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No. 116: Mar-Apr 1998

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"A FANTASTIC RESULT!"

That's what Princeton astronomer N. Bahcall said of the discovery that the very early universe was already partitioned by colossal walls of galaxies hundreds of millions of light years long. That walls of galaxies exist is not a new idea, but finding that they existed shortly after the Big Bang is highly disconcerting to most astronomers. How did these walls form so early? Why hasn't the force of gravity modified the basic structure of the cosmos over the billions of years that followed the Big Bang?

The astronomical quandry is this: If the very early universe looks pretty much the same as today's universe, the implication is that mass, the source of gravitational sculpting, is scarce. But this is at odds with the cosmic expansion rate which implies a much higher density of matter.

(Appenzeller, Tim; "Ancient Galaxy Walls Go up; Will Theories Tumble Down?" Science, 276:36, 1997.)

Comment. The existence of galaxy walls, like so many astronomical constructs, depends upon the assumption that the red shifts of galaxies are proportional to their recessional velocities and, additionally, their distances and ages. So much rides on this one assumption. The same situation prevails in biology, where everything is founded on the assumption that random mutations and natural selection can together generate any degree of complexity, sophistication, and innovation seen in nature. The history of science tells us that many paradigms have fallen because they depended upon faulty assumptions.

From Science Frontiers #116, MAR-APR 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss