On this page we will look at the two main constructs of cosmology and detail their failings, before looking at other, less physical ideas. We will start with the big bang, and then consider black holes here. You will find parallel universes below.
There is a saying amongst physics professionals that there is ‘speculation, pure speculation and cosmology’. It is certainly one of the most speculative and hence least scientific parts of physics. If you have read what this website has to say about special and general relativity and quantum mechanics, you will realise that to win that competition hands down is no mean feat.
In other areas, we have tried to improve the physics by separating out a core that is scientifically sound. In cosmology, there is almost nothing left.
The big bang
What we know, with a reasonable degree of certainty, is that we live in a galaxy called the Milky Way, composed of billions of stars, that ours is one of billions of galaxies and that the light we see from distant galaxies is shifted to the red by an amount proportional to distance. Those distances are so huge that we measure them by how many billion years it takes for that light to reach us. Since light travels 300,000 km each second, these are distances that are very hard to imagine. The distances we are given are almost certainly wrong, many of them massively underestimated, but we’ll get to that.
The red shift
When the red shift of distant galaxies was discovered, an explanation was required. Cosmologists wondered whether atoms emitting light a long time ago might have done so at different frequencies, but there was no way to check this suggestion, so it was abandoned.
Since red light is at lower frequencies than blue light, cosmologists pondered a mechanism for shifting frequencies through energy loss, but could not find one, and so this ‘tired light’ hypothesis was also abandoned.
The one suggestion that worked well in the early years of the theory was that the galaxies were all flying apart, and that the cosmological redshift was a simple Doppler effect, such as the change in tone of a police siren as it passes. At that time the only complication was that this implied a big bang some billions of years ago that started this universal expansion. This was and remains an astonishing suggestion that physicists have been able to speculate about but never get to grips with.
It has become accepted through use and familiarity, and become the source of much quasi-scientific speculation, but has never been amenable to proper scientific analysis or explanation.
Analysing the big bang
Everyone with any degree of scientific nous knew from the start that the big bang was going to be scientifically problematic. How and why did it occur, and what did it look like in the very initial stages? Most crucially, was the entire Universe localised as a dot, of small or zero dimension? If it was, then the Universe has always had an outer boundary, but what would that look like, what would happen there, and what is outside it? If not, then the Universe has always been infinite, including in its first moment when its density was unimaginably great, but the idea of an infinitely large Universe, with each small portion containing a near-infinite amount of matter is just as bizarre. The gravitational attraction would be similarly overwhelming.
I have chosen to look at this property of the early Universe for two reasons. Firstly, whatever you come up with is scientifically untenable. Secondly, and as a consequence of this, any discussion of this problem is omitted in any lecture you have ever attended on the big bang and from every television documentary you have ever seen. Good science focuses on its problems, bad science looks the other way.
Analysing the Doppler effect is simple. If an aircraft is flying directly towards you at the speed of sound, all of its noise arrives with you at the same time, and we experience a sonic boom. If an aircraft is flying directly away from you at the speed of sound, the wavelength of the sound is doubled and the frequency is halved. In musical terms, the tone decreases one octave.
The way the redshift is measured is as follows: a redshift of one means a doubling of wavelength; a redshift of two means a tripling; and so on.
It is assumed in modern physics, and I think this is a pretty reliable assumption, that nothing can travel faster than light or as fast as it. We see that limit theoretically in the Lorentz transformation and in practice in our particle accelerators. This would limit redshifts to just less than one, but we routinely observe redshifts in excess of ten.
We have seen in other areas of physics that there are ideas that have been inappropriately dignified with the term ‘theory’ and the central problem of cosmology is that virtually all of its ideas are of this low standard.
In order to ‘explain’ high redshifts, cosmology has come up with the idea that, not only are distant galaxies receding because of a big bang, but the space between us and them is constantly expanding and so progressively stretching the wavelength of itinerant light. Anyone with a scientific bent will recognise the problems with calling this a theory: it is ad hoc, unfalsifiable, and completely avoids any consideration of causal reasoning. It is also improperly specified, left vague so as to bypass any consideration of how it works and what happens to material objects within these regions. This is storytelling, not explanation.
Another problem with the big bang is that explosions tend to be messy, and highly non-uniform. In contrast, the observable Universe is remarkably uniform. The most distant galaxies and galactic formations look remarkably like ours.
The ‘solution’ to this is something called inflation, again inappropriately dignified by the epithet ‘theory’. This is a huge and rapid expansion of the early Universe in a tiny fraction of a nanosecond that stopped as suddenly and inexplicably as it started, and that ‘froze in’ the small degree of non-uniformity in the exceptionally early Universe.
It is a measure of the low level of scientific rigour throughout cosmology and wider physics that this was accepted almost overnight. Simply, more fantasy storytelling as a way of bypassing the need for explanation.
The big bang as science
It is easy to see how the expanding Universe explanation for the observed redshift of distant galaxies was a better bet than the alternatives in the early years when it suggested that galaxies were moving apart at speeds up to one tenth of the speed of light. It was scientific, and left only the initial moments as scientifically problematic. Not any more.
I have repeatedly stated in gatherings of physicists, and in print, that the big bang theory is one of the least scientific theories in history, and so far no one had pulled me up on it.
With expanding space, inflation, our continued inability to figure out how it started, and the determined avoidance of difficult problems, the big bang has become about as unscientific as it is possible to be.
You will have read that recent measurements of distances and redshifts show that the expansion of the Universe is speeding up rather than slowing down. There are several problems with this as science.
Firstly, the statement assumes that gravity would slow down any expansion, but this assumes that the Universe is not infinite, because if it is then the gravitational pull will be pretty much the same in all directions. A finite Universe, as discussed above, raises some serious scientific questions around the issue of its boundary.
Secondly, what you are not told is that cosmological distances have been dramatically adjusted to take account of factors such as expansion velocities and considerations of special relativity, and that if these adjustments are removed the evidence for dark energy disappears. In a non-expanding universe, there is no 'dark' energy.
We have seen above that the expanding Universe ‘explanation’ is unscientific and therefore unreliable, and elsewhere that this applies also to aspects of special relativity. Dark energy is only as scientific and reliable as the cosmology it is built on, and that is not at all.
The size of the visible Universe
The most distant redshifts observed are around thirteen, and this is interpreted as suggesting that the galaxies we are seeing emitted that light thirteen billion years ago. There are two huge problems with this.
Firstly, the Universe is considered to be only 13.6 billion years old, so these galaxies and galactic formations came into being very rapidly indeed. They also very rapidly came to look just like ours. There have been repeated reports that what we are seeing is the very first galaxies, and that these show signs of youth, but every one of these claims has been abandoned within two years, as we observe more and analyse more clearly. Sightings of ‘early galaxies’ are no more reliable than sightings of UFOs.
We might also note that our understanding of the nuclear genesis of heavy elements requires that our Sun and similar stars are formed from the debris of previous stars that are themselves formed from the debris of even earlier generations, that our Sun is understood to be five billion years old, and other stars considerably older.
If we abandon the expansion hypothesis, which, as I have shown above, is completely discredited, the size of the observable universe changes dramatically. The Hubble constant is derived from observations of nearby galaxies and relates distance, measured in time of travel, to redshift at 18 billion years per one of redshift. In a non-expanding Universe the most distant galaxies observed are significantly more than 200 billion light years away.
Verdict on the big bang
The Doppler interpretation was at one time clearly the best guess as to the cause of cosmological redshift. Its beauty, its attraction to the scientific mind was that it was simple and mechanistic, coherent and comprehensible. With the discovery of redshifts greater than 1, this brilliant suggestion of Edwin Hubble failed as science on all criteria: parsimony, falsifiability, absurdity, and plausible mechanism.
The big bang theory therefore started off as the sensible inference that the cosmological redshift was a Doppler effect due to galaxies receding from each other, but that interpretation ran into difficulties and has been repeatedly and unscientifically augmented until the ad hoc embellishments now dominate, and there is almost no science left.
The black hole is an imagined construct that is derived from some dodgy mathematical modelling and is then used in various ways to explain a variety of cosmological anomalies.
There are certain ideas that come together to predict the existence of a black hole.
The first is that we believe we have observational and theoretical evidence that massive old stars, having run out of nuclear power, collapse to neutron stars. There is reasonable evidence for this conclusion.
We also believe that, above a certain mass, neutron stars will be unable to avoid further collapse. Also reasonable, but we have no good evidence for what happens from there. Specifically, we have no solid reason to suppose that the energy contained in matter is not released back into the Universe. It would certainly make a good explanation for the huge energies emitted by quasars and pulsars.
There is reasoning within relativity that this cannot happen, based on the well-known equivalence of matter and energy, together with the unvalidated assumption that any released energy retains the gravitational properties it possessed as matter. We have seen that both relativity theories are highly unreliable in key areas, so we cannot take this conclusion as definitive.
The other element is mathematical. If we take either of the elements in the Schwarzschild metric, detailed here, we find that they become mathematically problematic for a certain combination of mass and distance. For each value of mass, there is a radial distance that will give us zero and infinity in our metric.
In reputable mathematical modelling this tells us that our mathematical model no longer represents reality. In the disreputable mathematical modelling of modern physics it tells us instead that our ever-collapsing mass can find itself within this Schwarzschild radius and that we have discovered a black hole.
All of the observational evidence for black holes is based upon a single, very important assumption. This is that the inverse square law of gravitational attraction introduced by Newton is universally valid, and also that we can add gravitational effects in a simple manner. These assumptions appear to be true in our local solar system, but because we have so few large objects to study, and because we infer their masses from the theory rather than being able to measure them independently, all we can say is that local observation is consistent with these principles, not that they have been fully validated.
This becomes important when we make cosmological observations, because then we find a very large number of anomalies. These occur in the rotation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies, in the deceleration of spacecraft leaving the solar system, and in a range of other areas, covered in more detail below. It is therefore not clear that our inference of black holes, such as at the centres of galaxies, is justified.
Additionally, if the big bang is suspect, as detailed above, then erroneous distance estimates will undermine inferences from gravitational lensing.
David Deutsch, a leading figure in the hunt for computation at the quantum level, is known for his belief that ‘the single photon interference experiment is the strangest thing I know. It is conclusive evidence that reality does not consist of just a single universe.’ We identified this as a problem in relation to quantum theory, but it is equally anti-scientific in cosmology.
The idea is certainly parsimonious, but has been described as ‘efficient on ideas, but expensive on universes’. We can see how Deutsch’s conclusion supports a somewhat metaphysical version of the photon model of light, but it is more difficult to see how it might ever be tested.
There are a huge number of ‘cosmological anomalies’ by which is meant that the existing theory and mathematics does not correctly describe what we observe.
Initially in 1970, but more convincingly in 1980, Vera Rubin showed that galaxies rotate in ways that are problematic, with the outer stars moving faster than predicted.
Fritz Zwicky, in 1933, had anticipated this when studying the rotation of the Coma cluster of galaxies, hypothesising ‘dunkle Materie’, dark matter, unseen matter that has gravitational mass but does not emit in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Dark matter is also invoked to explain why stars and galaxies form almost immediately after the hypothesised big bang.
The problem is that the dark matter is hypothesised ad hoc, has no other physical basis, and, more specifically, has to be configured differently for each different type of problem. It is a grab bag of one off explanations dressed up as a single one. Former President of the Institute of Physics, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, has admitted publicly that the ‘dark’ in both dark matter and dark energy is code for ‘I don’t know’.
At the centre of galaxies, including our own, stars orbit far more rapidly than theory predicts. Supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies have been ‘found’ (read ‘hypothesised’) by this method. What is overlooked, in a glaring avoidance of scientific examination, is that such bodies would be easily detectable by the gravitational bending of light they would cause, and that this evidence is notably absent.
There are many other cosmological anomalies, as a web search will reveal, and they deserve better analysis by the physics community. One thing that many of them have in common is that gravity does not appear to be working as predicted. This is a fruitful area for Gravitational critics of the status quo, working both inside and outside the community of university physicists.
Return to top of page