|Halton Arp's Seeing Red
will completely change your cosmological views, even if you don't
think you have cosmological views! Working entirely from
observation, Arp sketches a picture of an eternal, infinite,
stable universe which continually "unfolds from many points within
Arp is an observational astronomer. He won his spurs as a
graduate student in the 1950s measuring thousands of images of the
stars in globular clusters, work which helped lead to derivations
of the ages of those stars and thus of our Milky Way galaxy. He
went on to compile "Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies," which
became a classic. His familiarity with extragalactic objects,
those beyond our Milky Way, is probably unmatched.
For about 30 years Arp's most important observations have been
under academic ban; they contradict cosmological orthodoxy. That
orthodoxy has denied observing time on the big telescopes to Arp
and others who make discordant observations. It has excluded their
most important discoveries from major journals. As far as the
popular press is concerned, this small heroic band of observers
just don't exist; their observations go unreported.
If you thought that the hard sciences are immune to
philosophical irrationalism, you thought wrong. Today's academic
science is as wedded to obsolete dogma as the church of Galileo's
time, and is equally willing to ignore observation.
About 10 years ago Arp wrote his first book: Quasars,
Redshifts and Controversies. He hoped that a comprehensive
presentation of the evidence would lead professional astronomers
to turn their instruments on the many objects which contradict
current theory. Arp's immediate purpose failed; his book became a
list of topics and objects that professional astronomers avoided
at all cost. Like the bishops of Galileo's time, professional
astronomers refused to look through the telescopes. This, of
course, was a major scientific scandal and (of course!) it escaped
the notice of the establishment press.
Still, Arp's first book was a success in a surprising way: it
brought the suppressed observations to an audience of independent
thinkers. Arp started getting letters from them: "from scientists
in small colleges, in different disciplines, from amateurs,
students and lay people." These were people who really looked
at pictures, and who formed judgments on the evidence. Arp's
first book brought them the evidence which then existed.
In the past 10 years, and despite academic opposition, the body
of evidence has continued to grow. Arp's latest book, "Seeing Red"
brings these developments to an even larger group of independent
thinkers, some of whom will be the astronomers of tomorrow.
"Seeing Red" bears comparison with Galileo's "Starry
Messenger." Just as Galileo's report of the phases of Venus and
the moons of Jupiter demolished the geocentric theory of the
universe, Arp reports observations that demolish the expanding
universe/Big Bang theory. Just as Galileo's observations pointed
to radically new physics, so do the observations from
The key point at issue between orthodoxy and observation is the
interpretation of redshift.
An atom emits or absorbs light only of certain definite
frequencies, called "lines" from the appearance of the light when
it is spread out by frequency into a spectrum. In the spectrum of
visible light, blue lines are at higher frequencies and red lines
are at lower frequencies. The spectral lines of each kind of atom,
each element, form a distinctive pattern.
In the spectrum of light from distant galaxies, the patterns of
lines are the same as those produced by Earthly elements, but the
whole pattern is typically shifted toward lower frequencies
compared to Earthly atoms. This shift of spectral lines toward the
red end of the spectrum is the celebrated redshift.
Orthodox cosmology assumes that extragalactic redshifts are
caused by a motion of other galaxies away from us, i.e., that they
are Doppler redshifts--analogous to the drop in pitch that you
hear when you stand beside a highway as a truck goes by. But if
all galaxies are moving away from us, then the whole universe is
expanding--so there must have been a Big Bang sometime in the
past. Furthermore, if the flight of the galaxies is caused by an
expansion of the whole universe, then the fastest objects must
also be the farthest objects. For orthodoxy, high redshift means
high speed and great distance.
A quasar is a pointlike source of light in the sky with a high
redshift. On the orthodox view of redshift, quasars are receding
from us at spectacular velocities close to that of light.
Accordingly, orthodoxy regards quasars as vastly distant and
enormously bright. If quasars were not enormously bright, we
couldn't see them at all at the vast distances supposed by the
Arp reports observations which sweep away this whole
The key observation of quasars is available to everyone with
eyes. Arp presents pictures of quasars being ejected from low
redshift galaxies. Just look at the pictures. You can see
the ejections. You can see gassy filaments connecting
quasars to low redshift galaxies. You can see that these
high redshift quasars and low redshift galaxies are not
separated by half a universe: they are side by side!
Furthermore, there is a particular kind of
galaxy--called a Seyfert galaxy--which is regularly associated
with quasars. Where you find a Seyfert galaxy, there you will find
quasars--in pairs on opposite sides of the Seyfert!
Spectroscopically, a quasar resembles a small portion of a Seyfert
nucleus. Seyferts are quasar factories!
Furthermore, quasars line up on the sky! Lines of quasars point
away from ejecting galaxies, clear evidence of repeated ejections.
The redshifts of these aligned quasars systematically decline with
distance from their source galaxy, and therefore with age.
Redshift does not imply distance. Quasars are relatively
nearby, at the distances of the galaxies which eject them.
Redshift does not imply velocity; quasar redshifts decline
with the age of the quasar.
Quasars are associated on the sky with both BL LAC objects and
faint galaxy clusters. BL LAC objects are morphologically
intermediate between quasars and galaxies, with redshifts
intermediate between quasars and faint cluster galaxies.
Evidently, when quasars have aged sufficiently, they become BL LAC
objects which later break up into clusters of faint galaxies.
Even more startling, redshifts are quantized; they tend
to have certain discrete values: z = .061, .30, .60, .91, 1.41,
1.96, etc. K. G. Karlsson discovered a simple empirical formula
(published in 1971!) which relates these special redshift values
to each other. An extremely prominent redshift quantization
corresponds to steps in apparent velocity of a mere 37.5 km/sec.
This quantization is very significant, as it is completely washed
out for galaxies with velocities greater than about 20 km/sec. Not
only are galaxies not racing away from us, most of them are cosmic
slowpokes! The universe is not expanding, it is close to static.
It follows from all this that we don't see nearly as far into
the universe as conventionally thought; the immense distances
contemplated by orthodoxy are artifacts of the orthodox
interpretation of redshift. The whole observed extragalactic
zoo--including quasars, BL LACs and faint cluster galaxies--is
only about as distant as the Local Superclusters Virgo and Fornax,
about 55 million light years. The next farthest objects may be
very distant indeed, too faint for current telescopes to detect.
The clear message of the observations is that the redshift of a
cosmic object depends overwhelmingly on the kind of object
it is. That is, different objects have different intrinsic
redshifts that owe nothing to velocity or to the medium between
the object and the observer. Velocity-caused redshifts are minor
and cosmologically unimportant; intrinsic redshifts predominate.
And intrinsic redshifts turn out be practically universal: it's
"redshifts all the way down!" Intrinsic redshifts are even
seen--in age related patterns!--in nearby normal galaxies such as
the Magellanic Clouds. In each case, the younger, smaller galaxies
in a group have systematically higher redshifts than the older.
This suggests that the faint cluster galaxies associated with BL
LAC objects are young galaxies in process of evolving into normal
galaxies like the Milky Way and its companions.
Intrinsic redshifts are even seen in young stars within
our own Milky Way galaxy! This is known as the "K effect," and it
was discovered in 1911!
Continual matter creation
Intrinsic redshifts are a puzzle for physics: what causes
Note first that redshifts are lower frequencies. That's what
redshifts are: they are an overall shift of light to
redder, lower, frequencies. Lower frequencies mean slower clocks.
Intrinsically redshifted matter is matter that "runs more slowly"
than our local matter. What could cause atoms to run more slowly,
and thus to emit light of lower frequencies?
Arp proposes that intrinsically redshifted matter has lower
mass than local matter, that each particle of redshifted matter
has lower mass than our local particles. (Intrinsically
blueshifted matter--some has been observed--has higher mass.)
According to standard atomic physics, mass differences would
indeed produce the required red or blueshifts, but what could
explain mass differences?
Guided by the observation that a quasar's redshift declines as
it ages, Arp proposes that quasars are made up of new
matter. On this view, matter is continually created in active
galaxies, and is episodically ejected in the form of quasars.
Particles of matter are not eternal; they have a beginning in
time. Each particle starts out with a low mass which increases
with its age.
Continual matter creation is a bold proposal, but it is not
absurd; continual creation is no more spooky in principle than ice
being "created" in water. There is no guarantee that what we call
elementary particles are truly elementary, i.e., that they are
uncreated and indestructible, the ultimate archai of existence;
they may very well come to be and pass away. Unlike Big Bang
supernaturalism, continual creation within an eternal universe
does not involve the absurdity of creation from nothing.
What might matter be created from? Well, vacuum is not nothing,
and it's not matter, so it's a candidate source for matter--and
there's no end of vacuum in the universe!
Arp rejects the notion that new matter might come into the
universe from "somewhere else." He rightly remarks that "there is
nowhere else." (This is one of the few times I've seen a scientist
appeal to the axiom of existence.)
Variable mass: no
singularities, flat space, stable universe
Observational evidence for matter creation and for masses that
increase with time is just what the doctor ordered for theoretical
physicist Jayant Narlikar. It singles out his theory for special
attention among the alternatives to relativity.
Narlikar showed in 1977 (Annals of Physics, 107, 325) that if
one re-writes the basic equation of relativity in a more general
form, one obtains a simple solution in which the masses of objects
increase with time: a particle's mass is proportional to the
square of the time since its creation. This suggests that a
particle's mass depends on the amount of the universe with which
the particle can interact. The part of the universe with which a
particle can interact is a sphere centered on the particle, which
grows at the speed of light from the particle's beginning.
Narlikar's variable mass theory is supported by the
astronomical evidence in more detail than can be retold here.
Furthermore, it preserves all the successes of general relativity,
and it leaves behind relativity's two most glaring flaws:
singularities and curved space.
Relativity is notorious for singularities. Although they have
been seized upon as cult objects by Big Bangers and Black Holers,
Arp puts singularities in their true perspective. He notes that
"singularity" is a euphemism for "the physics just breaks down."
At a singularity, the equations of relativity produce
infinities--in effect, gibberish.
In Narlikar's theory, relativity's singularities are abolished.
When masses are allowed to vary, the singularities turn into nice,
tame "zero mass hyper surfaces:" i.e., locations for the very
matter creation suggested by astronomical observation!
Narlikar's theory also abolishes curved space, that trademark
of relativity, cliché of science fiction, and nemesis of all who
attempt to visualize it. Astonishingly, merely by allowing masses
to vary with time, one allows one's "space-time" to relax and lie
flat, just as Euclid told us it must!
The fact that a single fundamental change leads to flat
space-time is very promising for the essential correctness of
Narlikar's theory. Curved space is epistemologically untenable, a
fudge. It arises from the use of squidgy measuring sticks. (See my
Measurement and Space.) A correct theory must have flat
space and uniform time. Narlikar's flat space-time doesn't
guarantee that his theory is correct (there may be any number of
flat space theories), but it is a very hopeful sign.
Another hopeful sign is that Narlikar's theory predicts a
stable universe. Relativity and Newton's theory of gravitation
share the flaw of predicting that matter in a static universe
governed by gravitation would fall in a heap. As the T-shirt says,
"Gravity sucks;" gravity is always an attractive force, never
repulsive or "sideways." Consequently, for both Newton and
Einstein the universe must either be blowing apart or collapsing.
Both are hopeless doctrines for an eternal universe, which shows
that these theories can't be extrapolated to the whole universe.
Narlikar's variable mass theory automatically introduces mass
dependent terms which guarantee stability even when the theory is
extrapolated to the whole universe!
Narlikar's variable mass theory is certainly not the final word
on physics, but it does pass a number of very fundamental tests,
and it throws open the door to a whole new range of possibilities.
Above all, it is supported by observation--by all the observations
which support relativity, plus the observation of intrinsic
Hubble constant from one
Why do we see redshifts almost everywhere we look? According to
variable mass theory, we see redshifts because we see objects as
they were when the light left them. If you gaze at a tree 30 feet
away, you see the tree as it was 30 nanoseconds ago; if you gaze
at a galaxy 10,000,000 light years away, you see it as it was
10,000,000 years ago. Even if the distant matter is the same age
as our own, we see the galaxy (or the tree!) as it was when it was
younger and less massive--and therefore redshifted.
If we assume that the distant matter we see is the same age as
our own, this "look-back" effect allows one to calculate a Hubble
constant for such matter. The Hubble constant is the constant of
proportionality in the Hubble relation that says distance is
proportional to redshift.
The Hubble relation is well established observationally for
normal galaxies, and it is very dear to the orthodox. In fact,
their chief sin against science is to turn the Hubble relation
into dogma, and to apply it to everything in sight. They use it,
e.g., to calculate bloated quasar distances in defiance of
observation. But orthodoxy cannot agree on the value of the
crucial Hubble constant, despite endless fiddling and
The variable mass theory not only explains the Hubble relation
for normal galaxies as due to "look-back" time, it gets the Hubble
constant right on the first try! The variable mass theory
calculates the Hubble constant from a single datum: the age of the
oldest stars in our Milky Way, which are between 13 and 17 billion
years old. From this age the variable mass theory calculates a
Hubble constant between 39 and 51 km/sec/Megaparsec. The best
observational values are between 42 and 56 km/sec/Mpc.
"... the variable mass theory has no adjustable
constants--the Hubble constant depends on only one value, the
age of our oldest stars. Nothing can be changed and it gets it
We've heard a lot of blather
in recent years telling us that there's nothing new to learn.
We've heard about "the end of science," and about theories of
everything. These pronouncements are symptomatic of the decay of
today's academic science. They reflect today's academic
rationalism, which holds that truth can be spun from mere words
and symbols in defiance of observation. For those who turn their
backs on reality, there is never anything new to be learned--and
for them science is indeed at an end.
But those who remember that knowledge comes from reality by way
of the senses know that there is never an end to science.
Observations lead to new ideas and theories, to new technologies,
and to new observations. Reality is an inexhaustible fount of
knowledge for those who will observe it. We are not at the end of
science; we may be merely at its beginnings.
Keep looking up! Our zone of awareness is expanding in all
directions at the speed of light into an infinite universe. "...
we might experience a surprise at any moment--or eventually."
Order "Seeing Red" right here!
Halton Arp is on the Editorial Board of
a distinctly unorthodox journal of physics and astronomy.