No. 102: Nov-Dec 1995
Quasars are remarkable astronomical objects. Discovered only 30 years ago, they are the most luminous entities in the universe. Supposedly powered by a black hole, each quasar emits hundreds of times more energy than all the billions of stars in the Milky Way. Just how a quasar works is surmise. What we now know from two surveys by two different groups of astronomers is that most quasars have redshifts between 2 and 3. In the theoretical framework of the expanding universe, redshifts are proportional to recessional velocity, distance from the observer, and age. From the redshifts, it seems that the quasar epoch spanned the period 1.9-3.0 billion years, based on an age of 15 billion years for the universe. Assuming the accuracy of this scenario, cosmologists now have to explain why quasars were born and flourished in such a narrow time slot. Did something fundamental change in the universe between 1.9 and 3.0 billion years ago?
(Kaiser, Jocelyn; "Epoch of Quasars," Science, 269:637, 1995. Wilford, John Noble; "New Survey of Sky Finds Most Quasars are Equally Ancient," New York Times, August 8, 1995, Cr. J. Covey)
Comments. Anomalists cannot fail to remark that the above discussion hinges upon four concepts: black holes, an expanding universe, redshifts as measures of velocity, and the Big Bang. Each of these ideas is plagued by discordant observations. The "epoch of quasars" is, therefore, a fabric woven from controversial threads.
Two thoughts important enough to mention: (1) The idea of a quasar epoch is consistent with the quantization of red shifts mentioned by Tifft (SF#50/ 95); (2) Our personal speculation that a quasar epoch might involve a change in the fundamental properties of time, matter, and space -- something like a cosmic phase change (See SF#74/329.*) Apparently, something was basically different in the universe 1.9-3.0 billion years ago when quasars reigned. Curiously, there seems to have been something fundamentally different here on earth about 570 million years ago -- the time of the Cambrian explosion, when essentially all the basic body plans (the phyla) of life originated. (SF#85/187) If the universe is much younger than 15 billion years, as some astronomers insist, we might be able to correlate the two epochs when things were really different!
*SF#85/187 = Science Frontiers #85 and p. 187 in Science Frontiers (the book). To order the latter, see: here.