Seeing Red: Intrinsic Redshifts, Stable Universe

Michael Miller

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXXI-- February 11, 2005

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 itself." 

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 extragalactic astronomy. 


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 

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 orthodox. 

Arp reports observations which sweep away this whole construction. 


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. 

Intrinsic Redshifts 

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 them? 

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 Causality, 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 redshifts. 

Hubble constant from one datum 

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 adjustments. 

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. 

Arp notes: 

"... 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 right." 

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 Apeiron, a distinctly unorthodox journal of physics and astronomy. 

Michael Miller is an engineer and Objectivist filosofer with thirty years of experience. He had been a member of Boycott Alberta Medicare in 1969 and of the Association to Defend Property Rights from 1973 on. He writes in-depth philosophical theory at his publication, Quackgrass Press, which can be accessed at

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