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Seeing Red about Red Shift
Book Review by
Wal Thornhill

By Halton Arp

The book comes about 10 years after Arp's earlier challenge to cosmologists in his book, "Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies". Since that time, Arp had moved to the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, Germany - having been effectively excluded from his research in the USA. In Germany he was able to extend his earlier telescopic work by having access to x-ray images of many of the deep-space objects that were crucial to his argument that the cosmological redshift was related more to the age of an object since its birth than to its velocity away from us.

With this new book, the Big Bang theory is seen at best to be theoretical flatulence, at worst it is an indictment of academic behaviour and the way science is done these days. "Sometimes I think that Astronomy is not so much a science as a series of scandals." [Seeing Red, p. 64]. However, some comfort can be taken by members of this list from Arp's opening remark: "I started getting letters from scientists in small colleges, in different disciplines, from amateurs, students and lay people. The amateurs in particular amazed and delighted me, because it quickly became clear that they really looked at pictures, knew various objects and reasoned for themselves while maintaining a healthy skepticism toward official interpretations."

At the heart of Arp's argument is the discovery that faint, high red-shift quasars seem to be physically associated with active galaxies of normal red-shift. It appears that quasars are occasionally shot from the nucleus of an active galaxy in opposite directions along the spin axis. The youngest quasars are the faintest and have the highest redshift. Older quasars are brighter, have lower redshifts, and finally become new companion galaxies with more normal redshift. The whole family are flung out like drops of water from a double-armed sprinkler with the parent galaxy spinning in the middle, its axis pointing along the sprinkler arms. The most amazing discovery of all was that the quasar redshifts are quantised! It is as if something happens in the quasars to make matter more massive, stepwise, with time and so increase the energy of emitted spectral lines (reduce the redshift). At least that is Arp's challenging conclusion.

From this paradigm shattering data, Arp proposes that the Universe we see is much smaller than advertised because high redshift has little to do with distance. With no primeval bang to work back to, the Universe becomes indefinitely large and old. Arp suggests that matter is created in cascading episodes from existing galaxies. (Unfortunately that merely smears out the matter "creation" story of the Big Bang without providing any more insight into this miraculous effect). He traces events in our region of the universe and constructs a convincing family tree for our own galaxy, with the interesting result that our "twin" is identifiable because it seems that galaxies are born in pairs on opposite sides of the parent galaxy.

Arp's book exposes many of the creaking underpinnings of modern physics. Quantum theory has nothing to offer by way of a physical model to explain the redshift jumps across entire galaxies. And since there is no real model of how gravity works, there is no sensible explanation of how inertial mass can increase with time, nor of its link with gravitational mass. It is not surprising that the consequences of the total destruction of all their present smug certainties is too horrible for astronomers to contemplate. They react to the evidence "... like people viewing a grisly automobile accident ...", Arp writes.

To complete the ruination, Arp then demonstrates that some stars also exhibit redshift anomalies. So we don't understand stars as well as we thought either. Concerning the birth of stars, the standard model requires the collision of clouds of dust and gas. "Now my co-author, Jack Sulentic, and I were disrespectful enough to suggest that smashing two lumps of gas together was the worst possible way to make stars. It just heated up the gas and generally caused condensations to dissipate." [Seeing Red, p. 105].

Arp's discoveries are the most important in astronomy since the invention of the telescope. He has developed a map of the visible universe that makes good sense and shows once again the penchant for Nature to repeat patterns. This is a feature also of the Electric Universe model, where electrical discharges in plasma exhibit an organizing principle that shapes galaxies. When combined with the plasma focus phenomenon we have an explanation for active galactic nuclei and the birth of quasars. Quantised galactic and stellar redshift is simply explained by Sansbury's new classical physics model of gravity as a near instantaneous electrostatic dipolar force. In fact, it would have been embarrassing if quantum redshifts had not been found. Matter creation is unnecessary when the effective scavenging ability of intergalactic Birkeland currents is added to the electrical causation of increasing inertial mass. Arp's work forms a major piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is The Electric Universe.

Just as the Electric Universe does away with the fanciful notion of black holes, Arp reserves some wry comments about this mythical beast that is supposed to lurk at the centres of galaxies and suck stars in: "The greatly publicised theory is black holes where everything falls in. But the observations show everything is falling out! (Can we count on conventional science always choosing the incorrect alternative between two possibilities? I would vote yes, because the important problems usually require a change in paradigm which is forbidden to conventional science.)" [Seeing Red, p. 228]. The last chapter of Seeing Red is devoted to Academia. Those who have followed the "Velikovsky Affair" will recognise the bad behaviour patterns. Arp brings an insider's perspective as an outstanding researcher who followed the rules of experiment and publication only to be met with ostracism and denial. Those who find it hard to credit stories of church officials refusing to look through Galileo's telescope will have difficulty when reading Arp's book to find that the same thing happens in this so-called scientific age. "... influential people in the field know what the observations portend, but they are too deeply committed to go back. The result will surely be to inexorably push academic science toward a position akin to that of the medieval church. But if that is the evolutionarily necessary solution, then perhaps we should hasten the process of replacing the present system with a more effective mode of doing science." [Seeing Red, p. 23]. One important mode is scientific communication. Arp is of the opinion that it has almost completely broken down through the accepted journals. I believe that the Internet provides the new scientific protestants with the communication tool to advance science without requiring the participation of academics. We don't have to waste our time - Seeing Red.

Cosmologies and Academic Science_ by Halton Arp

"I believe the observational evidence has become overwhelming, and the Big Bang has in reality been toppled. There is now a need to communicate the new observations, the connections between objects and the new insights into the workings of the universe- all the primary obligations of academic science, which has generally tried to suppress or ignore such dissident information."

"The present book is sure to outrage many academic scientists. Many of my professional friends will be greatly pained. Why then do I write it? First, everyone has to tell the truth as they see it, especially about important things. The fact that the majority of professionals are intolerant of even opinions which are discordant makes change a necessity. Those friends of mine who also struggle to get the mainstream of astronomy back on track mostly feel that presenting evidence and championing new theories is sufficient to cause change, and that it is improper to criticize an enterprise to which they belong and value highly. I disagree, in that I think if we do not understand why science is failing to self-correct, it will not be possible to fix it."

"This, then, is the crisis for the reasonable members of the profession. With so many alternative, contradictory theories, many of them fitting the evidence very badly, abandoning the accepted theory is a frightening step into chaos. At this point, I believe we must look for salvation from the non-specialists, amateurs and interdisciplinary thinkers-those who form judgments on the general thrust of the evidence, those who are skeptical about any explanation, particularly official ones, and above all are tolerant of other people's theories."

"The only hope I see is for the more ethical professionals and the more attentive, open-minded non professionals to combine their efforts to form a more democratic science with better judgment, and slowly transform the subject into an enlightened, more useful activity of society. This is the deeper reason I wrote this book and, although it will cause distress, I believe a painfully honest debate is the only exercise capable of galvanizing meaningful change."

Halton Arp
Reprinted by permission

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