Did the Big Bang happen? Doubts grow, but here's one conception of what it would have looked like. Image: Pixiebay

Part 1 of this essay described the science, technology and history behind the fantastic images delivered by the James Webb Space Telescope. This second and concluding installment considers the theories attempting to explain what we are seeing in those images.

As lauded by NASA, the telescope represents “a giant leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins.” The Webb “will examine every phase of cosmic history: from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own solar system.”

It is, says NASA, the “scientific successor” to the Hubble Space Telescope: “Hubble’s science pushed us to look to longer wavelengths to ‘go beyond’ what Hubble has already done. In particular, more distant objects are more highly red-shifted, and their light is pushed from the UV and optical into the near-infrared. Thus observations of these distant objects (like the first galaxies formed in the Universe, for example) require an infrared telescope.”

Big Bang and Hubble

The Hubble telescope is named for American astronomer Edwin Hubble. As noted in “Red shift and Hubble’s law,” published on the NASA Starchild educational site:

In 1929, Edwin Hubble announced that almost all galaxies appeared to be moving away from us. In fact, he found that the universe was expanding – with all of the galaxies moving away from each other. This phenomenon was observed as a red shift of a galaxy’s spectrum. This red shift appeared to be larger for faint, presumably farther, galaxies. Hence, the farther a galaxy, the faster it is receding from Earth…

The velocity of a galaxy could be expressed mathematically as v = H x d, where v is the galaxy’s radial outward velocity, d is the galaxy’s distance from Earth, and H is the constant of proportionality called the Hubble constant…

So to determine an object’s distance, we only need to know its velocity. Velocity is measurable thanks to the Doppler shift. By taking the spectrum of a distant object, such as a galaxy, astronomers can see a shift in the lines of its spectrum and from this shift determine its velocity. Putting this velocity into the Hubble equation, they determine the distance. Note that this method of determining distances is based on observation (the shift in the spectrum) and on a theory (Hubble’s Law). If the theory is not correct, the distances determined in this way are all nonsense. Most astronomers believe that Hubble’s Law does, however, hold true for a large range of distances in the universe.

Left: Edwin Hubble. Right: Milton Humason, who worked with him on developing Hubble’s Law. Photo: ESA/Hubble

The “red shift” is key to the theory of the Big Bang, which posits that our universe originated in a huge explosion from a single point. Belgian physicist and astronomer Georges Lemaitre in 1927 called this point the “primeval atom.”

Subsequent measurements based on Lemaitre’s and Hubble’s work eventually put the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years (the figure that part 1 of this essay quoted current NASA Administrator Bill Nelson as affirming).

Controversial at first (Einstein disagreed with Lemaitre), Big Bang theory eventually became a widely held, almost consensus view of how the universe was formed.

Resonance Theory and Mark Anderson

Mark R Anderson, an independent American scientist and creator of Resonance Theory, has different ideas.

Anderson is co-founder, chairman and CEO of Pattern Computer. He and the firm were recently awarded the Alexandra J Noble Award for Scientific Discovery, and Pattern Computer has been called “the best machine learning company on the planet” by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs.

He also serves on the Advisory Boards of the California Institute of Telecommunications and IT (Calit2) at UC San Diego and of the Institute for Data-intensive Research in Astrophysics & Cosmology (DiRAC) at the University of Washington.

Anderson spoke with Asia Times on the phone and sent us comments, including some of his previous writings, by email. In his own words:

Created by Mark R. Anderson in 1979, using pattern recognition and centered on light and the conservation laws, Resonance Theory demonstrated that space was not empty, had well-understood physical characteristics, and that the laws of physics derived directly from the physical properties of space. In this sense, it both pre-dated and went beyond string theory in suggesting that particles are resonant vibrations of space itself.  

Resonance Theory suggests that the red shift of distant stars and galaxies, until now taken to be purely due to the distance correlation of the Hubble Red Shift, should be understood as combining this Doppler effect with a second and perhaps larger effect of space itself subtracting energy from light over distance. This leads to the conclusions that a) there is no longer a need for the Big Bang, b) new distances calculated will be shorter, and c) all Doppler (Hubble) calculations now have to be reviewed.  Do they have any contribution at all, or just a smaller one?

In an essay entitled “Resonance Theory: Reinterpreting the Cosmos,” published in October 2021, Anderson wrote:

Most people are familiar with the downward Doppler shift of sound as a train whistle passes an observer. The same is the case for light: the emission lines of light given off by hydrogen atoms – for instance, in distant stars – are is shifted down when the stars are moving away from us.

In the Big Bang theory of how the universe began, the idea is that as we look at stars, they have a red shift based on their speed away from us. Moreover, this shift increases with their distance, supposedly indicating that the expansion of the universe is accelerating with distance from us.

Pretty Earth-centric, it seems. Of course, there are today all kinds of maneuvers that make it seem like this is not the case, or, at best, that it makes some kind of sense.

Suffice it to say that this is the Bible, the Standard Model.

It is equally important to note that when astronomers look at the sky, they tend to see heavenly bodies embedded in emptiness. Sure, there are dust clouds, gravity lenses, all kinds of collisions and events, but we’re talking about billiard balls hung in empty space. Space itself is a void.

Not according to Resonance Theory.

What if – I asked – the explanation for these observations was that the stars are indeed in the same grouping, but since we know empty space is not empty at all, but has pronounced and definable physical characteristics (permittivity, permeability, mass), the variance in red shifts per star is caused instead by different densities of space between us and each star (or galaxy)?

In other words, since space is not empty, maybe variable density of space itself explains an important part of the Hubble red shift.

No one is doubting that the Doppler effect is real, but neither does anyone really know much about star distances, except by applying Hubble’s red shift.

Beginning with the Resonance understanding that light, electrons, protons … are made of resonant vibrations of space itself, we now can look at the cosmos with new eyes, seeing something completely inverted. Rather than bodies embedded in a void, we see nothing but space-stuff, presented in different ways: light, matter, antimatter, dark matter, dark energy. There is no void only bright spots where long-term vibrations have built up into structures like electrons, planets, stars, galaxies, black holes.

To say that 95% of the universe is dark is like saying that 95% of a pond does not have ripples at the moment. It happens, but it certainly is not amazing. It’s normal.

Mark R Anderson in a file photo. Image: Amazon

Anderson continues:

So, what are the primary beliefs based upon the Hubble red-shift interpretations, and therefore available for reinterpretation? Here are a few:

  • Distances measured to glowing celestial bodies are in direct correlation to their red shifts.
  • The greater this shift, the farther from the observer, and the faster these bodies are moving away.
  • The Big Bang theory.
  • The age of the universe.
  • The size of the universe.

What forces, then, drive the universe’s dynamics? Let’s quickly take these in order:

  • In our Resonance-driven interpretation, understanding that space is not empty…, we must be open to the suggestion that any red-shift value is the combination of both a Doppler effect shift and a shift caused by the passage of light (e-m radiation) through space itself. In other words, interaction with space itself, depending upon both the Doppler shift and the density and distance of that space between the observer and the object, provides the overall red-shift data gathered over the last century.
  • Given the above, we now must replace the ideas of direct distance correlation with correlation with speed, plus the variation in spatial density times the length of the path.
  • If we no longer can trust that the universe is expanding at prior rates, or even at all, but rather that those observations may be the direct result of path distance and variation in spatial density, then we must, at the least, forego the conclusion that there was a Big Bang that began a process we now find to be dubious.
  • As a correlative of the above finding, we must also question interpretations of the age of the universe, which themselves were drawn largely from the same scenario, fed by Hubble red shifts.
  • As a similar correlative, we can no longer be sure of distance calculations to heavenly bodies, since it is no longer a simple and direct Hubble red-shift correlation. At the very least, even without spatial density variation, we will have to calculate the contribution of the spatial constant density along the path of observation and its separate contribution to the red shift. It would appear that, from this perspective, it is perhaps true that all current distances for heavenly bodies are equal to, or less than, those held before.
Another conception of the Big Bang, this one by Cedric Sorel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Other doubters

Anderson is by no means the only one with doubts about the Big Bang.

British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, who coined the term in 1950, didn’t believe in it.

In 1980, the eloquent Carl Sagan – astrophysicist, professor of astronomy and space sciences at Cornell University, and prolific speaker and author – said:

If the general picture of an expanding universe and a Big Bang is correct, we must then confront still more difficult questions. What were conditions like at the time of the Big Bang? What happened before that? Was there a tiny universe, devoid of all matter, and then the matter suddenly created from nothing? How does that happen?

Alan Guth, professor of physics at MIT, put it more succinctly in an interview in 2014:

The Big Bang theory says nothing about what banged, why it banged, or what happened before it banged. 

American physicist Eric J Lerner elaborated on the subject in an interview with Jonathan Tennenbaum published by Asia Times in November 2020 (“The Big Bang never happened but fusion will”).

Eric Lerner hard at work on his nuclear fusion venture at LLP Fusion. Photo: LLP Fusion

Mark Anderson quotes an unnamed NASA scientist as saying: “We have come to have deep, deep doubts about the Hubble red shift. And there’s something like 200 theories now that are alternative theories for the Hubble red shift. It is in deep jeopardy.”

Beyond the red shift, it now looks like we are headed for a paradigm shift.

But no matter what view prevails in the years ahead, the Webb telescope is likely to make a major contribution to our understanding of the universe. As Anderson says:

The Webb elescope should provide us with the best measurements of red shift ever done.  Combined with new abilities to look further, we should be able to see  – and better discern – the two contributors that we now expect explain red shifts: the Doppler or Hubble, and the energy loss per light year as light moves through space. 

The real excitement, from this perspective, is getting very new and very different numbers for expansion, size, age and, of course, dark energy and matter.  Both of the latter, in Resonance Theory, are just space itself.

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