in a somewhat similar fashion, IMHO, singularities may not be micro (quantum realm) objects either. Firstly, it's common sense that a singularity can not have zero volume and infinite density. Therefore, a singularity must have a finite volume and a finite density. As one adds more and more stuff to a singularity, the volume may remain constant while the density increases. But, because density can not hit infinity, it must have a limit. When that limit is reached, the volume of the singularity must increase. It follows therefore that the size of a singularity will eventually reach macro dimensions and fall out of the realm of quantum physics.
There's another reason why a singularity can not have zero volume and infinite density. If gravitational attraction increases as the density of something increases (the Sun, compressed to the size of a bowling ball, would have a lot more pull than said ball). So, what would the gravity be for something of so-called infinite density (i.e. – a singularity)? Well, it would have to also be infinite. Clearly singularities exist (because Black Holes have been verified to exist) and clearly we're not being attracted to them by their infinite gravitational pull (gravity might decrease with increasing distance away from the source of that gravity in accord with the well known Newtonian formula, but any decrease in infinity (say infinity divided by two) still leaves infinity. Therefore, either singularities do not exist, or they aren't infinitely dense.
#4: Space is expanding, according to cosmologists, carrying the entire Universe's matter/energy along for the piggyback ride. Thus we see the expanding Universe. However, IMHO, that's nonsense. The Universe (matter/energy) is expanding all right, but expanding through already existing and static space. The oomph that's driving the expansion of matter/energy through existing space is the energy or force of the Big Bang event itself.
Part and parcel of that expanding space idea is the concept of inflation that happened either just before of after the Big Bang event. Inflation is proposed to explain various cosmological observations, and suggests that a very sudden, but very short lived period existed where our embryo Universe increased in size (or inflated like a balloon) dramatically, so dramatically in fact that I have a problem with the concept. The one problem I have with the inflation concept is that apparently, for the duration that inflation existed, space was expanding at faster than light speed. Now that in itself is not the problem. That's allowable. The problem is that if space carries matter/energy along for the ride, the piggyback scenario above, then that matter/energy must have been moving, for the duration, faster than the speed of light, and that's not allowed.
If there is any observational test that can, and has, been made, which distinguishes between galaxies being carried piggyback by expanding space, and galaxies moving through existing space, I'm not aware of it.
#5: Although cosmologists inform us that there is no actual centre or location within our Universe where the Big Bang happened, that's nonsense, IMHO. Assuming a Big Bang (of some sort), it did not create space and time. How can any natural process create space and time is beyond me. Space is nothing, albeit a flexible nothing. Space is a 100% perfect vacuum in which all existing matter/energy resides, including containing the matter/energy that is what we term the vacuum energy or quantum jitters*. Time is just a measurement of the rate of change we observe in matter/energy, changes which can vary according to the Relativity Theories*. If the Big Bang did not create time and space, then time and space pre-existed when that cosmological event happened. Therefore, it had a specific location (coordinates) in that space (and time) – assuming there was an intelligence around to provide them. We have given the Universe coordinates (a cosmic latitude and longitude) in order to know where to point our telescopes. So, why can't we point our telescopes at these Big Bang coordinates – this point of origin coordinates – and observe directly the remnants of the Big Bang? Well, consider the following as an analogy. Say we have a heated oven (the Big Bang) in an enclosed room (the Universe). Now we turn the oven off. After an hour, it would be still obvious where the heat originated and coordinates (in the room) of same. However, after ten days, the oven is the same temperature as the entire room, and it is no longer obvious where the point of origin of the heat came from. Alas, we're at the ten day point. Since the Universe as a whole is at a uniform temperature (the cosmic microwave background radiation), ditto wherever the Big Bang occurred. One set of coordinates is identical in appearance to any other set. We have no idea therefore where to point our telescope, and even if we did, it wouldn't enlighten us.
#6: Cosmologists and science writers when trying to explain our evolving and expanding Big Bang Universe to the great unwashed, often use an analogy of an expanding balloon with painted dot ‘galaxies' on the expanding surface to represent our expanding Universe and the galaxies within, nearly all of which are receding away from each other in a precise mathematical manner. It's nonsense!
The expanding Universe is a three dimensional object – it has volume.
The expanding balloon is a three dimensional object – it too has volume.
So why one is asked to just believe or picture the expanding two dimensional outside surface of the balloon as representing our expanding three dimensional Universe escapes me!
That said, of course painted dot ‘galaxies' on the balloon's expanding surface will all be moving away from each other in a precise mathematical relationship that mirrors the real galaxies recession from each other, but…
If you could imagine these painted dot ‘galaxies' inside the expanding balloon (and not just on the surface), and if you can imagine the expanding space inside the balloon carrying these painted dot ‘galaxies' in a piggyback fashion, then the painted dot ‘galaxies' inside the balloon would also be getting further and further apart from one another in a precise mathematical relationship.
Another problem with the analogy is that we are taught that there's no preferred place or exact geographical location for the origin of the expanding Universe. Yet clearly, even in the two dimensional surface-only picture, there is a specific point or origin or location of the cause – the point where the air is being pumped in.
In either case, whether two dimensions or three dimensions, the balloon analogy is wrong in that expanding space isn't carrying the galaxies piggyback, but that the galaxies are moving through existing static space.
Ask yourself this question: Is the Andromeda Galaxy – which we can easily observe (or our own Milky Way Galaxy for that matter) on the surface of anything? The Andromeda Galaxy is not on the surface of anything! It is inside outer space, not on the surface of outer space. Outer space does not have a surface. The correct balloon analogy is that the Great Galaxy of Andromeda is inside the expanding balloon, not a dot on the surface of the balloon.
#7: There was absolutely nothing before the Big Bang event – no time, no space, no matter, no energy. Asking what happened before the Big Bang is akin to asking ‘what's the shape of a square triangle?'! At least that's the standard spiel. Of course if space and time have existed for all eternity, then lots of things, happenings, events, etc. preceded our Big Bang, IMHO. Unfortunately, with respect to cosmology, I've locked myself philosophically into taking the point of view that there are no absolute beginnings or first causes. By crossing these concepts off from consideration from the first, it eliminates a lot of otherwise potential messy details, like how does one create from absolute nothing things like time, space, matter and energy? (I can just imagine some stereotyped ‘mad scientist' in his basement laboratory creating these from first principles – that would really muck up the works, but then again, if Mother Nature could do it, shouldn't we be able to do it too – at least in theory?)
#8: The "Cosmic Coincidence" is just that – a coincidence – and coincidences don't require explanations, IMHO. For example, if someone in Canberra gets up at 7 am, has corn flakes for breakfast, wears a red tie to work, and has a wife and two kids, and someone in Sydney also gets up at 7 am, has corn flakes for breakfast, wears a red tie to work, and has a wife and two kids, that's pure coincidence and no explanation is required. Now the "Cosmic Coincidence" relates to the fact that the cosmological constant or dark energy or the vacuum energy responsible for the acceleration of the already existing expansion of our observable universe happens to be roughly equivalent in strength to the Universe's matter density. The former is forever constant despite the expansion while the latter is forever decreasing as matter (gravity) is being diluted due to that same expansion. Of course the two lines have to cross at some point in time; it's just that that time just happens to coincide with roughly a time that's compatible to our own existence. If cosmologists suspect some deeper meaning behind the crossing of those two events, and that we're simultaneously here to make note of it, then perhaps it should be termed something akin to a ‘fortuitous cosmic happening' or ‘fortuitous cosmic occurrence'.
#9: That there is only one Universe (ours) is often taken as a given (or for granted). But to repeat myself, if Mother Nature can produce one (our) Universe, then She can produce more than one. The Multiverse is quite a viable/reasonable hypothesis IMHO.
#10: That String or M-Theory will come to the rescue of and shortcomings in the standard cosmological (Big Bang) model. That, IMHO, is highly unlikely. After over two decades, despite the efforts of hundreds of physicists, and thousands of academic papers, String or M-Theory (including Branes) remains just a theoretical mathematical playground. It has no runs on the board, not one shred or iota of hardcore evidence as provided by any experiment to date. Thus, ideas akin to the Ekpyrotic Universe remain in the realm of science fiction – at least in the here and now.
Science librarian; retired.