Cosmology in 2004: A bad year for the Big Bang

By Eric J. Lerner

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics

The past year brought a steady drum beat of observational and theoretical bad news for the Big Bang theory, making that hypothesis more untenable then ever. Data on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), on distant and near galaxies, on the abundances of light elements, added to the evidence that the universe is much older than the hypothetical Big Bang, that dark matter does not exist, and that the universe is not expanding.

While Big Bang supporters relied more and more on their control over funding and open suppression of alternative views, the debate over cosmology burst into public view with the publication in May of an Open Letter on Cosmology in New Scientist, among the most prominent of popular science magazines. The open letter, denouncing the orthodoxy of conventional cosmology, urges the funding of alterative approaches. It has now been signed by hundreds of scientists from countries around the globe.

The following review just touches on some of the mass of new data published in the past year and is in no way comprehensive.

WMAP Gives Big Bang a Slap

The biggest of many headaches supplied to Big Bang theorists last year has been the data from the WMAP satellite, which provides high resolution mapping of the intensity of the CMB across the sky. Intially, the results were hailed as a "complete confirmation of the Big Bang inflationary" theory. But subsequent analysis has shown that even the most basic predictions of the theory were contradicted by the data. To put it simply, the theory predicted that the tiny fluctuations in intensity of the radiation would be randomly scattered across the sky. In fact, they are anything but random.

The inflationary Big Bang hypothesis states that fluctuations in the CMB originated in the first 10-35 seconds of the Big Bang from random, quantum variations in the still purely hypothetical inflation field. So a firm prediction of the theory is that the fluctuations we see will be random, or follow a Gaussian distribution, not correlated with each other in any way. As leading Big Banger Michael Turner wrote in Dec. 2002, "The inflation-produced density perturbations arise from quantum fluctuations in a very weakly coupled (essentially free) scalar field and hence should be Gaussian to a high degree of precision." (ArXiv: astro-ph/0212281). Many other theorists said the same thing.

But WMAP showed something very different. Researchers analyzed the fluctuations in intensity of temperature in terms of spherical modes, breaking down the fluctuations into those with two peaks of valleys in the entire sphere (dipole); three (tripole); four (quadrupole), etc. up to thousands of poles. If the fluctuations were random, there should be not special alignment among any of the modes. Each direction should look more or less the same as any other. Instead the WMAP data showed that large scale fluctuations—octopole through dipole-- were oriented not randomly but in a plane. In addition, what fluctuations there were in the direction perpendicular to the plane were much larger in the South direction than the North. The two hemispheres of the sky did not look the same—one was much "smoother" than the other. More, the fluctuations in the dipole, tripole quadrupole and octopole modes were all closely aligned with each other. This alignment had only a one in ten thousand chance of being a random coincidence.

What was worse for the Big Bang was that the axis of this alignment was the axis of the Local Superclsuter, a massive array of clusters of galaxies centered on the Virgo cluster. In the direction of the Virgo cluster, large-scale fluctuations were far less than away from Virgo. This local alignment entirely contradicted the Big Bang hypotheses that the CMB originated in the far distant universe, many billions of years ago. (There are a large number of papers here, but the most significant are: ApJ 605, 14; arXiv:astro-ph/0311430; arXiv:astro-ph/0310511; arXiv:astro-ph/0402399; arXiv:astro-ph/0403353; arXiv:astro-ph/0405187).

While such alignments contradict the basic prediction of the Big Bang, they are completely consistent with plasma cosmology theories. These theories explain the CMB as being produced by light from stars, thermalized and isotropisized (smoothed) by scattering in dense magnetic filaments throughout the universe. Since the last surface of scattering is only about 6 Mpc away, it is to be expected that fluctuations lithe CMB aligned with the Local superclsuter, which is about 10 Mpc in diameter and points toward Virgo.

Additional evidence of non-randomness is that the hotspots and cold spots in the CMB tend to be highly elliptical, not circular as they should be in Gaussian distribution.
And there is further evidence that, as the plasma hypothesis predicts, the alignment of the CMB has to do with the alignment of magnetic fields in the Local supercluster. Studies by Pankaj Jain of the Indian Institute of Technology, John Ralston of Kansas University (arXiv:astro-ph/0301530) and others (arXiv: astro-ph/0501043) have shown that the polarization of light from quasar is not randomly oriented, but has a preferred direction—the direction of the Virgo cluster, the same preferred direction of the CMB. This would make sense if the CMB is scattered by magnetic filaments that are aligned with a large scale supercluster magnetic field, but is very difficult to explain if it travels unchanged from billions of light years away, as the BB hypothesizes.

Theoretical calculations added to the contradictions. Richard Lieu of the University of Alabama demonstrated mathematically that if the CMB originates at great distance, gravitational lensing will magnify its intensity for any observer by about 1.5% compared with a perfect blackbody spectrum with the same peak frequency (arXiv:astro-ph/0409655). This is in gross contradiction with observations, which show an agreement at least a thousand times better with a perfect black body. This implies again than the surface of last scattering of the CMB is a few Mpc away, not a few thousand Mpcs as in the BB theory.

Big Bang Gets Geometry Wrong

One of the striking predictions of the Big bang theory is that ordinary geometry does not work at great distances. In the space around us, on earth, in the solar system and the galaxy, non-expanding space, as objects get farther away, they get smaller. Since distance correlates with redshift, the product of angular size and red shift, qz, is constant. Similarly the surface brightness of objects, brightness per unit area on the sky, measured as photons per second, is a constant with increasing distance for similar objects.

But the Big Bang expanding universe predicts that surface brightness, defined as above, decreases as (z+1)-3, while qz actually increases as (z+1)f(z) where f(z) is a slowly varying function depending on the exact cosmological model.

Observations at intermediate red shifts up to z~3 had shown that observed surface brightness remains roughly constant while angular size continues to decrease as 1/z, resulting in approximately constant qz, in agreement with the non-expanding (Euclidean) model. But BB supporters interpreted this as evidence for evolution of the galaxies observed. High-z galaxies are assumed to be much smaller and much brighter than present day galaxies, comparable to the very brightest starburst galaxies, so that their intrinsic evolution compensates for the predicted drop in surface brightness and increase in angular size. Conventional cosmologists anticipated that the still higher red shift data from Hubble Ultra Deep Field would reveal the expected (z+1)-3 surface brightness scaling and (z+1) angular size scaling.

But a preliminary analysis of the HUDF data that I presented at Goddard Space Flight Center in August shows that even out to z=6, the data is an excellent fit to the non-expanding model with distance proportional to redshift and a terrible fit for the Big Bang model. The figure below shows the average observed qz data as trapezoids and the Big Bang predictions as squares. The fit to the horizontal, non-expanding Euclidean model is excellent. By contrast, the BB model requires that galaxies observed at z=6 be 20 times smaller in radius and 340 times brighter in UV surface brightness than existing average galaxies. For some of the new data, see arXiv: astro-ph/0406562.

A universe getting older—fast

The Big Bang has always been dogged by observations of objects—galaxies, stars, large scale structures—that seem much older than the hypothesized age of the Big Bang itself. This situation has continued to get worse over the past year. On the theoretical side, an team of researchers at University of Warsaw and University of Cape Town carried out BB simulations with a wide variety of cosmological parameters tried try to create realistic voids in the distribution of galaxies (arXiv:astro-ph/0411126). They were trying to generate voids that are as empty as those actually observed, where the voids have 20 times less density (galaxies per cubic Mpc) than the average density. They were trying to create voids that were only 20 Mpc in radius, considerably smaller than the largest voids observed, which 80-90 Mpc in radius. They also did not attempt to limit the current velocity of galaxies moving out of the voids to below the velocities actually observed. Yet they found that it was utterly impossible to get such voids in the time since the Big Bang. Using the "concordance model" with dark matter and dark energy, and starting with fluctuations that are consistent, in the BB model, with observations of the background radiation, they were able to produce voids that had about half the average density at their centers, instead of the observed 5% of average. In addition the outflow velocities would be around 700 km/sec, far above the maximum outflow velocities observed of 250 km/sec.

To produce anything like the emptiness of present day voids, the models had to start out with fluctuations some 800 times larger than those assumed in the currently popular Big Bang model. Thus density fluctuations would have to be about 8x10-3, not 10-5 and velocities would have to be of the order of 2,400 km/sec, not 30 km/sec. Such large fluctuations would, in the BB models, create fluctuations in the CMB brightness 800 times larger than those observed. And the galaxies would be fleeing from these voids today at 2,000 km/sec, ten times that observed.

The only way to avoid these results, the researchers found, would be to abandon the inflation model, with W=1 and set up a "daschund" universe with a careful balance of dark energy and dark matter that would make the universe 32 billion years old, not 14 billion years. In private communication, the authors agreed that this model was not at all realistic. For one thing, the abandonment of inflation would create massive contradictions between BB predictions and observations of the CMB. Alternatively, if one eliminated dark energy, the model could create suitable voids—given nine HUNDRED billion years. In short, there was absolutely no way to reconcile any BB model with the existence of voids, a conclusion I had pointed out in my Dec. 2003 Paper, "Two World Systems" and much earlier in my 1991 book.

Observations did not help the "age crisis" either. Not only is there not enough time for the BB to create large scale structure by the present time, such structures actually existed many billions of year ago. A Japanese collaboration using the Subaru telescope saw voids as big as 50-100Mpc in radius at a red shifts of 6 (arXiv: astro-ph/0412648). According to BB theory, this would be at a time when the universe was only 800 million years old, making the formation of large scale structures an even worse problem than creating them in 14 billion years. In addition, the similarity of large scale structure at z=6 and at the present is strong confirmation of the idea, explained in the plasma cosmology model, that the universe is evolving on far slower times scales than that envisions in the Big Bang.

Individual galaxies are also turning up that are "older than the Big Bang". Galaxy age can be determined from galactic spectra, since older stars are smaller, cooler and redder than younger ones. In addition older galaxies have more metals than younger ones. Studies released in May by two different groups of researchers, (arXiv:astro-ph/0405187; arXiv: astro-ph/0405432) showed that galaxies at z=2 and z=3 had metallicities comparable to or above that of our own galaxy at the present. In addition, the ages of the galaxies exceed the "age of the universe" at those redshifts, sometimes by a billion years or more. Again, the evidence showed that the universe at high-z looks remarkably like that of the present.

Disappearing dark matter

The BB theory relies on the existence of non-baryonic or dark matter to resolve blatant contractions with observation. Yet data has accumulated that the dark mater is not just invisible—it is non-existent. Last year this trend continued. A pair of Russian observers completed a survey of galaxies within 10 Mpc of the Milky Way using infrared radiation. (ArXiv: astro-ph/0412369) Since visible starlight is absorbed by dust and re-emitted as IR radiation, such radiation is a better measure of how much radiation is being emitted from stars. In turn this gives good indications of the mass of stars. By comparing this mass with the gravitating mass, it can be determined how much matter is still unaccounted for or "dark". The new study leaves little room for the dark matter.

For galaxies, the ratio of mass to light was just 1.5 times that of the sun, indicating that all the mass could be accounted for by stars alone. For clusters of galaxies, the ratio was considerably higher—since such clusters have large amounts of gas in them. But the average ratio for the region within 10 Mpc of earth was about 20 times that of the sun. This indicates that W for all matter was 0.09, far less than the 0.27 of the concordance theory and not much more than the 0.05 the BB allows for ordinary baryonic matter.

This result is broadly confirmed by another study of the velocities that galaxies move within the Local superclsuter—about 75km/sec. (arXiv: astro-ph/0412090). This low velocity implies a local W of only 0.025.

The situation is actually considerably worse for the BB , since much earlier research shows that the density of matter declines with increasing scale, at least up to scales of 50 Mpc, making total W for matter on these scales far less than BB predictions for baryonic matter alone.

Light elements problems worsen

While BB nucleosyntheis predictions have been contradicted by observation for some time, new data in the past year has made this contradiction worse. For one thing, measurements of deuterium in intergalactic clouds with low metallicities, presumably close to pre-galactic abundances, keep coming up with different results, a scatter not at all predicted by the BB. In addition, the latest measurement (arXiv: astro-ph/0403512) shows an abundance of only 1.6x10-5, which disagrees at a 99.5% statistical level with the BB prediction of 2.6x10-5.

For He3 things are no better. Theoretical calculations have long indicated that He3 is produced in stars on net, so He3 should be more abundant today than before the galaxy formed. But current measurements are almost the same as BB predictions for "primordial" He3. Contorted fudging attempts to explain the discrepancy as the result of ‘extra mixing’ of material in stars which conveniently destroys the extra He3. But a recent analysis of data from planetary nebulae (arXiv:astro-ph/0412380) shows that stars do indeed emit He3-enriched gas to the environment, implying little or none was created before the galaxy formed.

Repression comes out into the open

With data pelting them from all sides; the leaders of the BB community are resorting to repression of competing ideas, as they have in the past. But now the repression is coming more out into the open, and more openly discussed. For example a paper by C. S. Kochanek of Ohio State University refers to the "Party’s" value of the Hubble constant, and goes on to say "the Party says the value of H is known and should not be challenged unless you want to count trees in Siberia". (arXiv:astro-ph/0412089) Certainly when researchers write in this way, the fact that dissent is punished has become a very open secret.

Nor do the keepers of the government’s funds disguise their own complicity in this enforced orthodoxy. I recently made the experiment of applying for some funds from NSF to study the above-mentioned size-z relationship. In rejecting my proposal, Nigel Sharp, program manager for Astrophysics wrote that I was not alone:

"Let me also point out that you are not the only proposer we have with unconventional ideas. Some of them have no qualms about submitting to the full review process, with a full 15-page proposal with enough space to make their case. I can then do the external review in the normal way and I have more leeway to consider possible prejudices. So far, none of the cosmology proposals treated in this way has been funded, and of course I will argue that was because of serious flaws in their work unrelated to the unconventional aspects. On the other hand, we have funded one or two maverick ideas in other areas of astronomy. We're never going to support a lot of heterodoxy because then we get accused of wasting government money, but it's not true that we support none."

So although maverick ideas are allowed in some parts of astronomy they will "never" be allowed in cosmology.

On the bright side, the Open Letter on Cosmology, which now has over 200 signatories, has been read seemingly by nearly everyone in the cosmology community. From all reports it is stirring a good deal of healthy debate. No longer can those who seek to protect the orthodox cosmology of the Big Bang with control over funding and threats to scientists’ careers hope to operate in the dark

As more data streams in, and as more researchers dare to express doubts that the BB is valid, we can expect more progress in 2005.