Modern cosmology is in a battle against the observations, and the observations might just win.
Giant ring of galaxies should not exist. A ring of galaxies 5 billion light-years across has cosmologists perplexed, Space.com says (see also Science Daily). According to theory, the large structure, measured via gamma ray bursts, shouldn’t exist. We’ve seen big structures before, but this one is up there; as seen from Earth, it would be 70 times the width of the full moon. That’s almost 5 times the theoretical limit. And it’s not alone, the article says; another one twice as wide was reported in 2013. According to the Cosmological Principle, the universe should appear uniform at large scales.
“If we are right, this structure contradicts the current models of the universe. It was a huge surprise to find something this big — and we still don’t quite understand how it came to exist at all,” added Balazs.
So is the Cosmological Principal [sic] flawed? It’s certainly looking that way.
Universe is missing light. Another observation is at odds with modern cosmology: “Something is amiss in the Universe,” an article on Laboratory Equipment begins. “There appears to be an enormous deficit of ultraviolet light in the cosmic budget.” The universe is apparently unaware it is in crisis:
“Either our accounting of the light from galaxies and quasars is very far off, or there’s some other major source of ionizing photons that we’ve never recognized,” Kollmeier says. “We are calling this missing light the photon underproduction crisis. But it’s the astronomers who are in crisis — somehow or other, the universe is getting along just fine.”
Some astronomers are waving their hands to conjure up “decaying dark matter,” as if invoking another unknown helps.
“You know it’s a crisis when you start seriously talking about decaying dark matter,” Katz remarks.
“The great thing about a 400 percent discrepancy is that you know something is really wrong,” comments co-author David Weinberg of The Ohio State Univ. “We still don’t know for sure what it is, but at least one thing we thought we knew about the present day universe isn’t true.”
They want more time to figure out the discrepancy. Maybe, instead, they should be fired for incompetence.
Tiny black holes could trigger collapse of universe—except that they don’t. Science Magazine is puzzled why black holes stop. Remember the fears that a man-made black hole would suck up the Earth and everything around it? Remember also the worries about looking for the Higgs boson? We were told not to worry. “Now, however, three theorists calculate that in a chain reaction, a mini black hole could trigger such collapse after all,” the article says. The only comfort is that it should have already happened, but we’re still here. This implies that theory is mistaken:
The real point, Moss says, is that theorists can no longer shrug off the problem by assuming that the collapse of the vacuum would take a hugely long time. By showing that—according to the standard model—the collapse should happen quickly, the paper suggests that some new physics must kick in to stabilize the vacuum.
Here be dragons: the supermassive black hole that’s growing impossibly fast: At The Conversation, Kevin Pimbblet is struggling to explain a black hole that appears to be growing so fast, it seems impossible—and it hints there might be even bigger and faster ones to be found.
Mature galaxies from the start: An article on Science Daily seems curiously upbeat about a drastic change of opinion: “Milky Way-like galaxies may have existed in the early universe: Large-scale simulation provides theoretical evidence of early disk galaxies.” Haven’t we been taught since the days of Edwin Hubble that galaxies evolve from simple to complex? “It’s awe inspiring to think that galaxies much like our own existed when the universe was so young,” a cosmologist from Carnegie Mellon says. His colleague points out the drastic change from previous beliefs:
“Theoretically we thought that when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age, it would be a place full of chaos and disorder,” Croft said. “Our simulation showed that the early universe might be far from being just this. It might contain beautiful symmetrical galaxies, like the Milky Way.“
There are some claimed successes in cosmology. Here are some previous mysteries said to be resolved:
Balancing the lithium budget: Science Daily offers a rescue to theory about the big bang that has been hard to reconcile with observation. This is a long-standing problem, PhysOrg says; “desperately tried to provide an explanation” but ideas were “never convincing.” From Science Daily,
Lithium, the lightest metal, used in batteries and mood-stabilising drugs, is rarer than it should be. Models of the period after the Big Bang explain how it, hydrogen and helium were synthesised in nuclear reactions, before the universe cooled enough for the stars and planets that we see today to come into being. Astronomers though think that about three times as much lithium was produced in that earliest epoch than remains today in the oldest stars in the galaxy, and the difference has proved hard to explain.
A workaround was announced from Italy: in ancient stars, the lithium “was destroyed and re-accumulated by these stars shortly after they were born.” Whether this “completely new approach to the lithium problem” holds up remains to be seen; it’s a pretty convoluted model requiring stages of gain and loss during stellar evolution. “The model not only may explain the loss of lithium in stars, but could also help explain why the Sun has fifty times less lithium than similar stars and why stars with planets have less lithium than stars on their own.” But is it plausible? PhysOrg quotes the lead researcher: “To test our model definitively, we have to wait for technical advances that are not yet available.” That will take another ten years, long enough for him to retire probably. See also Daniel Clery’s summary of the problem and proposed solution in Science Magazine; he recounts previous theories that came and went.
Revealing what must come: If the cosmos is “all that is, and ever was, and ever will be” as Carl Sagan says, it will be dark in the distant future. Daniel Clery writes in Science Magazine that “The universe is in a long, slow decline to darkness.” Live Science says, “It’s official: The universe is dying slowly.” The author never states who was officiating.
The most comprehensive assessment of the energy output in the nearby universe reveals that today’s produced energy is only about half of what it was 2 billion years ago. A team of international scientists used several of the world’s most powerful telescopes to study the energy of the universe and concluded that the universe is slowly dying.
So is this true? Here’s a theory that could only be falsified long, long after cosmologists are retired and dead. Neither article refers to dark matter or dark energy, which cosmologists believe add up to 96% of reality. It wasn’t long ago that they were saying that dark energy would lead to a “big rip” in spacetime, not a heat death. One of the new theorists tried to be funny: “The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket, and is about to nod off for an eternal doze.” He sounds like he knows of which he speaks. A philosophical gadfly might ask why the universe is still awake at all.
Here’s a cosmic mystery you can solve with a little reflection: “I am the end of time and the beginning of eternity. I am the beginning of every end, and the end of space, time, and the universe. Who am I?” Answer below.
Answer: The letter “e”.