Error-containing book published by Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is getting a reputation for publishing quack ‘physics’ claims! First I exposed them for publishing the lie that ‘A soldier on picket duty at Nagasaki was vaporised by the explosion even though he was 3.5 km from the centre of the blast.’ – Professors Tony Hey and Patrick Walters, The Quantum Universe, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 69, and now I have to write about their publication of a quack dismissal of redshift as the solution to Oblers’ paradox. Since exposing quackery is something the mainstream loves so much, here’s some mainstream quack debunkery. Enjoy!

Copy of a comment to Arcadian Functor:

Re: Oblers’ paradox

It’s the redshift that makes the sky dark. Professor Edward Harrison in his book Cosmology 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press, 2000) claims falsely on p505 that redshift can’t explain the darkness because in a decelerating universe it causes too little loss of photon energy, but he is falsely comparing a decelerating big bang which does have redshift (since 1998 it has been known that the universe isn’t decelerating) with an infinite static universe, where the correct comparison to ascertain the effect of redshift would be to compare the big bang with redshift to the big bang without redshift. Once you do the right comparison, Harrison’s objections to redshift as a solution to Obler’s paradox are removed. Redshift stops us being fried by the CBR which would be lethal infrared radiation with a blackbody radiation spectrum of 3000 K in the absence of redshift, but is only 2.7 K with redshift included. Thank God for redshift! (I’ve got a long essay I wrote about Harrison’s quackery for my cosmology course at university many years ago which I’ve summarized on my blog [below].)

Re: Oblers’ paradox

I did a project on Oblers’ paradox when doing cosmology at university.

1. Oblers paradox: In an infinite universe full of stars, every radial line of sight will eventually coincide with a star, so on this basis the whole sky would be uniformly bright, because the geometric divergence of light (giving the inverse square law of dimmer light from greater distances) will be cancelled out by the infinite number of stars as you look to greater distances.

2. Theories that would explain why the sky is dark, resolving Oblers’ paradox:

(a) Clouds of dust or gas, and even stars themselves, will absorb some of the dim starlight light from immense distances, limiting the range out to which we can see stars, and this will explain Oblers’ paradox: making most of the sky dark. However, this theory (touted by Lord Kelvin in his 1901 paper ‘On ether and gravitational matter through infinite space’, and by other quacks) was soon debunked from thermodynamics arguments: the absorption of radiation by dust or gas or stars themselves can’t make the sky dark in an infinite eternal universe, because the dust or gas will soon be in thermodynamic equilibrium, radiating as much energy per second as it receives. So the sky would not be dark due to absorption! (This theory is actually wrong for several reasons, e.g., the universe doesn’t have enough energy in it to heat up all gas and matter to the same temperature, the time for equilibrium to be attained is 10^23 years which is far longer than the age of the universe, and redshift prevents thermodynamic equilibrium ever being attained in an ever expanding universe as I will next explain).

(b) Redshift will reduce the brightness of distant receding stars, because redshift lowers the average energy of the photons we receive. ‘Tired light theories’ of redshift are all so far complete and utter quackery, because none of them can explain why the whole spectrum of redshifted light is uniformly shifted to lower frequencies, and for other reasons, shown usefully by Professor Ned Wright on his page ‘Errors in Tired Light Cosmology’. Redshift explains thermodynamics: space is an endless heat-sink in an expanding universe, because it prevents thermodynamic equilibrium. Stars that emit radiation into space will receive less radiation back than they emit, due to redshift. There can never be an equilibrium or ‘heat death’ (Kelvin’s speculation) while the universe continues to expand. Work will continue to be possible because the temperature of the universe is not approaching equilibrium. The temperature of the universe was extremely uniform in the past (e.g., when the CBR was emitted) but is now extremely non-uniform due to the effects of gravity and redshift, which together cause and sustain variations in temperature.

(c) Stars don’t have an inexhaustible supply of energy. The most distant stars are in this ‘theory’ assumed to be the oldest. Thus, the really old stars presumed to be at really great distances should be running out of energy and fading in brightness! This ‘theory’ is complete quackery, because we’re looking back in time to earlier periods of the big bang with increasing distance, we’re not seeing the old universe at great distances! We should expect the universe to be ever brighter at greater distances because we’re seeing an earlier epoch where the density was greater, where the stars were on average a younger generation than those near us today. In fact, ignoring redshift, we should expect to be looking back to the brightness of the ‘singularity’ (or whatever) as we look closer to 13,700 million light years distances, if we can ignore Alan Guth’s alleged inflationary expansion, which of course would make the universe far bigger than 13,700 million light years on account of faster-than-c expansion just after speculated grand unification symmetry breaking at maybe 10^{-36} second after the big bang.

(d) The universe simply doesn’t contain enough energy to make the night sky bright in every direction we look. This is misleading because we’re looking to earlier times in the big bang with increasing distance, when the big bang was younger, of higher density, and brighter.

3. Oblers’ paradox is explained therefore by redshift. If it were not for redshift, the CBR would kill us all because it would be 3000 K blackbody radiation peaking in the infrared, which would roast us, not harmless 2.7 K microwaves.

A professor of cosmology called Edward Harrison is author of the book Cosmology: The Science of the Universe, published by Cambridge University Press (1st edition 1981, 2nd edition 2000). Notice that errors still abound in the 2nd edition.

Chapter 24 is ‘Darkness at Night’ about Oblers’ paradox, which makes false dogmatic claims based on ignorance. Harrison misleadingly states on page 505 that ‘Expansion reduces the intensity of radiation in a decelerating universe to a level generally not less than 50 percent of that in a static universe. The effect of expansion cannot be the cause of a dark night sky because in a bright-sky the light must be reduced to a level one ten-trillionth of that in the static universe.’

One mistake Professor Harrison makes is assuming that the universe is decelerating, which was disproved by Perlmutter et al in 1998. He is also misled to discount redshift by his comparison of a big bang scenario to a static universe, and by ignoring the fact that the universe is younger and brighter at greater distances. What he should compare is a big bang universe with and without redshift effects on emitted light. It’s the redshift that makes the sky dark.

Update: copy of a comment to Arcadian Functor

Ummm. As the universe expands, the mass density falls as the inverse cube of the scale factor or effective radius (in a flat universe with no classical ‘curvature’), R, i.e. mass density ~ R^{-3}. This is simply because the volume of a sphere is proportional to R^3 while the mass is conserved, so the density ~ mass/volume ~ 1/R^3.

But the energy density of the CBR of course varies faster, as ~R^{-4}, where the -4 exponent comes from the redshift which decreases the energy of photons (they are effectively ‘stretched out’ in length by redshift as the universe expands, so the frequency i.e. number of oscillations per photon per second as it is received, falls as the universe expands, reducing the energy by Planck’s formula E = hf).

Now the funny thing is that we can use this energy density (Joules/m^3) ~ 1/R^4 relationship to work out how the CBR energy density fell with time since the CBR was emitted at 400,000 years after the BB. Since the large scale universe is flat, the scale factor R increased by a factor of 13,700,000,000/400,000 = 34,000 since the CBR was emitted.

Hence the energy density of the CBR is now (34,000)^4 = 10^18 times smaller than it was at 400,000 years after the BB when the CBR was emitted. This is why we’re not being friend by the CBR.

However, it poses a question! Why is the energy density proportional to R^{-4}? Surely the CBR is converging inward, towards us, from a great distance, not diverging outwards from us! I think that there is a glib mathematical assumption being made here by the mainstream, which may or may not be right. Even if 1/R^4 is 100% right for energy density, there should be an effort to explain the mechanism by which the non-redshift part (i.e. the R^{-3} part of the total R^{-4} energy density fall) occurs. This is of interest to my work on quantum gravity exchange radiation. It’s horrible how little mainstream cosmology work is founded on well-defended physical facts! It’s all back-of-the-envelope guesswork which is now unquestionable dogma.

Hi Carl,

In that case, what’s to stop you seeing radiation from the first microsecond of the big bang?

The CBR masks it because it’s even more redshifted than the CBR!!

The density and temperature of the universe increases without known limit as you look back to 13,700 million light years distances, or 13,700 million light years ago (time).

There’s nothing to stop you seeing primeval radiation from arbitrarily short times after the big bang, apart from redshift.

So I disagree that the distance limit is any solution, you need to remember that as you look back to distances approaching time zero, the intensity of the light goes towards infinity. This big bang scenario is nothing to do with the steady state lookback limit. The question why the sky is dark can’t be answered using a false analogy such as the steady state universe. You have to take the big bang model, and explain why you can’t see radiation from near time zero. It’s masked by the CBR because it’s so redshifted it’s undetectable. So redshift is the only answer, as far as I can tell.

Hi Carl,

‘… I don’t believe in the big bang.’

That’s good, because science isn’t about beliefs or religion. Redshift does appear to suggest expansion (because no other proven mechanism for the uniform shifting of line spectra has ever been found), the ratio of hydrogen to helium abundance suggests fusion at high temperatures in an expanding universe, and the CBR suggests the emission of radiation when the universe became transparent as radiation-absorbing ions combined with electrons to become transparent hydrogen gas at about 4000 K temperature. What I want to see is some proof that the CBR radiation energy density should fall as time^{-4}. The hand-waving proof usually given that the energy density should fall as t^-1 due to redshift is OK, but the claim that expansion should cause an additional t^-3 fall due to volume expansion ignores the geometry in which the CBR is converging inwards towards us from a spherical shell nearly 13,700 million light years distant. This is not spherical divergence. You’d expect converging radiation energy density to increase, not fall! I think t^{-4} may be right but the full explanation is not the arm-waving claim usually made.

‘In my world, it’s the gravitons that make the universe appear expanding on long distances, and lumpy on short distances.’

Spin-1 gravitons would do just that! Immense masses over large distances (clusters of galaxies, superclusters, etc) exchanging spin-1 gravitons will push one another apart, like the dough pressure pushing raisins apart in a baking cake. For smaller masses and distances, the inward pressure on all sides of spin-1 graviton exchange from clusters of galaxies predominates over the repulsive exchange that occurs literally between any two small masses, so they get pushed together. Gravity.


The kind of corrected theory I’m going to investigate for this CBR energy density is as follows.

1. The existing theory that the energy density falls as 1/R due to redshift in combination with 1/R^3 due to volume of universe expanding is probably wrong because the CBR is coming inwards radially towards any observer from a distance of nearly 13,700 million light years away where it was emitted; it’s not losing energy density as 1/R^3 but is instead being focussed on us (converging inwards, not diverging due to expansion!).

2. What is probably happening is that most of this convergence effect is being offset by another mechanism. The whole basis of restricted relativity is that when light is emitted from a moving source, it is not found to move at an absolute speed due an aether carrying it. Instead, the velocity appears invariant because the relative motion of the observer produces contraction and time-dilation effects which make it impossible to detect any change in the velocity of light:

‘The Michelson-Morley experiment has thus failed to detect our motion through the aether, because the effect looked for – the delay of one of the light waves – is exactly compensated by an automatic contraction of the matter forming the apparatus…. The great stumbing-block for a philosophy which denies absolute space is the experimental detection of absolute rotation.’

– Professor A.S. Eddington (who confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1919), MA, MSc, FRS, Space Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1921, pp. 20, 152.

So maybe the CBR is coming to us at an effective velocity which is differs from c, and is small because the source matter (hydrogen ions) was rapidly receding from us? This variation in the velocity of the CBR would possibly straighten out the theory of the energy density.

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