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No. 48: Nov-Dec 1986

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The Deflationary Universe

One of our major astronomical targets in Science Frontiers has been the cosmological redshift; that is, the assumption that an object's redshift is entirely a Doppler effect and, when coupled to the expanding universe concept, is proportional to distance. Well, we don't have any more contradicting data (of which there is plenty), but we do have:

(1) A new theory which shows how noncosmological redshifts can occur; and

(2) Laboratory demonstrations of "spectral noninvariance" that show how a non-Doppler component can be added to light's redshift.

The physicist behind this new research is E. Wolf, at the University of Rochester. His theoretical work was re-ported in the March 3l, 1986, issue of Physical Review Letters. There he showed how quasars and so-called "superluminary" astronomical sources might emit light with a spectrum that evolves as it travels through space. Scientists have always assumed that once light left its source its spectrum remained unchanged. But Wolf shows how spectral changes are "sort of coded into the light due to correlations in the source." Meanwhile, two of Wolf's colleagues have backed up his theory in the lab.

The consequences of Wolf's work would in effect shrink the universe, because objects would not be as far away as we now calculate from their redshifts. The size of the universe might contract "by a factor of 100 or more," says Wolf. If this much deflation is accepted by other scientists (It could be quite a fight!), then the age of the universe will also shrink, since it is based in part on our observations of the outer fringe of the universe and the speed of light.

(Amato, I.; "Spectral Variations on a Universal Theme,: Science News, 130:166, 1986.)

Comment. If we divide the currently accepted age of the universe, about 15 billion years, by 100, we are left with only 150 million years. But the radioactive clocks of the geologists register about 5 billion for the earth. There seems to be a problem somewhere!

Reference. Wolf's work impinges on the acrimonious "redshift controversy." For details, see our catalog: Stars, Galaxies, Cosmos. To order, vist: here.

From Science Frontiers #48, NOV-DEC 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987