It Didn’t Start With A Bang
How Spacetime Conservation Predicts an Oscillating Universe
Newton’s Law of Universal gravitation, discovered in 1687, was a powerful tool to describe not only the parabolic arc of cannon fire but the elliptical orbits of the planets. Newton’s treatise was hugely explanatory; nearly all known phenomena in the physics of his day could be understood by his conceptual scaffold of gravity and mechanical laws within a clockwork universe.
We long for those days. We look out and see mysteries everywhere: dark matter, dark energy, the big bang, black hole singularities, the neutrino imbalance of the sun, and just about everything quantum. Although it makes for good science writing, we are overdue for a sweeping theory, one that could unify quantum mechanics and general relativity, just as Newton unified the physics of the heavens and the Earth.
Newton’s laws were unchallenged but for one observation: the stars do not move. He knew that gravitation would act between the stars, crossing immense distances, diminishing in strength but not in potency. Yet, at the end of his life, he at last conceded that God had placed the stars at such immense distances that they would not be shattered by the rational physics of the world.
Perhaps he contemplated the band of light that crosses the night sky, knowing as Galileo did that it was made up of uncountable stars; Newton may have privately speculated on the larger structure of the cosmos. But he did not have the tools to discover that our galaxy of billions of stars is but one of multitudes of billions more, with unfathomable voids between.
In 1929, Edwin Hubble showed conclusively that other galaxies are really far away. But then we ask: what keeps the galaxies aloft? For while the stars are orbiting the core of the galaxy like planets do the sun, the galaxies are scattered, disoriented.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity had the same problem: galaxies should be falling into a big crunch.
In a desperate attempt to reconcile this with the unmoving stars, Einstein introduced a “cosmological constant” which would counteract gravity to keep the universe aloft, and static.
But when Hubble analyzed the light from distant galaxies, he found an expanding universe. Almost all galaxies are moving away from one another, as revealed by the red-shifting of starlight.
When Einstein heard the news, he crossed out his cosmological constant, and lamented that it was the greatest mistake of his career. As to what caused or was driving the expansion, Einstein had no answer.
Big Bang Theory
In 1964, technicians at the Crawford Hill site of Bell Telephone Laboratories were calibrating a new radio astronomy telescope. Whichever way they pointed the telescope, they were finding the same low-level background radiation, and only after repeated attempts to eliminate the noise, and a consultation with some physicists, did they figure they had discovered the origin of the universe.
And as it turned out, a low-level background radiation was predicted by Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman sixteen years earlier. They had been exploring the possibility that the universe started with a bang.
If the universe began as a fireball, the temperature and pressure would be so great that protons and electrons would not form atoms. Instead, they would exist in a plasma, a gas of unbound particles. These would scatter light at almost all wavelengths, so the early universe would be opaque. Only when the universe had expanded and cooled would electrons and protons form hydrogen atoms, which absorb light only at discrete frequencies. As a result, the universe would suddenly become transparent, and light would escape out into space.
The light would sail outward in a great front, and as the universe continued to expand the light would lose energy and shift to the red over billions of years, until it produced a noise we see now.
We can’t see back to the bang, but we can tell that the universe has aged.
When we look out to space billions of light years distant, we see a higher percentage of youthful galaxies. A young galaxy, like a young solar system, will have a lot of dust and gas and may be irregularly shaped. It will also be full of young stars, and as a result it will tend to emit light in certain wavelengths, specifically the infra-red.
Star formation appears to have peaked about 10 billion years ago. Perhaps our universe is middle-aged.
But we also see evidence that disconfirms the Big Bang theory.
The most distant regions of space we can see nevertheless contain objects that are themselves very old. Recently, a quasar was found that is 13 billion years old, yet powered by an ancient black hole about 2 billion times the mass of the Sun.
In an attempt to account for the anomaly within the paradigm of the theory, scientists suggest that the early universe somehow seeded these massive structures early on. But a more natural explanation is that they were already ancient.
If the bang also set the elemental abundance in the universe, then we should see the same abundance across different stars and galaxies. But occasionally we discover stars that don’t meet that balance.
Science has no explanation for whatever was before the bang, nor what caused the bang. Anything beyond the singularity of a black hole would be stuck, forever, as a bigger black hole. We don’t even know that for sure, because black holes are supermassive objects on the scale of quantum particles, and we haven’t figured out quantum gravity yet. Maybe when things get so massive they just punch through to the other side… of… whatever that means.
Quantum theorists suggest that the universe was created from void as a spontaneous event, but I find this idea actually less satisfying than the first chapter of Genesis.
At the end of the day, Big Bang theory is a speculation about things and events that are beyond known physics. But wait, the day isn’t over yet.
Somewhere, a star explodes. The light spreads, over a few billion years, in a widening sphere. A few photons from this event bounce off a mirror and are captured in the Hubble Space Telescope.
By the fall of 1997, two teams, the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP) and the High-Z Team were searching for Type-1a supernova events and using their emission spectra as standard candles; the redshifts told them how much the universe is expanding, now and billions of years in the past.
General relativity tells us that the universe must be decelerating. Either it is collapsing, or it is expanding and decelerating such that it will eventually collapse, or it is expanding and decelerating such that it will never collapse, just drift out, forever. The teams were looking to find out how quickly the universe was decelerating and whether there was enough mass in creation to eventually stop it.
Only, they found the universe was accelerating in its expansion.
In the wake of the discovery, theoreticians picked up Einstein’s equations, and on the line where Einstein had erased his “cosmological constant,’’ scribbled it back in again. Perhaps Einstein was prescient even in his errors.
What was causing the expansion of the universe? Astronomers called it dark energy.
“Dark” because, well, it is mysterious.
And there is a lot of it. It takes more energy to expand the universe than there is energy contained in the stuff from which the universe is made. Estimates are that 60% of the universe is dark energy.
Yeah, that’s a lot.
What surprises me most is that we have not seen a significant turn away from the popularity of Big Bang theory in the face of this huge disconfirmation. After all, why a bang, if the universe is accelerating itself, even now?
As we grow accustomed to this state of being always alarmed at unexpected new data, we ought to recall the ease with which Newton’s theory solved all known physics of his day.
Mysteries fell to his theory, naturally, effortlessly, like a house of cards. We long for those days.
A New Paradigm
Randell Mills wanted to invent stuff.
After graduating summa cum lauda from Franklin and Marshall College, he went to Harvard Medical School, where he finished all the required coursework in three years. This allowed him to spend the fourth year taking graduate level physics at MIT. Meanwhile he networked with the great medical inventors in the Boston area, who thought he was brilliant.
After graduation, Mills started crashing at the small office and laboratory of John Farrell, his former undergraduate professor. Mills spent days and nights at Farrell’s office, often sleeping on the floor. Farrell would leave him working at night and often find him still working the next morning.
While at the lab, Mills invented a new kind of cancer therapy based on the Mossbauer effect, leading to an article in Nature; he invented a new drug-delivery molecule and used it to fight HIV; he tinkered with a genomic sequencer, and he developed prototypes for a new kind of medical imaging based on magnetic susceptibility.
When he brought the ideas for his imagining system to a head engineer at HP, he was told the math was too complicated. So Mills did the math himself.
It was during this period of focused time of intense creativity that Mills began thinking over something his professor at MIT, Herman Haus, had discovered: a new way of understanding the physics of radiation.
While an individual point-charge must radiate energy as it describes a circular orbit in the atom, an extended particle could accelerate without radiating energy, according to Haus’s condition.
Mills ran with it. He invented a new, ‘soap bubble’ model of the electron. Reviving a tradition from the first decades of the twentieth century, Mills side-stepped the quantum mechanical model and relied almost exclusively on classical physics: electrodynamics and relativistic mechanics.
Mills solved the structure of the bound electron, revealing why the ground state of atoms are stable and excited states are unstable; and solving an array of known observable parameters from simple equations that seem to flow, effortlessly, from the physics of the model.
Later he calculated the energies of multi-electron atoms; the state lifetimes and line intensities of hydrogen excited states; the spectrum of helium; molecular energies and geometry, and so on. His treatise, starting off as a slim volume, grew to a two thousand page tome, filled with calculations of known experimental phenomena and some new predictions.
It reads as dryly as Newton’s Principia, but reveals a beautiful new view of the architecture of nature on the quantum scale. Mills’s theory bloomed like a flower.
With a new model of fundamental particles, Mills turned his attention to the problem of gravity on a quantum scale.
Mills’s first insight came from how, if his electron bubble is constricted down to a size of about 1/137th the size of the hydrogen atom, the energy stored in the electrical repulsion of its own charge would exactly equal its rest mass — its Newtonian mass. The electron must begin life at this size, with its antiparticle the positron, during a pair production event.
During pair production, a photon transforms into two particles that are orbiting one another in a circular bound state. Then, they launch apart on a parabolic arc. When the particle and antiparticle split, something interesting happens to space.
There is a relationship between the proper time (the reference frame in orbit) and coordinate time (the reference frame at the center of the orbit). When the two particles are moving at their Newtonian escape velocity, this relationship between proper time and coordinate time bends space and time around the particles, a special relativistic contraction of spacetime itself, creating a gravitational field.
Mills’s theory produced the following result:
- When particles are born, spacetime contracts.
- When particles die (by annihilating with an antiparticle, or any process in which matter is released as light), spacetime expands.
This creates a new conservation law: the conservation of spacetime: Spacetime pulls in and pushes out, and overall, it is conserved.
The math allowed Mills to do useful work, such as predict particle masses, particle classes, and solve the ratios of the masses of fundamental particles — something never before done. Everything matched incredibly well to experimental data, and Mills’s theory even predicted the top quark mass before its discovery.
And, it is an epiphany.
Look up at the night sky, and what do you see? Stars; small glimmering dots. Stars are the universe’s factories, enormous fusion engines that digest matter and produce light. To conserve spacetime, each fusion event pushes out space a very little bit.
Our Sun alone (a relatively modest star) fuses 620 million metric tons of hydrogen per second, refining it into helium or other heavier elements, and releasing the balance of mass as energy.
There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone, and hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe .
In 1995, Mills hypothesized that universe is not simply coasting from a primordial bang, but actively pushing itself out. Stellar fusion, the most abundant physical process in nature, provides an explanation for the expanding universe.
It makes sense; and in retrospect, matter to energy conversion is the only physical process in nature that is up to the task of pushing out the universe on such an enormous scale.
Mills continued to extrapolate from this idea.
Over billions of years, the fires of the universe will burn, expanding space. Stars will grow old and die, perhaps explode as supernova, their remnants forming new stars (like ours), which will live out their lives, as their host galaxies slowly drift out on the spacetime wind.
This goes on. Matter becomes scarce, and dominated by heavier elements of the ash of stars. Neutron stars will cool, ancient supermassive black holes will grow fat (and annihilate, as allowed in Mills’s theory); galaxies will shrink, dim, and eventually go dark. The last stars will be outposts, wavering candles in a vast expanse of emptiness.
The expansion stops.
The universe will reach its maximum size: about 312 billion light years across, about 22 times larger than it is today.
The tide has turned; the radiation flowing through space courses through clouds of dust and gas to form new particles. Each spark of new matter contracts space and exerts gravity on its surroundings; the particles combine and into atoms and add to the gathering clouds, which will catch still more light. The shrinking universe will go slowly at first, but speed up and eventually reach a rapid clip. New fires will kindle as stars are born from fresh supplies of hydrogen gas.
Only after the murky unformed clouds of proto-galaxies begin to take shape as beautiful spirals; only after they are once again neighbors, near enough to occasionally collide, as they group into clusters and superclusters; only once they are fully ablaze and the heavens are filled with light, will the universe stop shrinking and pause.
Galaxies are now mature, dense, and hot. Millions of new stars are being born every day; and the universe starts to expand, slowly at first, then faster, beginning a new cycle in the history of the cosmos.
No Big Bang
In 1995, Mills described a dynamically oscillating universe, that will expand and contract, in a cycle that lasts nearly a trillion years, with no Big Bang or Big Crunch. He published this theory two years before astronomers discovered the accelerating expansion; before “dark energy” had been coined.
Not only did Mills predict an accelerating expansion, but he discovered the only plausible mechanism that I have seen proposed in two decades to drive the expansion.
But Mills’s cosmological work was based on an entirely new theory of quantum gravity, based in turn on his entirely new theory of atomic and particle physics. Due to this language barrier, his work remains largely unknown in the scientific community, but the 1995 edition of his treatise in the Library of Congress will be a patent reminder of his prediction.
Now, the oscillating universe is once again on the minds of some theoreticians, who are tired of infertile theories.
But what about the the cosmic background radiation?
This may be a surprising example of coincidental evidence that can be eliminated with Occam’s Razor.
An alternative interpretation is the radiation is simply the result of the ambient temperature of the universe, due to the relationship between its power output and volume. There’s no need at all to imagine a giant, inexplicable, primordial explosion. This radiation even perfectly fits a blackbody spectrum.
In recent years, two discoveries, both involving quasars, have further helped to confirm Mills’ oscillating universe cosmology.
The oscillation of the universe should follow a sinusoidal curve. Both the size of the universe and its rate of expansion are sinusoids. However, we exist so early in this cycle of expansion that we may be able to see back to the first few billion years of the expansion and detect a kind of flattening-out of the expansion.
Recently, using quasars as standard candles, a team of astronomers have recently shown that the universe was expanding more slowly than expected very early in its history. Otherwise said, ‘dark energy’ is increasing over time.
This is to be expected in a young universe in which total power output of the universe is continuing to increase. But this is not to be expected with Big Bang theory, which predicts that the very early universe should be rapidly expanding due to some kind of ungodly explosion.
In another study from 2010, a team was able to use the oscillation frequency of quasars as a grid of clocks spread throughout the universe.
They discovered that although light from distant galaxies is being shifted to the red, there appears to be no detectible time dilation, in seeming violation of special relativity.
Mills’s explanation for this centers on the fact that matter-to-energy conversion is a distributed source of spacetime expansion, which allows quasars to “feel” as if they are not moving, even while light is stretched as it moves for billions of years through expanding space between our galaxies. It also requires that we reimagine absolute space as a reference frame, governing absolute time dilation.
The Making of the World
Does an oscillating universe need a creator?
Perhaps religious beliefs will evolve as they have before. Instead of a creation, a continuum; instead of a creator, a custodian of time. Others may look for a prime mover, but light and matter move themselves.
What makes our place in the universe meaningful is that we are here to perceive it. We derive meaning from the beauty and experience of our life, our creative activity, our advances in knowledge and art, our relationships, our happiness in a moment.
The existence of our entire species is but a moment, as we lay on the grass and watch the clouds through a shifting canopy of leaves, while a child crawls over our feet. And then, the moment has passed.
I find comfort in that whatever the fate of the human race, the universe will go on, and after coldness and darkness refold on itself, stars emerging with planets kindling new life and new intelligences.
They will look out on the world with curiosity and the desire to live.
Brett Holverstott is author of the book Randell Mills and the Search for Hydrino Energy. This is the third in a series of astrophysics articles that adapt content from the book. Special thanks to Matt Schmidt for the illustrations.