D. Russell Humphreys. Starlight and Time. Green Forest AR: Master Books, 1994. Print.
This is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a while. No one can predict whether the author’s theory will ultimately be proven, but the book opened my eyes to some of the things going on in the world of cosmology today.
This books is mainly a challenge to a standard assumption of many cosmologists, notably Stephen Hawking. The assumption of Hawking and others is that universe is infinite. It has no boundary or edge, certainly no event horizon.
Since nearly all galaxies observed from earth display a red shift which indicates that they are moving away from the earth, Hawking and others have assumed that this is true of any point in the universe. The only way this assumption can be valid is if the universe is infinite. If we were somewhere near the edge of a finite universe, the motion of the galaxies would appear different. Some would be moving away, but others would be moving toward us.
Now this makes for an interesting conundrum if we accept the so-called big bang theory that Hawking and others propose. We have been told that the universe began some 13 or 14 billion years ago when all the energy and/or matter was compressed in a relatively tiny ball that exploded (“big bang”) and has continued to expand ever since. But how can a “tiny” ball be infinite? Did it start out with less infinity and become more infinite as it expanded? (Obvious problem there). If it were already infinite at the beginning, then what does expansion mean?
Humphreys proposes a finite universe. Now at the beginning it would have had to have been on a scale of two light years in diameter (12 trillion miles) but that is still finite.
It could have started out either as a white hole or a black hole that turned into a white hole. Either way, there would be an event horizon of some 450 million light years from the center. That event horizon would shrink quickly till it disappeared, but weird things would happen to gravity. Because of gravitational time dilation at or near the event horizon, time would appear much slower at the center than at the edge of the expansion. At the beginning that could be a billion or more times slower.
Many of us have heard of velocity time dilation where as something approaches the speed of light it slows down in time to keep the E=mc2 equation balanced. Well, according to the General Theory of Relativity, gravity does something similar. Gravity also affects time. We have observed, for example, that the atomic clock at Greenwich, England, near sea level, ticks five fewer microseconds per year than the atomic clock at mile-high Boulder, Colorado.
Imagine now the enormous density near the center of the proto-universe where the gravity would be almost beyond measure, while the gravity of the expanding particles and/or heavenly bodies at the edge, especially those passing beyond the event horizon, would be much less. So much so Humphreys claims—and he has the math to illustrate, if not prove it—that what would appear to be a few days near the center would be billions of years at the edge.
This could explain how light from billions of light years away from earth could reach us in a much shorter time. It could make it possible to harmonize the six days of creation as recorded in the Bible with cosmological observations. (This, of course, has nothing to do with biological evolution, but only cosmic origins).
Since virtually all galaxies appear to be moving away from the earth or the Milky Way, if the universe is finite, that means that the Milky Way is somewhere near the center of the universe.
Hawking calls his view of an infinite universe the Copernican principle, but it has little to do with Copernicus. While Copernicus’s Solar System meant that the universe did not revolve around the earth, so that the earth might not be the center of the universe, Hawking’s infinite universe means that there is no center of the universe. But then how does an infinite universe expand? Isn’t it already infinite? Humphreys notes that even Hawking confesses that this is “an admixture of ideology.” (87)
There is a lot more to Humphreys’ discussion. He kindly divides his book into four parts, each part progressively more mentally challenging. The first part, about a third of the total pages, presents and explanation of his theory in lay terms that hopefully many readers can follow.
Appendix A describes previous theories that attempt to reconcile cosmological observations with the historical and Biblical record. Appendix B illustrates how his theory jibes with the historical and Biblical record. For example, he notes how many times Scripture speaks of the heavens as an expanse—the noun form of expand. Thus, the Bible seems to confirm that the heavens, the universe, expand or get stretched out.
Appendix C backs up his theory with mathematical models. This is technical. He does explain things pretty clearly, but unless you are familiar with the models and formulae he uses, you have to take him at his word. (This is taken from a peer-reviewed presentation, so at least a few experts have checked his math.)
Whether you end up buying Humphreys’ model or not, Starlight and Time will challenge your thinking. Once again, it makes us realize that things we may accept as “scientific fact” are really admixtures of ideology.
N.B.: I had read this book a few years ago and, frankly, it went over my head. This time, I got it. I am not sure why, but in the meantime I did read a few books and lectures by Richard Feynman, and also had read something of Carmelian fifth dimensional space. Perhaps that helped, I do not know. I may also simply have been less tired this time.