Uncommon Sense

November 26, 2022

Has Modern Physics Lost Its Way?

The title of this piece has been a common topic for physicists to comment upon for the past few decades. I am not a physicist, but during my training to be a chemist I took a great many physics courses and have continued to be interested in developments in physics over the past 50 years or so.

Here is a list of the things I find, well, questionable.

Space-Time This invention by Albert Einstein is passing strange. On one hand, time is claimed to be an illusion or to not exist and on the other time is not only real it can be blended with spatial dimensions to make something more than real.

Cosmic Inflation and the Expansion of Space-Time Erwin Hubble discovered a key relationship regarding the spacing of celestial objects in the universe and their redshifts. All stars produce light and that light has built in patterns. When those specific patterns are shifted towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum, they are said to be redshifted. When shifted the other way, they are said to be blue-shifted. For example, the galaxy of Andromeda is blue-shifted, but most are redshifted. The original interpretation of these shifts were likened to the Doppler Effect, you know, the cause of train whistles sounding different when the train is moving toward you from when it is moving away. From this we jumped to the idea that the universe is expanding, an idea Einstein originally rejected. But this is not the only explanation of those shifts. In fact, Hubble recanted that analysis.

(If the redshifts are a Doppler shift) … the observations as they stand lead to the anomaly of a closed universe, curiously small and dense, and, it may be added, suspiciously young. On the other hand, if redshifts are not Doppler effects, these anomalies disappear and the region observed appears as a small, homogeneous, but insignificant portion of a universe extended indefinitely both in space and time. (E. Hubble, Roy. Astron. Soc. M. N., 17, 506, 1937)

It should be pointed out that Hubble himself was not convinced that redshift was exclusively due to Doppler effect. Up to the time of his death he maintained that velocities inferred from red shift measurements should be referred to as “apparent velocities.”
(Mitchell, 1997)

There are, in fact, quite a number of other interpretations of the data that are in play. For example, currently the shifts are assumed to be happening to the light traveling through empty space. We now know that “empty space” is an extreme condition, almost impossible to find in nature. So, what would be the effect of light traveling through space that had some dust in it? An example, would be the typically red colors of sunset. Traveling through the atmosphere at an angle, rather straight(ish) down, causes the light to be read in color. Now this strictly is not directly applicable to the galactic light, but it is analogous. There is a distance-redshift relationship because the farther light travels through space, the more distortion happens via the mechanism causing the redshifting. If the red shifting were entirely due to the Doppler Effect, the greater the effect, the faster the speed, no? So, why should galaxies be moving faster, the farther away from us they are? If all such matter originated from one point, the faster galaxies should be farther away in space and time and not farther back toward their origins. The Webb telescope is showing us light emitted by the very earliest stars/galaxies and they are heavily redshifted, more so than much closer objects. That would indicate that those galaxies were moving faster then than the galaxies are moving now, which means things are slowing down. But we are told the nonsensical thing that the “expansion of space-time is speeding up.”

To explain these things we are told that in the beginning, there was even more rapid expansion of space-time, called “Cosmic Inflation.” So, the expansion of space-time sped up to be really, really fast and then slowed down. Right.

I was taught that the more nonsense that was postulated to make a theory work, the greater likelihood that theory was on its last legs.

There is a coherent explanation for everything, if we assume the universe was infinite and not expanding. In Hubble’s words “a universe extended indefinitely both in space and time.” Have you heard much about that “other” possible interpretation of the data? No? Neither have I.

Dark Energy and Dark Matter WTF? The bulk of the matter in the universe is invisible and we never new it was there. Okay, uh. . . . And Dark Energy is a form of energy we never knew existed. It is making the universe expand faster and faster. Okay . . . WTF? How does this energy affect pace-time? Has there been a form of energy that has been determined to affect space-time? These are cockamamie concepts that were cooked up to explain new observations. Note that the old concepts were insufficient to explain the new observations, so we don’t question the old concepts or our interpretations, we just pile new whatchamacallits on top of those. Sheesh.

The Failure to Find a Unifying Theory of both Gravity and Quantum Mechanics Physicists, for the last 100 years or so, have been trying to create a theory that incorporates all of the major forces of nature. The history of physics sort of leads to this conclusion, as when forces were identified (basically the creators of new motion in matter) we were just trying to catalog them. But there turned out to be just a few of them were fundamental, those explaining all of the others. Then electric forces (attractions and repulsions) were unified with magnetic forces (attractions and repulsions). Then nuclear forces were discovered and we had a list of just four fundamental forces in nature, which explained all of the others: the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, electromagnetic forces, and gravity.

But gravity wasn’t playing well. As quantum mechanics was developed, using quantum field theory, everything seems compatible, except gravity. So, the search for a theory of gravity compatible with quantum mechanics, quantum gravity if you will, went  on . . . and on . . . and on.

My question centers on the fact that gravity is the force that dominates in the cosmos. Yet, for us puny humans here on earth, chemistry and physics seem to be dominated by electromagnetism and nuclear forces. And if we peered down, down, down into matter, we encountered the strange behavior of quantum-level objects. Gravity plays almost no role in biology and chemistry and quantum phenomena and only a small one in earthly physics. Quantum effects exist where we live, but they are few and far between compared with what is going on in the realm of fundamental particle interactions, which don’t show any role for gravity at that level at all.

So, what is the basis for the expectations that a theory (which is just an explanatory description of some set of physical behaviors) would apply to encompass both of these realms—the very, very, very large and the very, very, very small. The only driving force for this search is “well, it worked in the past.” Maybe, just maybe, they are separate, only slightly overlapping realms of behavior and a single theory just cannot be stretched to cover both.

String Theory An ugly baby only a mother could love is the only analogy for string theory. Maybe we need a theory for why physicists would be attracted to an untestable conjecture. (Can’t really call it a theory when it cannot be tested. Theories have passed tests, many of them.) I suspect those who dove into this quagmire early on are now thinking “Have I wasted my career studying something of no merit whatsoever?”

My background, as I have said, is in chemistry. In that subject, there seems to be a life-cycle of theories which also is apparent in early physics. When a new theory is created, there is much enthusiasm, hope and excitement. The theory is built up, tested and becomes stronger. Then flaws appear. In some theories these flaws are tiny or irrelevant and don’t undermine the use of the theory in many, many situations. Other times the flaws widen and threaten the confidence people have in that theory. At that point proponents apply patches. These tend to be context specific and apply to just those instances in which the flaw makes serious problems. But over time, such theories can accumulate a great many patches and at that time, others create new theories that require no such patches. And theories do “fade away” and cease to be used. Some get resurrected in that they produce short-lived progress in new situations, but usually that zombie-like theory will also soon fade away.

Too many of these Big Bang patches seem to deny common sense and seem to be patches to make the damned thing work like we want it to. Dark energy, dark matter, cosmic inflation, the expansion of space-time, the existence of space-time, all seem to be unsupportable reaches. Time will tell.



  1. Wrt dark matter: one of the major evidences for this is the discovery by Vera Rubin that almost stars and such rotate around the center of a galaxy at roughly the same speed, rather than decreasing towards the edges as do the planets in our solar system. When i asked Rubin, perhaps 10-15 years ago, whether the best explanation for this was some sort of undetectable dark matter enveloping entire galaxies, or whether we simply don’t understand gravity correctly, her reply was that she considered it to be an open question. I think shes right.

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by gfbrandenburg — November 26, 2022 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  2. There are a lot of questions that cosmologists claim are answered, but it is really all speculation as you pointed out. If the favored theory of how the universe began is correct, then why are we seeing galaxies that are some 13 billion years old, when there shouldn’t have been enough time for such structures to form? Cosmic inflation? Frankly that seems about as valid as the claim creationists make that the reason we can see stars more than 6,000 light years away (which is what they claim is the age of the universe) is that light moved faster back then. Basically it’s a kludge they came up with to try to explain away inconsistencies in contemporary theories about the formation of the universe. No one seems to be able to explain what caused the inflation, nor can they adequately explain why it simply stopped.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — November 26, 2022 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  3. Eric Lerner: The Big Bang Never Happened


    I’ve always had a big problem with the supposed nano second enormous expansion of the universe post Big Bang which is a sort of deus ex machina needed to explain why the universe didn’t immediately collapse.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James Cross — November 27, 2022 @ 8:13 am | Reply

    • Thanks for that link! I learned a lot. Most of what I wrote I knew to be naïve, but I have noted someone who has an alternate explanation for redshifts, which Dr. Lerner is still working on.


      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 27, 2022 @ 8:52 am | Reply

      • Just speaking personally as an outsider (certainly not as a cosmologist!), I think the entire study is primarily a means for “entertaining the brain.” I don’t think we will ever know for certain exactly what happened. The “Big Bang” is what works for now, but as the article referenced by James states: This theory – despite its widespread support in the cosmology community – is like Swiss cheese, full of holes.

        BTW, Steve, I didn’t read your entire post … I’m just joining in at “half-time.” (Besides, the topic is a bit “over-the-top” for me and doesn’t fit into my personal entertainment corner. 🙂)

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Nan — November 27, 2022 @ 10:51 am | Reply

        • I don’t expect everyone to enjoy all of the topics I write about. :o) That is why God created the Delete Key!

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — November 27, 2022 @ 10:56 am | Reply

          • Then how come I keep hitting it and it doesn’t get rid of the representatives in a certain political party? 😈

            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by Nan — November 27, 2022 @ 11:02 am | Reply

            • There was an episode of Star Trek . . . never mind. If the Delete Key worked politically, people would be dropping like flies! I keep saying that the best thing Donald Trump could do for this country is have a heart attack and die. Please note I am not recommending that some nut ball take him out with an AR-15 or even a hammer, I am just looking for the Christian god to step up and prove its usefulness.

              Liked by 1 person

              Comment by Steve Ruis — November 27, 2022 @ 11:37 am | Reply

      • Lerner’s book is thirty years old. He’s updated it with papers since. Critics have argued about his errors and he’s tried to answer them in his papers. Everything that keeps coming from the James Webb Space telescope shows that fully formed galaxies seem to exist much earlier than Big Bang theories suggest they should. So, there are definitely some problems with Big Bang.

        This isn’t Lerner’s view but personally I find it entirely plausible that the universe itself instead of emerging from a singularity is actually a black hole. We and the rest of the visible universe may exist in the event horizon of black hole that exists in a much larger universe.



        Comment by James Cross — November 28, 2022 @ 7:30 am | Reply

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