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Cosmology: Crisis of the month – Gravitation

Cleaning out the In box, I noticed “Study Plunges Standard Theory of Cosmology Into Crisis” (ScienceDaily (May 5, 2009), in which we learn:

“The only solution would be to reject Newtońs classical theory of gravitation,” says Pavel Kroupa. “We probably live in a non-Newton universe. If this is true, then our observations could be explained without dark matter.” Such approaches are finding support amongst other research teams in Europe, too.

It would not be the first time that Newton’s theory of gravitation had to be modified over the past hundred years. This became necessary in three special cases: when high velocities are involved (through the Special Theory of Relativity), in the proximity of large masses (through the theory of General Relativity), and on sub-atomic scales (through quantum mechanics). The deviations detected in the satellite galaxy data support the hypothesis that in space where extremely weak accelerations predominate, a “modified Newton dynamic” must be adopted. This conclusion has far-reaching consequences for fundamental physics in general, and also for cosmological theories.

Astrophysicist Bob Sanders from the University of Groningen declares: “The authors of this paper make a strong argument. Their result is entirely consistent with the expectations of modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND), but completely opposite to the predictions of the dark matter hypothesis. Rarely is an observational test so definite.”

Well, this is a nice change from speculation.

See also: “Time for a New Theory of Gravitation? Satellite Galaxies Challenge Newtonian Model” (ScienceDaily, Apr. 23, 2009) where some of the same cast of characters note e this problem:

The team of scientists looked at the distribution of these satellite dwarf galaxies and discovered they were not where they should be. “There is something odd about their distribution”, explains Professor Kroupa. “They should be uniformly arranged around the Milky Way, but this is not what we found.” The astronomers discovered that the eleven brightest of the dwarf galaxies lie more or less in the same plane – in a kind of disk shape – and that they revolve in the same direction around the Milky Way (in the same way as planets in the Solar System revolve around the Sun).

Professor Kroupa and the other physicists believe that this can only be explained if today’s satellite galaxies were created by ancient collisions between young galaxies. Team member and former colleague Dr Manuel Metz, now at the Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- and Raumfahrt, also worked on the study. “Fragments from early collisions can form the revolving dwarf galaxies we see today” comments Dr Metz. But he adds that this introduces a paradox. “Calculations suggest that the dwarf satellites cannot contain any dark matter if they were created in this way. But this directly contradicts other evidence. Unless the dark matter is present, the stars in the galaxies are moving around much faster than predicted by Newton’s standard theory of gravitation.”

Most interesting, but I’m not clear on what the “crisis” is.

Oh never mind. By fall, a different crisis.

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42 Responses to Cosmology: Crisis of the month – Gravitation

  1. Well, now. After being told that evolution is as certain as gravity, we now hear that gravity is not quite as well-understood as previously thought.

  2. Well, now. After being told that evolution is as certain as gravity, we now hear that gravity is not quite as well-understood as previously thought.

    I don’t think this piece is actually casting doubt on the existence of gravity, just that our current descriptions of it are incomplete.
    If they say evolution is as certain as gravity I think they mean that it is observed to exist, not that it is totally understood.

  3. I was taught that evolution is a long gradual process that took place back in the eons of time, and we cannot observe it…

  4. Having watched Sean Carroll’s Teaching Company course on Dark Matter and Dark Energy and am currently watching Mark Whittle’s Cosmology course, the crisis is that a lot of work will have to be re done. Just what, I haven’t a clue but the concepts of dark matter and dark energy are weaved into everything. So I can see it is very disconcerting for them. But it is an intellectual crisis not a practical one.

    The same sort of crisis exists in evolution but they dare not say it. Evolution (macro evolution) is not essential to biology as dark matter and dark energy are to cosmology today so they can go on operating in the biology world as if it didn’t exist. (just to clarify they do use micro evolutionary processes all the time in biology related fields) For practical purposes, the same could be said for cosmology because there doesn’t seem to be anything essential to our lives today that depends on it. It is just an interesting phenomena.

  5. I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (glam edition, 1996), and gathered then that gravitation does not accord well with the other three fundamental forces of nature.

    So this must be a slow-acting crisis, which seems to some of us like a contradiction in terms.

  6. I thought dark matter had been established through observation of gravitational lensing. You know I hear about these hypothesis that are going to do away with dark matter from time to time. But let’s be real. A revolution on that scale will happen in cosmology when the astrophysicists that believe in dark matter are dead. Old ideas never die, just the people that believe them.

  7. Materialists hate gravity because it is a fundamental force which is not embodied in energy or matter. Electro magnetism for example is actually carried though weak electrical fields. Gravity as far as I can tell is more of a curvature of space based upon the relationship of matter, density and relative motion. I think gravity is one of those fine tuned dimensions of the universe that strongly fits into your Privileged Planet thesis.

  8. Jehu, Dark matter is a postulate used to explain gaps within statistical models of the universe. The observations used to support it are obviously not of the dark matter itself because dark matter cannot be seen. Since dark matter is not directly observable and relies on mathematical models it is a synthetic theory. It is let to be proven whether it exists and how much of the astro-physical puzzle can be attributed to its existence- that is we don’t know how much dark matter there “actually” is if any. The other possibility is that we have a fundamental misunderstanding or gravity- which is true since we cannot explain that fully wither- or that universe is not as we think it is under the modern model. As of now Dark Matter stands as the ultimate “materialism of the gaps” hypothesis.

  9. Materialists hate gravity…

    That has got to be one of the strangest comments I’ve seen in a while.

  10. Frost,

    Yes but gravitational lensing can be observed and, if true, what else can explain it?

  11. So this must be a slow-acting crisis, which seems to some of us like a contradiction in terms.

    Yes, the journalists choice of words are quite poor in that regard, but then headlines are meant to grab attention, scientists usually couch things in more modest and provisional terms than the journalists who report on them.

  12. Of course, dark matter and dark energy are just a pile voodoo science. It is the sort of BS that physicists conjure up whenever one of their most idolized theories (Einstein’s general theory of relativity), is squarely and mercilessly falsified. Of course, when push comes to shove, they would rather blame it on long gone Sir Isaac rather than admit to the world that Einstein was dead wrong. And God forbid anybody should mention that everything else in cosmology (black holes, Big Bang, accelerating expansion, etc.) is automatically suspect and should be jettisoned with the rest of the hogwash. What a marvelous house of cards these these savvy gentlefolk are building!

    But how can their theories not be wrong? They have absolutely no clue as to what causes gravity. They are willfully ignorant of and uninterested in foundational issues. Relativists will even tell you with a straight face that science is not about the why of things but the how. In other words, we don’t know, we don’t want to know and neither should you. We tell you what’s important and what to think about because we are the lords of physics. And don’t you forget it.

    Gravity physics is not really science. It’s more like everyday engineering. It’s just a bunch of mathematicians adjusting coefficients, constants and equations until their theory somehow agrees with observation. It explains nothing in terms of particles, their properties and their interactions, which is what real physics should be about anyway.

    Science is in dire need of a Kuhnian revolution, in my opinion.

  13. Mapou,

    And God forbid anybody should mention that everything else in cosmology (black holes, Big Bang, accelerating expansion, etc.) is automatically suspect and should be jettisoned with the rest of the hogwash.

    What? But isn’t the Big Bang observable from the cosmic background radiation? Isn’t the accelerating expansion observable from the doppler effect? I don’t see how relativity has anything to do with those.

  14. Jehu @13,

    I seriously doubt that the Big Bang is observable and I doubt that the cosmic background radiation is evidence for the Big Bang. Physicists have no idea that EM radiation really travels at c over huge distances. The red shift will probably be found to be caused by phenomena other than bodies moving away from us.

    Relativity (both SR and GR) has a lot to do with the Big Bang and universal expansion because it has a lot to say about the speed of light and gravity. These are central concepts in cosmology.

    As I said before, unless physicists become interested in foundational issues (i.e., what causes motion, gravity, etc.), their most cherished assumptions will remain suspect. We need a physics based on first principles, not guesses.

  15. 15

    Enezio E. De Almeida Filho (#3) wrote: “I was taught that evolution is a long gradual process that took place back in the eons of time, and we cannot observe it.

    You need to meet Padian’s Critters at http://ncseweb.org/news/2007/0.....ers-001159

  16. To Mapou

    In other words, its like the child who keeps asking ‘why’. Anyone can do that, and eventually force any authority to hit some limit (thats why the game is so much fun).

    Science is exploring all these questions, and what you see now is the current state of play. Our understanding of the real world is pretty dammed good, but not perfect.

    Perhaps you have a better way. Prayer perhaps ?

  17. Mapou @ 12:

    Of course, when push comes to shove, they would rather blame it on long gone Sir Isaac rather than admit to the world that Einstein was dead wrong.

    OK, a few things are weird about this attitude, especially in the context of this later remark:

    But how can their theories not be wrong? They have absolutely no clue as to what causes gravity. They are willfully ignorant of and uninterested in foundational issues.

    Why no excoriation for long gone Sir Isaac “I frame no hypotheses” Newton? There’s no trace of a mechanism at all in Newtonian dynamics. Universal gravitation just is, and the inverse square law is all “how” and zero “why”. So, GR actually is an improvement in that there is some “why” to be had: mass distorts space, and objects will follow the curvature. Sure, the “how” of the distortion is missing, but, so what? That’s how science goes. We don’t get all the answers just ’cause we want them.

    On to the other weirdness: given how much work is and has been and will be done on reconciling GR and QM, how can you say with a straight face that physicists are “uninterested” in getting a more detailed picture of the mechanism of gravity?

    And there simply is no monolithic “they” that wants to blame Newton for anything. He’s an intellectual hero in physics, and quite arguably more so than Einstein.

    It’s not even all that uncommon to run across the sentiment that GR is ultimately a minor modification of Newtonian dynamics.

    So no, MOND is simply a single proposal which is motivated solely by a desire to explain certain observations and not at all by some sinister need to pick on eccentric and deceased British physicists. And it’s hardly like GR is beyond all reproach. For one, like I said, much time has been spent trying to do to relativity what relativity did to Newtonian theory. For two, people have been known to propose various classical alternatives and modifications to GR. As an example of the former:
    Brans–Dicke theory

    And for the latter:
    Tensor-vector-scalar_gravity(aka Relativistic MOND)

    Hell, Einstein himself chipped in on one:
    Einstein–Cartan theory

    Lastly, GR has all sorts of experimental verification. Next to QED, it’s probably the most accurate theory there is. Why on Earth would anyone in their right mind just decide to chuck the whole thing? Any successor will have to duplicate all of its many rock-solid results, just as GR had to duplicate all the successes of Newton’s work.

    Not to be too harsh or anything, but reading these diatribes about the alleged crimes of gravitational physics puts me in mind of nothing so much as John Baez’s classic Crackpot Index.

  18. Not to be too harsh or anything, but reading these diatribes about the alleged crimes of gravitational physics puts me in mind of nothing so much as John Baez’s classic Crackpot Index.

    Wow, thats quite a high score you’re going for Mapou.

    dbthomas, I spent some time on a discussion group concerned with antigravity and I think almost all would have scored tripple digits as a minimum in the index. One person USED ALL CAPS FOR EVERYTHING THEY WROTE. I didn’t stay for long…

  19. I think O’Learys vaguely anti-science tone brings out the fellow anti-sciencers.

  20. Mapou, you say

    Physicists have no idea that EM radiation really travels at c over huge distances.

    Do you really mean that? If so, would you care to explain a little?

  21. 21

    Jehu, it is caused by the curvature of space as predicted and explained in Einstein’s GR theory. But the materialists want to attribute this curvature to more matter because by increasing the matter in the universe the origination makes more sense- but the bottom line is that there is no real reason to postulate more matter – a lot more btw like 90% more- as the answer to gravity’s origin- which is the cause of what you are seeing with the curvature of space. Gravity pulls curves space which causes the traveling light curve with it.

    If you asked creationist Walt Brown he’d probably say it is because made “stretched out” the material universe like a thin cloth- as Einstein use to use the image of a cloth with a ball in the middle curving the cloth around it to explain gravity’s shape.

  22. 22

    dbthomas,

    Your post seems to be about GR and not about Dark Matter. Our concern, and it is correct, is that DM postulate that there is 90% more matter in the universe than there is observable. This is not a small claim and similarly to macro evolution and Darwinian “chance” mutational mechanisms, it is a big leap that is unsupported except only but “some” abstract mathematics and a materialistic biased mainstream scientific community which also accepts global warming even though the plant has been cooling for years now. It would be very easy on all of this to use the Darwinian mantra “its not science”- because it is not observable and only synthetically postulated. It is materialism of the gaps as far as I am concerned and the notion of 90% more “invisible” matter is an insult to my rationality until they get some kind of powerful verification- the level of which that would be required for one to accept the reality of a miracle.

  23. Frost, my post is about what it’s about because of Mapou’s comments, one of which was that physicists don’t “admit to the world that Einstein was dead wrong” and another of which was that they are “uninterested in foundational issues.” Dark matter may be your main concern (as it is for many physicists as well), and its certainly reasonable to want more answers about it (as do many physicists as well, including the ones who accept its reality), but Mapou apparently has bigger theories to fry.

  24. To dbthomas and BillB,

    Did you two know that nothing can move in spacetime? Right. Neither did Stephen (black hole) Hawking, David (quantum computing) Deutsch, and Kip (wormhole) Thorne. These emminent physicists all believe in the possibility of time travel and that it is not forbidden by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And yet, in Conjectures and Refutations, Sir Karl Popper called spacetime “Einstein’s block universe in which nothing happens.” Nobody in the physics community would ever dare to contradict Popper on this as he would tear them a new orifice. So they ignored him.

    And guess what? Dr. John Baez (yep, the same John Baez who came up with the crackpot index) agrees that nothing can move in spacetime (good for him). Amazingly, he also believes that spacetime consists of an infinite number of nows, past ones and future ones, all existing concurrently (!!!???). However, Baez, in his brilliance, declines to explain how we can move from one now to the next since nothing can move in spacetime. One is left to wonder how many points Baez’s spacetime crackpottery would garner on his crackpot index.

    What I am sensing from you guys (including people like Baez, Hawking, Thorne and Deutsch) is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. You love to dish it out but you can’t take it. Any physicist who does not know or denies that nothing can move in spacetime and that time is not a variable should return his/her degree and sue his/her alma matter for teaching crackpottery. Have fun with this:

    Nasty Little Truth ABout Spacetime Physics

    The most stupid procedures and the most laughable results in their domain are surrounded with an aura of excellence. It is time to cut them down in size, and to give them a more modest position in society.

    From Against Method by Paul Feyerabend

    Add a little bit of humor to top it off. ahahaha… AHAHAHA… ahem.

  25. Mapou:

    Spacetime doesn’t preclude the possibility of movement however if time is concieved of as a dimension and you attempt to view it from a perspective outside that dimension then the universe can appear unchanging, if nothing else because you need to be progressing through a time dimension in order for observation to be possible. Movement in this context is a progression along the time axis – its like a cartoon. the pictures don’t move when you look at them as a static series but when you run them past your eyes they appear to be animated.

    You seem to have failed to understand Baez point which is that when time is viewed as a dimension alongside the other three then the notion of now stops making sense. Now could be any point on that dimension.

    Baez, in his brilliance, declines to explain how we can move from one now to the next since nothing can move in spacetime.

    Its because we don’t exist outside these dimensions. We exist within them and are forced to obey their laws and so, with respect to time as a dimension, movement appears to only and always occur in one direction (although the rate of change along this dimension might be variable with respect to the rates in other dimensions).

    The problem of course is that trying to talk about rates of change in time is conceptually confusing when you seem to need time to measure it. From our frame of reference Dt/Dt makes no sense but Dx/Dt in location X1,Y1,Z1 relative to Dx/Dt in location X2,Y2,Z2 makes more sense if x is constant with respect to t.

    Of course things change if there are more time like dimensions…

  26. Correction to my 25, the last bit three lines in should be:
    … if a change in x is constant with respect to t.

  27. BillB @25,

    You’re wasting my time. Your explanations are not even wrong. Believe me, I’ve heard them all. I am tired of going over the same nonsense. You are trying to find excuses for the crackpottery of the time travel crackpots in the physics community. But why am I not surprised? Devotees should defend their superiors.

    See you around.

  28. I believe in a four dimensional space-time continuum. Isn’t that what Einstein believed too?

    So what’s wrong with that? As far as I can tell there is only one way time may be stopped: By traveling at the speed of light.

    For what my opinion may be worth: It seems to me that Mapou has a lot of “no, it isn’t so”, but very little “that’s how it is.”

    It is all right to argue against a theory, but doesn’t the observations on which it rest need to be accounted for, one way or the other? Why isn’t the Doppler effect applicable to light as well as it is to sound? Or maybe it isn’t what it is for sound waves either? We know that there are many aspects of sound that parallels aspects of light even to the extent that experiments have shown that sound also exhibits the wave/particle duality.

  29. Mapou,

    I am completely open to seeing commonly accepted scientific paradigms defeated but you are coming off as a bit of a crank. I mean, if you are going to trash talk, at least score some points first. Just stating thin conclusory allegations and then dishing on those who disagree with you is not very persuasive. You might have some good points or you might be a nut job. I am not sure yet.

  30. 30

    I am completely open to seeing commonly accepted scientific paradigms defeated but you are coming off as a bit of a crank. I mean, if you are going to trash talk, at least score some points first. Just stating thin conclusory allegations and then dishing on those who disagree with you is not very persuasive. You might have some good points or you might be a nut job. I am not sure yet.

    This is an astute criticism of Mapou’s comments. It’s an equally astute criticism of Denyse’s posts, and of ID generally, for exactly the same reasons.

  31. Learned Hand:

    This is an astute criticism of Mapou’s comments. It’s an equally astute criticism of Denyse’s posts, and of ID generally, for exactly the same reasons.

    No, it does not apply to ID generally but it does apply to you.

  32. Jehu,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to engage in lengthy debates, especially with those who believe in the inherent superiority of the scientific community and/or the scientific method.

    This is the reason that I provide links. If the reader is interested, he or she can peruse the info provided at the links. It is, of course, up to the reader to make up his or her own mind.

  33. Methinks “nutjob” is the right answer.

  34. tyke, you may be right.

    I spent some time reading through the rebelscience.org site that Mapou linked to. It is interesting, but not for the reasons I suspect Mapou thinks. It seems to be replete with examples of how a series of small misunderstandings surrounding metaphors can lead to a large misunderstanding of what are often quote abstract topics. Metaphors and analogies can be quite a problem in science, I have used them to explain some concepts to my wife with amusing results. As she freely admits she tends to take these things far too literally so talking about ‘fitness landscapes’ leads to questions about trees and hedges.

    I quite liked the “Nasty Little Truth About Motion”. It seems to be entirely based on a misunderstanding of the Planck length and assumes that this fundamental limit on measurement means that particles must therefore be ‘jumping’ from one discrete (measured) position to another. If they are jumping then something needs to cause each discrete jump otherwise, according to his reasoning, the particle should just stop. The problem goes away when you realise that the Planck length is a limit on our ability to measure accurately, not a requirement that particles only occupy discrete, static positions in space.

    The short version – “I don’t understand therefore all science is wrong”

  35. If anyone could ever give a layman’s discussion of “fitness landscapes” it would probably be appreciated by the masses here.

  36. Hi Jerry,

    If anyone could ever give a layman’s discussion of “fitness landscapes” it would probably be appreciated by the masses here.

    I think the Wikipedia entry for “fitness landscape” is pretty good, at least for starters.

  37. BillB @34:

    The short version – “I don’t understand therefore all science is wrong”

    Bzzzttt… Wrong!
    The short version: “We don’t understand, therefore let us feed them with BS and let us never admit that we are clueless.”

  38. So, does this conspiracy have like policy meetings and stuff, Mapou? Like, for instance, what specific BS to feed people on a given day?

  39. Eh, dbthomas, they don’t need policy meetings. their ‘scientific theories’ are random and undirected, therefore they don’t have to worry about it all that much. The naive and ignorant are bound to fall for one or the other.

    “Throw out your gold teeth and see how they roll. The answer they reveal, life is unreal”

  40. dbthomas:

    So, does this conspiracy have like policy meetings and stuff, Mapou? Like, for instance, what specific BS to feed people on a given day?

    Funny. The answer is no. Condescendingly feeding BS to the public does not require a conspiracy. It only requires willing arse kissers and other assorted morons. ahahaha…

    Now (since I seem to be taking part in a urinating contest), who’s funnier? Is it you with your conspiracy meetings or me with my arse kissers and morons?

    ahahaha… AHAHAHA… ahahaha…

    Thanks for the laughs, BKs. See you around.

  41. No, Mapou: Thank you.

  42. 42

    Gravitation- Three Types Of Dark Matter?

    Hugh Ross – Dark Energy; Three Types Of Dark Matter And Earth’s Extremely Privileged Position

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=280Mt0AdIjo

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