Is the Universe expanding? It would appear not. What do we see? We do not see, let alone measure, large objects systematically moving away from all other large objects. On the contrary, it would seem to be quite the opposite, at least in the case of colliding spiral galaxies. Every observable large scale system is to all intents and purposes in a state of equilibrium, even if it might be expressed dynamically as a cycle. Is the Universe in any sense, on any axis, finite? It might be, in theory at least, but where is the evidence? Of course, we cannot observe anything infinite; but then again, neither do we detect even the faintest sign that the Universe reaches finality. We do not come across any kind of absolute boundary condition.

In terms of standard physics, Hubble expansion related to cosmic redshift has failed, even after several restarts. We should not even bother trying to explain to ourselves and interested spectators the functions of expanding space, or how the rate of expansion varies at the convenience of our Standard Model. We need go no further than simply examining the pictures we get of the sky. Our observations show, with as much certainty as can be expected over cosmological distances, that the expected direct association of higher redshift with a more immature Universe has not materialised. Modelling the universe in onion-skin layers of redshift values fails dismally to show with greater redshift the least sign of higher density; smaller object size; higher temperature; lower metallicity (or higher metallicity); smaller voids; less apparent and intrinsic brightness; infant galaxies; or any other sign that redshift truly indicates remoteness and youth in an evolving Universe. To make matters truly embarrassing for the Standard Model of Cosmology, the redshift patterns that supposedly indicate and verify an expanding cosmos have been found in local space, well within the confines of Virgo. We all know that by consensus, theory excludes local space from expansion, so the signs in the sky are Judas goats, leading us to the nemesis of redshift-based cosmology.

In addition, given that the redshift of Hubble expansion goes hand-in-hand with the Cosmological Principle and cannot exist without it, it is of crucial importance that we note no smoothing out of the cosmos, no matter how high the redshift value. There is structure, great big lumps of it, for as far as we can see. The redshift distance ladder is obviously flawed, and with it our 3-D conception of cosmic geography. To top it all, some well presented observations show that there are objects that deny their redshift-given remoteness by the fact that their transverse expansion would then exceed the speed of light, many times over. That alone crushes the concept without hope of redemption. The redshift-expansion idea, despite the concerted efforts of the finest scientists on Earth to promote it, has failed.

What of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation? Is it really a picture of a very dense, nascent Universe? I doubt it, and by now, I should hope that you doubt it too. The controversial “predictions” of BBT concerning an enveloping primeval radiation signature are hopelessly lacking in true predictive power, and in addition, quantitatively way off beam. Alignments with local astrophysical structure (and voids) are routinely confirmed by WMAP analysts. The CMBR was from the word go a hopelessly optimistic long shot. Analysts are kept busy, night and day, trying to cope with anomalies—that is, disagreements between the image and what is expected by the model. They have, despite great effort and inventiveness, thus far failed abysmally to get that obstinate, hee-hawing picture to fit the theory.

How we react to anomalous results is going to be crucial to the future of cosmology, the empirical foundation of astrophysics, and indeed, possibly the importance of scientists to the progress of society generally. The sincerity with which we incorporate discordant results into our knowledge base and theoretical structures will in my view define the relationship between astronomy and cosmology, and may well determine whether such a link can exist at all. The anomalies result always, and exclusively, from our comparison of the data with theoretical models. The data and images are not in and of themselves anomalous, and cannot be intrinsically peculiar. Professor Neta Bahcall puts it well:“The advantages of ‘What you see is what you get’ …may be more important than the elegance of the solution.” [1] Whether we continue to pursue the mysteries of the larger-scale cosmos with our eyes wide shut, or instead with due circumspection take notice of the measurable reality surrounding us, time will tell.

Let’s be honest. We are unable to measure the global physical divergence of galaxies. There is no unambiguous, empirically tested correlation of redshift velocity with distance. We cannot observationally verify a proposed universal geometry that would permit expansion. No deep sky survey has revealed evolution with time in astrophysical objects. An image of the primordial fireball (or any other deity) can only be seen in background radiation by express construction, and even then, through the rosiest of rose tinted spectacles. These things are best described as superstition, but we make no judgement on people who are superstitious; we merely try our damndest to separate them from rational science.

Our uncertainty is admittedly less with nearby things, but the incredible vastness of our field of study is such that even within the Solar System itself, we are unsure of most things. We don’t know with any clarity how big the Solar System is; what it consists of; or what keeps it going. Where did it come from, how did it form, and whither next? The same is true for the Local Group of galaxies. The caveat remains that they certainly show no measurable sign of the creation of spacetime within their boundaries. We must accept expansion with only the reputation of our forefathers to go on. “Thus it must be remembered that the whole argument is based on the idea that helium was made by such a fireball, and much as most people want to believe it there is no independent evidence that this ever did take place. Most of the helium was made in a big bang, and the parameters required are those chosen in the conventional model. This is the most popular view but in its present form it requires that we choose an initial photon/baryon ratio, invoke a ‘magical’ inflation era, and assume the presence of a large amount of dark nonbaryonic matter, and dark energy (creation energy). These are four assumptions for which we have no basic theory, nor direct observational evidence. Just authoritarian belief.”[2]

So, when all is said and done, it comes down to this: Is what we see relevant to the formulation of cosmology? To sustain a well-worn cliché—do we believe what we see, or see what we believe? It’s a choice really; one which will determine whether the status quo remains and dictates reality, or whether we do indeed live at the cusp of revolution. I am under no illusion; the odds against my preferred outcome are almost impossibly huge, but a light at the end of my tunnel is kept flickering by the knowledge that it has happened before, time and again. This regime must fall, that is certain, but when? Perhaps you, the few, will determine by what you do next what the outcome shall be.

I shall leave you with a quote from the essay Modern Cosmology, Science or Folk Tale by Professor Mike Disney: “It may be healthier, as well as more exciting, to admit we are surrounded by great mysteries which will provide challenges for generations to come. More fundamentally, as Daniel Boorstin the historian of science remarked: ‘The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the Earth, the continents and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. Imagination drew in bold strokes, instantly serving hopes and fears, while knowledge advanced by slow increments and contradictory witnesses.’ If we are not appropriately sceptical about cosmology today then the current myth, if myth it is, could likewise hold up progress across all of extragalactic research for generations to come. ”

Ultimately, perhaps, we have attempted to address in our book a single question, one that is supremely difficult to answer with conviction: Is the Universe expanding? We are baffled for one simple reason—by definition, the expansion described in the Standard Model of Cosmology occurs exclusively beyond the reach of measurement. If for no other reason than that, such a supposition should be excluded from the realm of reasonable science.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and good luck to you.

[1] Neta Bahcall 1988 Large Scale Structure in the Universe Indicated by Galaxy Clusters (Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 1988 26: 631-686).
[2] Geoffrey Burbidge B2FH, the CMB, and Cosmology(arXiv:astro-ph/0806.1065).

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