Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Why Dark Energy Is Bad For Astronomy"

That line wasn't written here. Fundamentalist Physics: Why Dark Energy Is Bad For Astronomy is by Simon White of the Max Planck Institute. This essay is recommended, and it contains NO MATH. White is severely critical of "dark energy" and what it has done to science. Already it has drawn comparisons to ether, harmed careers and made physicists look foolish.

"This exposes the community to the danger of designing and carrying out a very expensive experiment to measure many thousand supernovae, or to image a very large area of sky, only to find that the resulting measurement of w is only a modest improvement over previous work because of astrophysical systematics. If the experiment is of limited use for other astrophysical purposes, then the funds will, in effect, have been wasted. A problem for which the astrophysicists will surely be blamed!"

This refers to a Joint Dark Energy Mission, which would search supernovae for the sole purpose of constraining DE. Even if DE existed, JDEM would not return with a single particle of it, or even determine if it was wave or particle. For illustration White uses the Hubble pictures (above) of the Eagle Nebula and Hubble Deep Field. Hubble and JWST are examples of instruments that can address a variety of science, including supernovae. White continues:

"Other Dark Energy projects, for example those searching for supernovae or looking to measure baryonic features in the large-scale galaxy and mass distributions, will not extend previous sensitivity, resolution or wavelength limits. Rather they achieve the required precision by observing much larger areas of sky than has previously been possible. Such surveys may not enable significant progress in other areas of astrophysics."

"This leads to the third, and in my view most serious danger. By accepting the fundamentalist view that Dark Energy is so important that clarifying its nature is the overiding problem for current astrophysics, astrophysicists betray the underlying culture of their field and undermine its attractiveness both to future generations of creative scientists and to the public at large. This is exacerbated by other sociological trends within astrophysics which I now digress briefly to discuss."

JDEM would be attached to NASA's Beyond Einstein Program. This program has been reduced in scope so that only 1-2 missions will go forward, if that. A commitee of the National Research Council has been deciding which missions will go up first. White's argument precisely echoes what yours truly mentioned to the committee in February. A decision is to be announced September 9 by Michael Griffin. From what has been heard at NASA, JDEM advocates should brace for some disappointing news.

"Dark Energy" has also drawn dissent at that other science blog. The mastermind of that blog is a religious DE supporter, when he is not contributing to Yearly Kos. That may have been fun, but in Chicago one can see some real science. One of his woman contributors writes Dude, Where's My Baryons?

"Now, I like dark matter and dark energy as much as the next person. Still, I simply don’t have the temperament to spend the majority of my mental energy on ideas that are so speculative that, while interesting, they’re probably wrong."

The idea of a repulsive "dark energy" has so dominated physics that it threatens to crowd out other promising science. Even if DE existed, it has no conceivable practical use. It would be so diffuse in Space that it could not levitate a fly. It has prevented physicists from seeing what a child could figure out: the Universe isn't accelerating, but light is slowing down.

GM = tc^3. "Dark Energy" has been solved, let us move on. Some may say that it was foolish going to the NRC to say that DE may not exist, but others have been quietly agreeing. As Captain Kirk said, "Every revolution begins with one."

This week Dr. Pamela Gay hosts the new Carnival of Space!

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Blogger nige said...

Louise, this is very good. This "dark energy" groupthink is mainstream mythology, mob culture in physics. It was always like this.

Back in 1667, Johann Joachim Becher "discovered" a substance later called "phlogiston", in order to explain how some things (but not others) could burn. This idea caught on, with German chemist Georg Ernst Stahl naming it phlogiston after the Greek word for fire, and applying the idea to all sorts of problems in chemistry, finding it a useful descriptive model in many ways.

The "phlogiston" was supposed to be released when something burns, and the fact that some things don't burn was simply "explained" by posulating the absense of "phlogiston" inside them. All problems with the theory were automatically new discoveries; instead of writing that the theory was wrong, people would write that they had discovered that the theory needed such-and-such modifications to make it account for this-and-that.

You see, once this was given a name, it entered science because it was "needed" to explain why certain things burn.

Then "phlogiston theory" was taught in scientific education, as the only self-consistent theory of combustion (just like string theory is supposed to explain gravity today, because it's self consistent).

Unfortunately, although it was wonderfully self-consistent and it was easy to cook up a lot of maths to describe certain aspects of combustion based on this "phlogiston" theory, there was no experimental evidence for it. It became a self-propagating fantasy. How can something be named by a scientist if it has never been discovered? Absurd, people thought, so they believed that the "evidence" for it (so indirect that it didn't rule out alternative ideas) and the consensus behind it made it scientific.

If you burn wood, the ash is lighter, and the loss in mass was attributed to a loss of phlogiston from the wood. (Actually, the wood has simply released things like CO2 gas to the air during combustion, which accounts for the decrease in mass.)

This was supposedly the proof of phlogiston theory. It was debunked by Antoine Lavoisier (the French chemist who was beheaded in the Revolution) in 1783, who showed that fire is primarily a process of oxidation, the gaining of oxygen from the air. (This had previously been obscured in studies of fire by the natural production of gases like CO and CO2.)

Sadly, Lavoisier's discovery that the air contains a vital ingredient for combustion, oxygen, and his dismissal of phlogiston, were both negated by his claim in his 1783 paper Réflexions sur le phlogistique that there is a fluid substance of heat called caloric.

This caloric was supposed to be composed of particles which repel one another and thereby flow from hot bodies to cool ones, explaining how temperatures equalize over time.

Sadi Carnot's heat engine theory (which is quantitatively correct) was also developed from the false theory of caloric. Caloric as a fundamental fluid of conserved heat was disproved in 1798 by Count Rumford who showed that an endless amount of heat can be released by friction in boring holes in metal to make cannons. Caloric is not conserved.

The "dark energy" theory is far worse than phlogiston and caloric.

I think "aether" is an interesting thing to compare to dark energy. The problem is that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate in the conventional analysis which assumes that the field equation of general relativity describes the cosmological expansion, not quantum gravity.

Problem is, quantum gravity accounts for the observations without a cosmological constant:

(1) the mainstream general relativity model says that a cosmological constant (describing dark energy) causes a repulsive effect that offsets gravitational attraction at very long distances (large redshifts).

(2) quantum gravity (gravity due to gravitons of some sort exchanged between receding gravitational charges, i.e., masses) implies a very different explanation: gravitons are red-shifted to lower energy in being exchanged between masses over long distances (high redshifts).

So in (1) above, otherwise unobservable "dark energy" provides a repulsive force that offsets gravity at great distances, thus explaining the supernova red-shift data.

But in (2) above, the same supernova red-shift data can be explained by the loss of energy of red-shifted gravitons being exchanged between masses which are receding at relativistic velocities (large red-shifts).

Hence, general relativity needs to take account of quantum gravity effects like graviton red-shift weakening gravity and decreasing the effective value of gravity constant G towards zero as red-shift (and distance) increase to extremely large figures.

If general relativity is corrected in such a way, we get a prediction of the supernova results which allegedly (in the current uncorrected general relativity paradigm) show "acceleration". Actually that "acceleration" is an artifact of the mainstream data processing, which assumes gravity constant G is not affected by large distances (when quantum gravity suggests otherwise; this fact was censored off arXiv).

The entire mainstream theory is built on brainwashing, prejudice, groupthink, consensus, politics, and similar. Any effort to get those people to listen leads them to think that the person with the facts is just ignorant of the "beauty" and "elegance" of the mainstream model. It's hopeless.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to contact you about a project I am working on but didn't know how else to reach you. I am sorry to you and everyone for taking up this space for this, but please contact me at I am stargazerken there. Again sorry about posting here, thank you.

7:39 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

HI nige, thank you for another thoughtful, well-researched and insightful comment. It may be hopeless for the DE supporters, but we are making progress. Who needs them? Study of "dark energy" now encompasses possible variations in c or G.

stargazerken, I was unable to find an email address on your site but it looks very interesting. Just email me at

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Darnell Clayton said...

Hey Louise,

Dark energy does exist. Just ask Lord Vader.



What about "dark matter?" What is it, and why is it so dark?

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nige said:
"... mainstream data processing ... assumes gravity constant G is not affected by large distances (when quantum gravity suggests otherwise; this fact was censored off arXiv).
The entire mainstream theory is built on brainwashing, prejudice, groupthink, consensus, politics ... It's hopeless. ...".

A relevant example is the cosmology of Irving Ezra Segal, who showed that "redshift" cosmological data might be explained by a two-phase gravity:

at large distances a conformal (varying c) elliptic energy operator

at local distances a MInkoswki (constant c) nilpotent operator

Segal died in 1998. Bertram Kostant, who had Segal as advisor for his 1954 Chicago Ph.D., in an obituary for Segal in the Notices of the AMS 46 (June/July 1999) 659-668, said:
"... The redshift ... is accounted for by the difference between the elliptic and nilpotent element - negligible locally, but significant at great distances. ...
I have it from a highly reliable but unnamed source that there is a growing group of cosmologists who have come to believe that the correct understanding of the redshift is some sort of fusion of the Doppler effect and Irving's theory. So it is not impossible that Irving could turn out to be correct after all. ...".

I asked Bertram Kostant about that quote, and he said that he did not name the source because the source requested anonymity because he (the source) wanted to avoid entanglement in the heated controversy that surrounds Segal's redshift ideas (which may be equivalent to Louise's varying-c due to the fact that conformal transformations change light-cone angles and therefore vary c).

I think that it is regrettable that interesting scientific ideas become so involved in unpleasant controversy that competent people become are intimidated from discussing such ideas.
The fact that the work (conformal equivalent of Louise's varying-c) of an eminent Chicago/MIT professor such as Irving Segal has been so discredited without fair-minded evaluation shows that Nige is probably right in saying "... It's hopeless. ...".

At least the example shows that Louise is in good company - some of the obituaries in the above reference describe examples of Segal's brilliant independent thinking.

Tony Smith

PS - One establishment line of attack on Segal was that he contended that the conformal model produced a quadratic rather than linear redshift -distance relation. I am not sure which type of relationship would come from Louise's varying-c model , or from the underlying data if properly interpreted.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Eric B said...

I appreciate the fact that, whether you turn out to be right or wrong about variable c, or even if we never know for sure, that you continue to ask questions even in the face of adversity. Also you're a good writer with a great attitude. This is what keeps me reading this blog.


12:17 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

For Darnell: LOL. Who ever guessed that little me would be the one fighting the Dark Side of the Force? See my next post for more about "dark matter," which I prefer to call dark mass because it mnay never have been matter.

For Tony: Redshift is defined as Ro/Ri = 1+Z, but c changes as ci/co = sqrt(1 + Z) causing a non-linear effect. The clincher is that sqrt(1 + Z) is negligible for low Z but causes high redshifts to apparently curve upward. I recommend that you look at my March 31 or November 20 posts for a fit to supernova data.

Thanks, eric b!

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louise, thanks for pointing out that "... c changes as ci/co = sqrt(1 + Z) causing a non-linear effect ...".

That seems to support the similarity of your ideas to Segal's. It is interesting that now, many years later, your ideas are being attacked as Segal's were back then.

Have you read any works by Octavia Butler?

Maybe the dysfunctions of science and war and economy that all seem to be converging to a singularity or phase transition might correspond to what she said in an Amazon. com interview:

"... The Earthseed series ... tells the story of the genesis of a simple, humanist religion - Earthseed - in a dystopian near-future Earth. ... We're building all these little problems into disasters, mainly by neglecting them. ...".

Some of her Earthseed sayings are:

"... Civilization ... is a means of combining the
intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. ...
When civilization fails to ... serve its adaptive function ... it must disintegrate ...".

"... When apparent stability disintegrates ... God is Change ...".

"... Forever uniting, growing, dissolving - forever Changing. The universe is God's self-portrait. ...".

"... God is your harshest teacher: subtle, demanding.
Learn or die. ...".

Tony Smith

PS - Octavia Butler would probably approve of your actions "fighting the Dark Side of the Force", since her Earthseed sayings include:
"... Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. ... Without positive
obsession, there is nothing at all. ...".

8:06 PM  
Anonymous alex said...

If the dark energy doesn't exist,what causing the accelerated expansion of the universe? Or it is not true also? About a change in the speed of light,it reminds me theories of Fritz Tzviki,who also called his collieges "spherical basters",who purposed that red shift occure because a light is "getting tired",slows down and looses his energy.He was a a great physicists,also a litlle crackpot

2:30 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

An "accelerating universe" would be gaining kinetic energy from nothing, thereby violating the first law of thermodynamics. Redshifts appear to be accelerating in relation to c because c has been slowing.

7:16 AM  
Anonymous alex said...

If we accept that Casimir effect,which creates a regions with a different energies,do allow infenistimal breakthrough of the energy conservation law,we can see that as a acumullated effect expantion of the universe is being accelerated.

8:19 AM  

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