Has light from the first stars after the big bang been detected?

“Astronomers detect light from the Universe’s first stars” is the headline of a Nature news article, which appeared February 28, 2018.1  It relates to observations made by a team of astronomers led by Judd Bowman of Arizona State University in Tempe. The team published their results in Nature the same week.2 According to Bowman,

“This is the first time we’ve seen any signal from this early in the Universe, aside from the afterglow of the Big Bang.”

They used a small radio-telescope situated in the Western Australian desert, far away from human settlement to minimise interference from radio signals generated by human technology. (See Fig. 1.) The antenna was tuned to a waveband of about 78 MHz, which is at the low end of FM radio, so isolation from human generated radio signals was essential.

Figure 1: The small radio telescope in Western Australia used to detect evidence of light allegedly from the Universe’s first stars. Credit: CSIRO

To understand what the astronomers interpret from this research I quote an editorial summary from Nature:3

“As the first stars heated hydrogen in the early Universe, the 21-cm hyperfine line—an astronomical standard that represents the spin-flip transition in the ground state of atomic hydrogen—was altered, causing the hydrogen gas to absorb photons from the microwave background. This should produce an observable absorption signal at frequencies of less than 200 megahertz (MHz). Judd Bowman and colleagues report the observation of an absorption profile centred at a frequency of 78 MHz that is about 19 MHz wide and 0.5 kelvin deep. The profile is generally in line with expectations, although it is deeper than predicted. An accompanying paper by Rennan Barkana suggests that baryons were interacting with cold dark-matter particles in the early Universe, cooling the gas more than had been expected.”

Let’s look at this in two stages. What was observed and what is the interpretation of the recorded data. Continue reading

Cosmology’s fatal weakness—underdetermination

Can we definitively know the global structure of spacetime? This is a good question. It is one that is actively discussed in the area of the philosophy of modern physics.1,2

However it is a question that highlights the fundamental weakness of cosmology and hence of cosmogony. (Cosmology is the study of the structure of the cosmos whereas cosmogony is the study of the origin of the universe.)  That weakness is the inherent inability to accurately construct any global cosmological model, i.e. a model that accurately represents the structure of the universe at all times and locations. The reason for this is underdetermination.3

“There seems to be a robust sense in which the global structure of every cosmological model is underdetermined.”1

In the philosophy of science, underdetermination means that the available evidence is insufficient to be able to determine which belief one should hold about that evidence. That means that no matter what cosmological model one might conceive of, in an attempt to describe the structure of the universe, every model will be underdetermined. Or said another way, no matter what amount of observational data one might ever (even in principle) gather, the cosmological evidence does not force one particular model upon us. And this underdetermination has been rigorously proven.1 Continue reading

Stephen Hawking and imaginary time

The imaginary time axis is drawn orthogonal to the real time axis. Credit: Wikimedia commons

Update 14/03/2018 Professor Stephen Hawking died today. See his obituary here. From all I have read he remained an ardent atheist his whole life. And he never really understood the worldview issue in cosmology and the origin of the universe. This proves that even very smart people can get it wrong. Nevertheless he gave us much to ponder, debate and learn. 


What is imaginary time? I don’t mean the time you spend day-dreaming but the concept in physics, promoted by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. It is used in some quantum mechanics and special relativity theory. Imaginary time is where the usual time dimension undergoes a Wick rotation (a phase rotation)1 so that its coordinates are multiplied by the imaginary number the square root of -1, represented by the symbol i. In such a situation time theoretically behaves like a spatial dimension.

Stephen Hawking Credit: Wikipedia

Hawking wrote:2

“One might think this means that imaginary numbers are just a mathematical game having nothing to do with the real world. From the viewpoint of positivist philosophy, however, one cannot determine what is real. All one can do is find which mathematical models describe the universe we live in. It turns out that a mathematical model involving imaginary time predicts not only effects we have already observed but also effects we have not been able to measure yet nevertheless believe in for other reasons. So what is real and what is imaginary? Is the distinction just in our minds?” (emphasis added)

Positivism is the philosophy that we cannot determine what is real, but we can only propose hypotheses and test those against what we observe. Hawking is an atheist—an anti-theist—and has spent some time attempting to show that the Creator is unneeded in the universe.

Hawking claims that imaginary time is as real as real time, only that it is travelling in a different direction.3 He claims that ‘before’ the big bang time was imaginary and thus there was no time. Imaginary time may have “always existed” he said, but because we have no idea of what the laws of physics were ‘before’ the big bang, and there is no way to measure what happened ‘before’ the big bang, hence there is no point including time back then in a discussion of our universe. Continue reading

No CMB shadows: an argument against the big bang that can no longer be sustained

I have previously made the argument that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, ‘light’ allegedly from the big bang fireball, casts no shadows in the foreground of galaxy clusters.1 If the big bang were true, the light from the fireball should cast a shadow in the foreground of all galaxy clusters. This is because the source of the CMB radiation, in standard big bang cosmology, is what is known as the “last scattering surface“.

The last scattering surface is the stage of the big bang fireball that describes the situation when big bang photons cooled to about 1100 K. At that stage of the story those photons separated from the plasma that had previously kept them bound. Then expansion of the universe is alleged to have further cooled those photons to about 3 K, which brings them into the microwave band. Thus if these CMB photons cast no shadows in front of all galaxy clusters it spells bad news for the big bang hypothesis.

Fig 1: Schematic of the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect that results in an increase in higher energy (or blue shifted) photons of the CMB when seen through the hot gas present in cluster of galaxies. Credit: astro.uchicago.edu/sza/primer.html

The CMB radiation shadowing effect, or more precisely the cooling effect, by galaxy clusters is understood in terms of the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich Effect (SZE). This is where microwave photons are isotropically scattered by electrons in the hot inter-cluster medium (ICM) (see Fig. 1) via an inverse Compton process leaving a net decrement (or cooling) in the foreground towards the observer in the solar system. Of those CMB photons coming from behind the galaxy cluster less emerge with the same trajectory due to the scattering. Even though the scattered photons pick up energy from the ICM the number of more energetic CMB photons is reduced. After modelling what this new CMB photon energy (hence temperature) should be, a decrement can, in principle, be detected.

Starting around 2003 some published investigations, using this SZE, looked for the expected shadowing/cooling effect in galaxy clusters. No significant cooling effect was found, by multiple studies, including the WMAP satellite data.2 This was considered to be very anomalous, significantly different from what was expected if the CMB radiation was from the big bang fireball. The anomaly was even confirmed by the early Planck satellite survey data in 2011.3

Continue reading

Synchronised dance of dwarf galaxies stumps big bang boffins

Dwarf galaxies around our galaxy the Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy and now Centaurus A galaxy provide further evidence that the big bang belief is ‘baloney’. These dwarf galaxies have now been shown to orbit their parent galaxies in a synchronized manner, whereas according to the big bang idea, that should just not be the case.

The galaxy Centaurus A is viewed by the European Southern Observatory in 2012. Scientists studying the galaxy and several dwarf galaxies surrounding it are stumped by their behavior. (AFP photo / ESO)

The standard big bang cosmology has the formation of galaxies resulting from the collapse of a chaotic cloud of matter. As a result, it is expected from a secular worldview, that when large galaxies formed, such as our Milky Way galaxy and the galaxy Centaurus A, that small satellite dwarf galaxies would form around them but that their orbits would be essentially random, reflecting the chaotic nature of their origin.

In an online article on this recent discovery we read (all bold emphases in citations from this article are my additions):1

The model predicts that during formation, dwarf galaxies should both appear and move randomly around their host galaxies.

“There should be pure chaos and not order,” said Müller. “To find everywhere we look this extreme order where we expect disorder — this is strange.”

The big bang has long needed the hypothetical, never-observed stuff known as ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ to make it work. This latest discovery just compounds the difficulties, even with these ‘fudge factors’ already in place. But if they don’t assume dark matter they would not get a galaxy to form. And when they do assume its presence in the galaxy the modelling indicates that several large satellite galaxies should form with chaotic orbits.

Note the admission in what follows about ‘tooth fairies’ in regard to dark matter and dark energy. Also, the comment about the standard big bang cosmology collapsing “like a house of cards” if there continues to be no evidence of these:1

“At this point, there is a mountain of such contradictory details that we’ve mostly swept under the proverbial rug,” McGaugh said. “Dark matter and dark energy have been around so long that people forget that we backed into them. They’re tooth fairies that we invoked early on to make things work out.” And if no one finds evidence of dark matter, he said, then “the paradigm collapses like a house of cards.”

This is what I have been warning about for some time.  The article goes on:

So perhaps Müller and his team have found yet another statistical outlier, or perhaps isolated galaxies work differently from large groups of galaxies. Or maybe they have found yet another problem with the generally accepted theory of cosmology.

The Cosmological Argument and an eternal big bang universe

The beginning of the universe in time is the single biggest bug-bear for the secular cosmologists. They must eliminate the need for the beginning in order that they can eliminate the need for the Creator Himself. If you have an origin in time, you can argue that anything that exists, and had a beginning in time, also had to have a Creator.

This is the Cosmological Argument. And if the big bang cosmologist agrees the universe exists and began to exist at some moment in time past, then it also had to have had a cause–a first cause. That first cause can only have been an infinite Creator, who is greater than the universe itself.

Some long age/old earth Christian apologists use this argument starting with the assumption that the big bang was a real historical event. That also is a flawed approach even though they use valid logic after the fact. Their initial assumption–their starting premise–is not a fact (or cannot be proven to be a fact) and hence the rest of their argument fails.

But what would these apologists, like W.L. Craig or H. Ross, say when the secular big bang theorists continue to push towards the elimination of the origin in time, even the big bang beginning itself?

Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel is quoted (September 21, 2017) in an article in Forbes titled “The Big Bang Wasn’t The Beginning, After All”:

The conclusion was inescapable: the hot Big Bang definitely happened, but doesn’t extend to go all the way back to an arbitrarily hot and dense state. Instead, the very early Universe underwent a period of time where all of the energy that would go into the matter and radiation present today was instead bound up in the fabric of space itself. That period, known as cosmic inflation, came to an end and gave rise to the hot Big Bang, but never created an arbitrarily hot, dense state, nor did it create a singularity. What happened prior to inflation — or whether inflation was eternal to the past — is still an open question, but one thing is for certain: the Big Bang is not the beginning of the Universe! [my emphases added]

He states his belief as if fact, i.e. that the big bang definitely happened, even though cosmology is not actually science. See Cosmology is Not Science! His theory has no super-dense initial singularity.  But he assumes, as fact, an early period of cosmic inflation (which is a best speculative), which eventually finished and gave rise to the hot big bang fireball that the rest of this universe allegedly evolved from. He leaves open the question whether the universe was eternally inflating in the past, but the one thing he is certain of is that the big bang was not the beginning of the universe. Others have proposed an eternal universe that eventually explodes in a big bang.

Eliminate the need for the big bang to be the beginning in time and eventually they hope they can eliminate any need for the Creator Himself. After all didn’t the universe create itself?

Quite obviously not. For, in the beginning God created the universe (Genesis 1:1).

Related Reading

Book Review: “Setting Aside All Authority” by Christopher M. Graney

The book “Setting Aside All Authority” comprises 10 chapters, 270 pages. The last half of the book is largely made up of two appendices: (A) the first English translation of Monsignor Francesco Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (disputing the Copernican system on the eve of the Inquisition’s condemnation of it in 1616) and (B) excerpts from the Italian Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s reports on his experiments with falling bodies. The book is published by the University of Notre Dame, 2015.

Cover of the book. The cover image is taken from Riccioli’s New Almagest (1651). Note the heliocentric system (top left) compared to the Tychonic hybrid geocentric system (bottom right).

The main thesis of the book challenges the notion that around the time of Galileo, and the beginning of the Copernican revolution, opponents of the heliocentric worldview, championed by Galileo, were primarily motivated by religion or dictates from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The author, Christopher M. Graney, uses newly translated works by anti-Copernican writers of the time to demonstrate that they predominantly used scientific arguments and not religion in their opposition to the Copernican system. Graney argues that it was largely a science-versus-science debate, rather than church authority-versus-science as often incorrectly portrayed.

In the 1651, the Jesuit Giovanni Battista Riccioli published his book the New Almagest wherein he outlined 77 arguments against the Copernican system (pro-geocentrism) and 49 arguments in favour of it. Most arguments against the Copernican heliocentric system could be answered, at that time, but Riccioli, using the then available telescopic observations of the size of stars, was able to construct a powerful scientific argument that the pro-Copernican astronomers could not answer without an appeal to the greatness of God.

Graney largely uses Riccioli’s New Almagest, which argues in favour not of the Ptolemaic system but of the hybrid Tychonic system, where the Earth is immobile at the centre of the universe, the sun, the moon and the stars circle the earth; but the planets circle the sun. Riccioli built on the work of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and built a strong scientific case against the heliocentric system, at least through the middle of the seventeenth century, which was several decades after the advent of the telescope.

The main two arguments presented in the book, both scientific, are the size of stars and the effect on falling bodies.

Falling bodies

If the earth were rotating, then a falling body should hit a point on the surface of the earth at a definite distance from a vertical line to the surface, if dropped vertically. The same argument could be made for cannon balls fired in different directions on the earth’s surface. These type of discussions and arguments carried on for a century, and even Isaac Newton got involved. What we now know as the Coriolis force, a ‘fictitious’ force, resulting from the rotation of the planet on the fired or dropped objects could not be measured with the required precision in the 17th century.

Continue reading