Is the Scientific Method obsolete?

Today’s issue of the NYT (June 7, 2015), in its Sunday Review section, contains a reasonably fair commentary titled “A crisis at the edge of physics,” by Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser, both respected professionals in modern physics. The authors refer back to a December 2014 article in Nature magazine, Scientific Method: Defending the integrity of physics, by George Ellis and Joe Silk, which criticizes the tendency among many modern physicists for suggesting—explicitly—that the need for the testing of theories should be abandoned in favor of some method of applying a lesser test or tests, among them something called “elegance,” and/or “explanatory power,” thus ‘breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical.’

This is a position that has been argued for a number of years now, possibly, or even probably, out of despair because of the continued failure of physicists to resolve the conflicts between the two “accepted” standard models of physics and cosmology (quantum mechanics on the one hand, and General Relativity and the big bang on the other) or to make progress toward combining them into a reasonable unified theory. This resolution, of course, has been the holy grail of the past hundred years or so among theorists and has, unfortunately, been the generator of multiple speculative schools of thought and speculative theories with the common characteristic of being fundamentally untestable.

Speculation is, of course, not a bad thing in and of itself, what if? being the fundamental first step in any theoretical endeavor. The scientific argument is whether these speculations can be brought into a testable state. The last several years, however, has seen the birth of a wide range of these so far untestable scientific speculations, chief among them the various versions of string theory, supersymmetry, and the multiverse. String theory has now been around for over thirty years and its “practitioners” now number in the thousands at many universities and institutes around the world, soaking up millions of dollars in research grants and university budgets, to the dismay of its critics who point out, correctly, that it has yet to generate a single testable hypothesis. To this thinker, it has only one real virtue. It suggests that the universe is filled, that is, it is not a vacuum, and that this filling consists of tiny, as yet undetectable strings of something, which goes into making up all of the higher forms of matter and energy that we can and do detect. Why strings? That is not explained. Perhaps it is because strings can be wound up, twisted, tied in knots, to have a mechanical function, a simplistic notion that has been around for millennia.

I think there may be two reasons for this mood of despair. One is just tiredness. It’s been almost a hundred years with no progress, no connection. Let’s give up. People have believed for thousands of years that some things are just unknowable, why not this. So we have two theories that seem almost right, maybe that’s all we’re going to get. They’re both somewhat elegant and they both seem to work pretty well as they are, so let’s just—well, not exactly change the rules—just maybe move the goalposts a little bit, so we can relax a little, declare victory and go home, maybe? Besides, most people are convinced that these hundred-year-old theories are correct, aren’t they? An army of experts are usually right, after all.

That’s one reason.

But what if there is  another reason for our failure to resolve this issue? What if one of those beliefs is actually wrong? or, God forgive, what if both of them are wrong? What if we’ve been running down the wrong track all this time? They seem to work, but only if we accept some assumptions about things we’ve never seen, just assumed they must be there. I know, Einstein invented spacetime out of nothing, but it enabled him to create a beautiful theory, didn’t it? And exchanging the probability of something for real knowledge made it possible to create some gorgeous equations about the movements of tiny particles, doesn’t that count for something?

Well, no.

Let’s look at those “true” theories a little closer. Einstein must have known that there was some sort of medium out there, else light and other radiation had no medium to carry them. But the idea of an “ether” had been debunked nearly 20 years before. There were no particles in space that slowed down light, so it must be empty, and inserting something would really mess up these beautiful equations, so let’s just assume that this (hypothetical) spacetime thing is real. It gives us a neat way to describe gravity, after all. And besides, if it’s hypothetical nobody can ever prove it isn’t true, can they.

An important example.

In 1898, Ludwig Boltzmann published the second volume of his Lectures on Gas Theory, but was not optimistic about its acceptance. The theorists arrayed against his assertions, based on the particulate theories of gases, were three formidable opponents, Wilhelm Ostwald, George Helm, and Ernst Mach, who had together and separately argued for an antiatomic theory which came to be called energetics. “Ostwald believed that a grand scheme could be formulated that encompassed all of the fields of science, beginning with the energy concept as a unifying principle. He was convinced that energy fluxes and transformations determined the laws of physics and chemistry.” [1] Mach did not fully subscribe to energetics but was described as an ardent antiatomist. He did not accept the existence of atoms and molecules because he could find no direct evidence for their existence. He found Boltzmann’s explanations of the second law of thermodynamics as a consequence of molecular chaos as superficial, based as they were on unverifiable assumptions. While Ostwald later came to accept Boltzmann’s conclusions, his acceptance was based on another set of circular arguments, principal among which was the common belief that all was particles, another unprovable assumption. The proofs came from two other theoreticians, Einstein, in his 1905 paper making a gas analogy with ‘colloidal’ particles in solutions, and J. J. Thompson’s so-called “discovery” of the electron, also based on the particulate assumption. Here we have an almost exact parallel with quantum mechanics, which stands and falls on the presumed existence of particles. With these two thinkers arrayed against it, energetics fell into obscurity from which it is only now re-emerging.

What was missing from Ostwald, Helm, and Mach’s model was a physical concept of what they referred to as the world-ether and any explanation of how the rest of the ponderable universe could have arisen from it, even though they had all of Helmholtz, Hertz, and Maxwell’s work on the existence and behavior of fields to rely upon. Einstein himself finally came to believe that the ether had to have some form of substance, a level of energy to support its role as a carrier of electromagnetic phenomena, but his math had no need of it, so it was never included in his theories. And all of them were prisoners of the concept that energy must just be a quality of the real fundamental entities, the particles, rather than being a phenomenon in and of itself, out of which something resembling particles might arise and be identified.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost, and on up to the hierarchy of complexity we live with today, instead of a simple unified model that can explain the entire dimensional range of objects, events, and phenomena we now recognize mas making up the real world. The step not taken was to see the ether as an electromagnetic field, a step which might have turned on the real light of discovery.

So, the second reason that the two accepted theories of physics and cosmology cannot be reconciled, and why some are ready to abandon experimental verification as part of the scientific method, is that both of those “standard theories” are simply wrong. They try to explain two separate aspects of nature based on faulty, hypothetical assumptions rather than on observable phenomena. They are based on “elegant” mathematical models not confirmable in reality. They are still rooted in a Platonic notion of the ideal, attainable in mathematics but not in the real world. Quite simply, nature, left to its own devices, is rough, not smooth,. Only the math is smooth. Plato’s smooth, perfect ideal was something given by the gods. The modern physicist’s ideal is a construct created by the math. It was wrong in Plato’s time and it is wrong today. No two snowflakes are alike, no two humans, no two galaxies. Circumspice. Look about you, not at your formulae.

[1] Great Physicists, William H. Cropper, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 198

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After dark, perhaps a little light

For at least the last hundred years, there has existed an ongoing debate about the entity or hypothetical entity we call space. It has been called the vacuum, a container, or a physical substance of some kind. Einstein used it as part of a larger construct he called spacetime. He used this concept to bring forward a new concept for the force we call gravity, replacing Newton’s construct with one that explained more clearly, he thought, the motions and structure of the universe at the astronomical scale. Now this idea had a problem. For it to have the characteristics he gave it, that of being bendable, stretchable, capable of carrying electromagnetic waves, it needed some substance, some real physical characteristics which neither part (space, and time) of spacetime was able to contribute. So, in 1916 and later, in a notable address at the University of Leyden in May 1920, he agreed that his principle, General Relativity, could not exist or function without some medium filling spacetime. He chose to call that filler substance a “gravitational ether,” recognizing that an earlier ether concept of a particulate nature had been proven nonexistent by Michelson and Morley in 1887. Still, that didn’t settle the questions. Einstein made another point in his talk, that we should not attribute to his gravitational ether any kind of motion.. It may be that that caveat meant that he would not have to take such motion into account and have to revise his equations. It was sort of an escape clause in his model of the universe. Today, we still debate the questions of “what is space?” and “is there such a thing as an ether?

Leaving those questions aside for the moment, today’s astronomers and cosmologist have found themselves wrestling with bigger questions. Most accept that the universe we can detect out many billions of light-years distant appears to be expanding, and at an accelerating rate, at that. What could cause and maintain that expansion? If there was a big bang at the beginning, some momentum could still exist, but that doesn’t explain acceleration, so there must be some other effect coming from somewhere else.

Most astronomers today are convinced of the existence of mysterious entities they call dark energy and dark matter, partly filling the space between and around the so-called ponderable matter of planets, stars and galaxies, and calculated to make up making up as much as 96% of all matter in the universe. The dark energy appears to fill the universe and its presence is suggested to be the driving force behind the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. Dark matter, on the other hand, appears to be more concentrated, in what some call patches, others filaments, closer to stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. And while neither can be actually seen, dark matter has been presumed as causing certain gravitational effects such as lensing of light in astronomical observations and causing light and other radiation to be deflected when passing through these regions. In the usual way some bright conceptualizers looked at accelerating expansion and this other mystery, dark matter, and thought, “what if they are connected?” Now of course we know how easy that is. Maybe one mysterious substance might be what is causing another mystery to occur. So far, thankfully, its still just a question. None of this has stopped the search for the nature, the content and the extent of dark matter.

A few years ago an researcher at CalTech, Richard Massey, published some work that indicated that dark matter might actually be the scaffolding, the infrastructure for the formation of stars, since it seemed to be concentrated in regions heavy with new (and, some older) stars and galaxies. Massey published both his results, drawn from Hubble photographs, along with some computer simulations to show how this might be happening. I’ve previously posted those images on my blog and in my two books on this subject.

Most recently, we have seen its evidence in the first report of the Dark Energy Survey. “The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is a collaboration of research institutions in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany and Spain that aims to gain insight into these two mysterious entities. The survey uses a 4 m optical–infrared telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.” (published this week on As of this week, the survey has completed and published the initial results of its work, a 150 square degree region of the southern sky centered at about -55° declination and 75° right ascension, showing in false color the gradients of dark matter as determined by their technique which they have dubbed “cosmic shear.”

That portion of the sky is shown here and then the survey results, with some visual correlation between the denser regions of DM and the locations of the larger, brighter galaxies here in what’s called the Fornax Cluster.

Star cluster

Figure 1, the Fornax cluster of galaxies


Figure 2. the same region in the DES survey. Red (hotter) regions indicate greater DM density (or just energy density?).

We can see from these and other studies that we’re detecting something out there that isn’t a star or a galaxy and it has measurable effects on those stars and galaxies, or at least on our observations of them. And the two possibilities are that these are, for dark energy, some form of energy. And for dark matter, some form of matter, which would explain what we perceive as the gravitational effects we’ve observed. There isn’t anything else is there? some third fundamental entity? —outside of the E=mc2 formulation? Probably not.

Those questions have ben a central topic in my own writings and study over the past several years. Might there be another way to look at this data? For example, what if everything is energy?

And what do we perceive that field to be? Most, these days, call it dark energy. We know it’s there, or at least presume it’s there because otherwise we’d have no explanation for these other perceived effects, the apparent absence of predicted mass, etc. But because we can’t actually see it, and because of the love of the mysterious endemic to all astronomers, we call it dark energy— and speculate endlessly about its origins, its constituents, its presence. Is it really there or not?

Now I’m going to ask you to step outside the multiple boxes of the standard model of particle physics and the standard model of cosmology, all the relativistic and “quantum” parts of them, and take a fresh look at what we’ve been seeing all these years. No, I’m not accepting the existence of something called dark energy or dark matter, but of something else that is out there and is neither mysterious or dark.

It’s a clear night, billions of stars are shining our way, we’ve blanked out the astrological signs and the “constellations” of our ancestors and can start from scratch. Well, not quite that far back. We’ll start from these observations we’ve been making of the dark sky and its components. In general we’re agreed that it’s mostly full of energy, it’s not empty space. The stars, galaxies, and clusters, they’re energy, too, just really high concentrations of it. And what about those other things we’ve postulated as being out there, from cosmic dust to asteroids, comets, moons, even planets? Well, if you believe that wonderful equation, E=mc2, why, of course, all of that stuff is energy, too. Now there’s an idea. What if everything is made of energy? How would we go about explaining that?

So let’s accept for a moment that the universe (all of it, that is), in it’s most basic, fundamental parts, consists of an essentially unlimited electromagnetic field. All energy, in a form we’re very familiar with. We can see it in the admittedly doctored CMB images, as a turbulent but fixed field of high energy, (relatively) high entropy, a background at an average temperature of about 2.7° Kelvin. And, we can see a small part of it in the DES images, a bit turbulent but I think we’re going to find out that everything is turbulent.

Then, accept for a moment that the key elements of what we perceive as stellar, galactic, even planetary masses represent high energy concentrations in that field. E=mc2, after all. But for most part, possibly 96%, at least, it’s simply energy, and there’s a lot of it out there. So let’s assume that it’s our best known kind of energy, electromagnetism. That we know the math of, at least.

Then, let’s suppose that those other things out there we can see, those planets, stars galaxies, once again, very high energy concentrations in that field, might have some effects outside of their perceived surfaces. Oh, actually, we know they do, Each has a “gravitational” effect, most have “magnetic effects,” light bends around them, most give off radiation at a very high velocity, and they have astronomical haloes! But again, in our still functioning love of mystery, we call those effects dark matter! And we give it mysterious powers, antigravity, among others.

But what if we just take it as it is and call it simply a high, just not visibly high, distortion of the surrounding field. What have we now put together?

We have a new vision of the universe. A simpler vision where we no longer need to reconcile the very small with the very large, where we no longer have to live with the contradictions and paradoxes of quantum theories, string theories, multiverses, ‘branes singularities, entanglements, wave-particle dualities, you name it, we’ve got it. Considering that even the smallest entities that we say have mass are also simply temporarily coherent concentrations of energy (remember E=mc2, again), then maybe we can see everything following the same rules, and we don’t need multiple theories to explain the world. And maybe William of Occam can stop spinning in his grave!

What we have now is the simple universe. You can learn more about that from my books, the picnic at the edge of the universe, and its more complete follow-up, imagine darkness, and from multiple earlier posts on this blog.

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Axioms of the simple universe

Axioms of the simple universe

(from “imagine darkness” by Charles Scurlock)

 Axiom 1

The cosmos, what we call the ether, is made up of an electromagnetic energy field extending in all directions an indefinite distance from all points in the universe.

What physicists refer to as space is neither void nor vacuum but consists of energy in the form of a continuous electromagnetic ether, extending indefinitely, without limit, without edges or borders farther than the eye can see, even with the most powerful instruments. The field is fixed and is, in the relativistic sense, a privileged prime reference frame. It is, however, fluid, elastic, and subject to the same internal movements, currents, turbulence, and topological defects as any elastic medium. This ether pervades all of space, as evidenced by its carriage of all electromagnetic phenomena to and from its farthest limits as well as by the constant velocity of that radiation.

Axiom 2

All perceptible entities in the universe, that is, all objects, events, and phenomena, at whatever scale, consist of organized, coherent concentrations and distortions of that energy field, in patterns governed by a simple set of rules.

There are no particles, no “uncutable” first beginnings, no atoms, no protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos, bosons, gluons; again, no “particles.” There is only energy, flowing through and within the cosmos. Its formation into concentrations of various size, intensity, and complexity gives rise to imaginings of entities of a particulate nature.

Axiom 3

The region we call the universe is an aggregation of those concentrations, of size and complexity ranging from submicroscopic entities to stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, all resulting from the same set of rules.

All of reality that we perceive is made up in its entirety of these complex coherent organizations of energy, these “condensations of the ether” as Einstein called them, resulting from reverberation, reinforcement, resonance and phase transitions in the medium. In fact, all identifiable components of reality, objects, events, and phenomena, consist of coherent deformations of the ether, from the smallest entities we can identify, through those that make up what we have called the “zone of middle dimensions,” out to the most distant and immense features of the cosmos, the stars, quasars, galaxies, and clusters of the astronomers. The presence of these high energy-density concentrations generates larger regions of distortion in the ether, mistakenly identified  as mysterious “dark matter,” or Einstein’s hypothetical “curvature of spacetime.”

 Axiom 4

All naturally occurring entities are identifiable by their roughness, that is, their forms, shapes, arrangement, and motion are neither regular nor smooth.

Left to its own devices nature is rough, not smooth. The Platonic ideal of perfect smoothness is not attained in nature. Nature is irregular, not ordered. It is random, not predictable. No two snowflakes are identical, no two galaxies. The universe is neither homogenous nor isotropic. This “cosmological principal” is a false assumption, invented for the convenience of mathematics.

Axiom 5

At all scales everything in nature is in continuous vibratory motion, nothing is still.

At all scales everything in the universe is in motion, both internally in all its component parts and externally in relation to the fixed frame of the ether and all other perceptible entities. This motion is essential to our perception, which functions only by the detection of differences. Turbulence is a necessary condition of that motion. Without it can occur none of the essential interactions of reverberation, reinforcement and resonance out of which emerge the coherent concentrations of energy which make up the universe as we know it.

All of these axioms are confirmable by direct observation and examination here in the real world.

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Back to Reality: a Pilgrimage

The two most discussed scientific theories of the last 100 years, that is, the “standard models” of physics and cosmology, have their roots, even their foundations, in the belief in the existence of billions of tiny entities for which there is no believable nor demonstrable physical evidence. These “particles” cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled or tasted. Their existence is premised totally on observations of their presumed effects or the mathematically predicted probability of existence. The proofs of all other phenomena in the observable universe are then explained by reference to this first set of unproved entities, giving rise to the predicted existence of even more “particles,” things like WIMP’s and “neutralinos,” supposedly explaining “dark matter” which is also something no one has yet found. Still we spend millions of man-hours, and untold intellectual capital in the search for these dark mysteries. And new ones are being invented every day.

The theory of the simple universe, on the other hand, is based on the presence of a single, demonstrable entity, the fundamental and universal electromagnetic field we call the ether. This non-particulate field extends indefinitely in all directions from every point in the universe. It’s existence is easily and directly confirmed by the presence of multiple phenomena with which we are all familiar, primarily by the ubiquitous presence of electromagnetic radiation of all frequencies, including light, solar energy, and wireless communications and all of its devices, particularly those most of us now carry in our pockets and purses, our wireless cellular telephones. the simple universe is the theory of physics and cosmology first sketched out in my book, the picnic at the edge of the universe (2011), and described in more complete detail in my second book, imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe (2015).

The ease with which the first set of unprovable theories is accepted and the difficulty in accepting the second is a puzzle to me. In any case, this is a lead in to what I really set out to say.

The two “standard models” face many hurdles, in that they are not only impossible to demonstrate without multiple unsupported assumptions, they are, in many parts, either irreconcilable with one another, or internally inconsistent, or, in several instances in direct contradiction. One example: the currently accepted and promoted model of the origin of the universe requires a brief but huge expansion of all of the mass and energy created at the instant of the big bang followed by a slower but still accelerating expansion after that time. This theory is offered as an explanation of two things: one is that the universe is basically uniform in all directions, the so-called cosmological constant, and two, it is presumed that in this initial period, many of the lighter elements, hydrogen, helium, and lithium, were created and distributed evenly throughout the universe. First, there is either something wrong with the cosmological constant or with our observations, because from our vantage point, presumed to be exactly like all other vantage points, the universe has vast gaps and concentrations of matter, not an even distribution. The second gap is in the observed abundance of lithium in contrast to what the big bang—inflation—light elements—expansion—stars and galaxies—heavy elements— the model predicts. The big bang theory also requires certain fields to exist around the tiniest particles created in its initiation, leading up to the latest to be presumed to be found, the Higgs boson, but if the Higgs is what it seems to be, the inflation—expansion theory has some explaining to do or some abandonment to consider, since its characteristics contradict some the big bang/inflation predictions.

This is only a sample of the problems, not to speak of the ones that have plagued the various quantum theories since their inception, not the least of which is understanding where gravity fits in the scheme of things.

Now the vast preponderance of current research in these areas is being carried out by mathematicians, I don’t say this loosely even though most of them call themselves physicists. They are mathematical physicists, toiling in the wilderness of untestable notions like string theory and multiverses, two of the more fanciful approaches for young PhD candidates, to judge from a scan of current publications and journals. I liken this to the man found searching for his lost keys under a street lamp because the light is brighter there than across the street where he dropped them.

Not many thinkers are wandering away from the warm campfires of accepted thought, unfortunately, and those who do often find themselves branded as apostates at best, cranks and crackpots at worst, and permanently barred from many standard journals and other venues, like grants and research funding.

As a result, getting a hearing in the temples of the blest is not easy, and the flood of publications from within the hearts of our institutions powerfully dims the light from any new models that might appear. I think it was Max Planck who suggested that the best hope for a new theory creeping out of the establishment tent is that the establishment ultimately dies off, leaving room for new minds.

A few of us are giving it a try, however. I’ve cited several in these pages in the past, serious astronomers like Halton Arp, some voices from academia or the scientific press, like Alexander Unzicker and Jim Baggott, among others, who have expressed their frustration and challenged the established norms. However, places like The Perimeter Institute and other centers of research are still places where string theorists and other cosmological speculators find welcoming hearths, 33 of them on staff at TPI, at my last count. There are other theorists out there, of course, but a careful look at their proposals reveals what to me seem fatal flaws. Most are in the mental grip of particle theories, or are heavily engaged in controversies over the proper language to use to describe this force or that spin. or is there perhaps a new name we can give an old idea. I myself suffer from a determined commitment to the idea that the truth must be sought out in the real world, not in a new hypothetical particle to make the math work out (gravitons, anyone?) or a new constant in the equation (hidden as something called renormalization, perhaps).

I’m convinced that we have fallen into the trap of saying, “Well, this is almost right, so if we tweak it here or maybe here and there, the pieces may fall into place.” Or, “If a thousand graduate students haven’t figured it out yet, maybe ten thousand might” (the old Navy way). A hundred years of tinkering should have taught us a lesson, wouldn’t you think?

I’d like to encourage as many as possible to join me out here on this limb and see if we can get far enough away to once again see the whole tree instead of just staring at a single branch. My contribution to date is my short book, the picnic at the edge of the universe, and the more detailed and longer work, imagine darkness, now available here and on Amazon, and soon, hopefully, in your local bookstore or library. They are in book distributor’s inventories, so bookstores can order them. They are my own product, built from my own, probably incomplete, scholarly research and imagination, so I solicit your comments, arguments, criticism, even (reasoned) rejection. I’m hoping to start a new discussion, you see, and would like to see it flower. And if there’s an adventurous mathematician out there who’d like to join in, let me hear from you.

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imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe

Publication notice:

 I’m pleased today, February 17, to announce the publication of imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe, in a paperback edition. The book is the continuation and expansion of the model I first sketched out in the picnic at the edge of the universe, published as an ebook in 2011 and re-released in paperback format on January 1, of this year.

the simple universe described in this account is a new model of the origin and structure of the universe as observed from our local, and only, vantage point here on earth. It is based on just what we can observe, not burdened with mysticism, fantasy, hypothetical dimensions, belief in paradoxes or contradictions, mechanistic contrivances, or mathematics substituted for reality. Beginning with the rediscovery of a single fixed relativistic frame of reference, the electromagnetic ether, it enables us to resolve or dismiss the multiple paradoxes and contradictions of the current “standard models” of physics and cosmology and replace them with a new and simplified theory of everything. Along the way this account provides new insights into the commonly accepted belief systems around relativity, particle theory, quantum theory, the second law of thermodynamics, E=mc2, and the velocity of light, and offers a simplified, rational, and reality-based alternative, It accomplishes this by seeing with new eyes the same body of evidence, the same observations, that, through misattribution or misuse have supported the current incomplete and contradictory theories for the past 100 years, as well as by applying what we have learned since those theories were first proposed.

 the simple universe is the model of modern physics and cosmology I’ve been working on for more than a dozen years and I finally feel I’ve gotten it right. These two books came out of long conversations with friends and colleagues who were interested in “the big questions” and who weren’t satisfied with answers that were too mysterious and complicated. But searching the literature for clarity soon turned up the fact that there was no clarity, not even among those experts who claimed to know the subjects and the answers.

What we finally discovered was that, for too long, we’ve lived with the untenable logical assumptions of the big bang and so-called “quantum” everything. It is painful to read that we have all the answers when almost none of it can be accepted without a “willing suspension of disbelief” at every level. We are told that 1, it all came from nothing, 2, it’s expanding into nothing, 3, that it can’t be measured or explained, 4, it’s all mathematics. 5, it’s all information, 6, that it didn’t exist at all until we observed it, 7, time and space didn’t exist until we came along, 8, it exists in a mysterious other dimension (or dimensions), and so on and so on. The arguments are infinitely circular, energy is what makes the world go around and the world going around is what generates energy.

Common sense tells us that the dimensions we have created are what we use to describe the size and shape and location of things, they are not things in themselves; the units of time we created are for measuring the duration of events and phenomena and the persistence of objects in space, and are not real things in themselves. Einstein invented an imaginary entity he called spacetime and invested it with real physical characteristics and none of the experts challenged him on it before it became the de facto standard model. Bohr, Heisenberg, and the Copenhagen Crew told us that we could never understand their mystical theories, Richard Feynman said nobody could, so the physics professors told their students to forget trying to make it logical, just calculate!

Unfortunately, in modern physics, logic and common sense have lost their place. When mathematicians took over physics they decided that just being honest describers of the real world was not enough; math could just take over and be the real world. That way only a few people could understand it and the math could be the new holy writ. The experts could declare victory and that was it. Dissenters were dismissed as cranks and crackpots. Unfortunately a few are just that, but still the questions they raised are not being answered.

It was way past time to take back reality. That’s what imagine darkness tries to do. The fundamental mysteries of the standard models are reduced to just one, down from the dozens mentioned above. The structure of everything turns out to be explainable by information we have all around us. Some of the mathematics may be reusable but the fundamental logic of the universe needs to be seen ‘with new eyes’ in an entirely different way. I welcome your thoughts and your challenges. I hope for many. Thank you.

This book, as well as the preceding one, are available through Amazon, through this web site at and other outlets.

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What (exactly) is energy?

What is energy?

A recent post on a LinkedIn web discussion poses this question, with conditions. It rules out, wisely, simple mathematical expressions and the like, along with the typical circular, non-realistic explanations you get about gravity or magnetism or forces. The questioner seems to want at least a verifiable description of an object, an event, or a phenomenon that can be examined, evaluated. I am afraid he will be disappointed. I’ll try to explain why.

For me, “what is energy?” is the fundamental question that underlies all the theories of physics, cosmology, origins, etc., from the universe to even life, itself.

It is, like gravity and magnetism, actually two of its manifestations, something that many experts will claim to understand, without a clue as to its sources or origins. We have teased out many of its patterns which we then designated as its “laws.” We know its effects at a wide range of its power, from high to low. We know it exists and, within limits, how to manage and control it. What we lack is a truly physical description and any theory of its ultimate sources and origins.

I have been wrestling with these questions for a long time and in my own model, called modestly, the simple universe, energy is the only remaining fundamental mystery, so don’t expect an answer, beamed down from on high. It is the only remaining mystery, as opposed to the dozens that you find everywhere in the theories of thinkers from Democritus to Bohr, including everything from the Hindu Vedas to “strings.”

I can describe energy—as a fundamental vibrations across a null point of the elemental constituent of everything— everything, that is, all objects, events, and phenomena of the real world. The real world, for me, is what exists outside of our heads; everything that, as the novelist Robert Heinlein once described, as “what is still there after you have stopped believing in it.”

How do we perceive energy and how do we ‘know’ it exists? Well, we can detect it at its possibly lowest point on our detectors and collectors as what has come to be known (mistakenly, I’m convinced) as the CMBR—a generalized level of vibration throughout the cosmos— a boiling pot, at a very low temperature by our measuring techniques, but still apparent in every direction and at all distances we can reach.

Its more directly perceptible manifestations are, of course, in its local concentrations, in everything from a tiny refrigerator magnet up to galactic scales in the furthest reaches of our universe.

The way these manifestations have occurred and become known to us have been by processes themselves known to us, that is, by random interactions in that field, by reinforcements, resonances and phase transitions leading to temporarily stable entities of which we ourselves are a part. And, of course, in cosmic terms, ‘temporary’ can mean billions of years.

Albert Einstein postulated a universe describable by four ‘dimensions.’ Three of these are obvious, length, breadth, and height, although many more are available to us for describing the more complex entities we encounter. He also proposed a fourth descriptor which he denoted as ‘time,’ although it is better termed as ‘duration’ or ‘persistence,’ without which no real entity could exist. In any universe so described. However, the other ‘killer variable’, fundamental and essential to the existence of anything, must be energy, the very stuff of creation, the root of all that exists, even though we may never know precisely its constituents, its origins, or its source.

These are the principal arguments in my forthcoming book, imagine darkness, in which I lay out more detailed explanations of how all of this originated and ultimately has played out in the world today. Expect its publication in the next few weeks.

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dark energy, dark matter—in the simple universe

This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Imagine Darkness, the making of the simple universe.” in part reiterating the points made in an earlier post, titled “Dark What” (June 2012). It is updated with new information and support from some new findings by astronomers. Thanks for reading it. I would welcome your thoughts and comments.

dark energy, dark matter

In early 2007, the journal Nature published the results of a study by a team of astronomers led by Richard Massey of Caltech, detailing their efforts at mapping the extent and nature of “dark matter”, that mysterious and as yet invisible substance that is presumed to make up the greater part of the physical mass of the universe. The university released its own notification of the publication, a portion of that press release is shown below.

New 3-D Map of Dark Matter Reveals Cosmic Scaffolding

SEATTLE—An international team of astronomers has created a comprehensive three-dimensional map that offers a first look at the weblike large-scale distribution of dark matter in the universe. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe’s mass, but that so far has eluded direct detection, or even a definitive explanation for its makeup. The map is being unveiled today at the 209th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and the results are being published simultaneously online by the journal Nature. According to Richard Massey, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology who led in the map’s creation, the map provides the best evidence yet that normal matter, largely in the form of galaxies, forms along the densest concentrations of dark matter. The map reveals a loose network of filaments that grew over time and which intersect in massive structures at the locations of clusters of galaxies. Massey calls dark matter “the scaffolding inside of which stars and galaxies have been assembled over billions of years.” Because the formation of the galaxies depicted stretches halfway to the beginning of the universe, the research also shows how dark matter has grown increasingly clumpy as it continues collapsing under gravity. The new maps of dark matter and galaxies will provide critical observational underpinnings to future theories for how structure formed in the evolving universe under the relentless pull of gravity.

The bolded text is a clue to the underlying assumptions held in general in the astronomy and physics communities in regard to the structure of the universe, that is, that it all arrived via a “big bang” and that the dark matter scaffolding existed at a time prior to the appearance of stars, galaxies, and clusters and, in fact, provided a major part of the basis for their development. In the tradition of modern physics, “dark matter” is assumed to be particulate, that is, of the same substantial nature as so-called ordinary matter, a term that covers all of the visible, to us humans, elements of the universe. So, is there another possible interpretation of this impressive body of data than that proposed by Massey and his colleagues? I am convinced that there is. In his paper, Gravitational Theory, Galaxy Rotational Curves, and Cosmology Without Dark Matter, for instance, the physicist John W. Moffat also clearly asserts, “The gravitational lensing of clusters of galaxies can be explained without exotic dark matter.”

In the non-particulate universe of my own and others’ concepts, “dark matter” is not “particulate,” not at all mysterious, and may have little or nothing to do with expansion. It is more likely to have arisen along with the development of the large energy-dense masses of stars, galaxies, and clusters than to have been around first, to serve as “scaffolding.” Dark matter is more likely to be a manifestation of the natural distortions of the field that we see around the presence of magnets or powerful electric currents right here on earth in our local environment, less a “chicken or egg” manifestation than a more or less “chicken and egg” event. To explain this further, I have borrowed some of Massey’s exhibits as follows:

The image below is a “dark matter” contour map of a segment of a Hubble image. According to Richard Massey, the colored points in the image are ordinary matter, i.e. stars, galaxies and clusters in the Hubble image. The contours then show the gravitational lensing intensity surrounding each of them, Massey calls these areas “dark matter,” scaffolding within which new star formation is encouraged or supported. My alternative construction of this data is that the ordinary matter consists of high energy concentrations in the electromagnetic ether, concentrations we identify as stars, galaxies, and clusters, and what the contours actually indicate are the intensity of field distortions these create in their vicinity, the otherwise invisible energy distortions that, it is true, do encourage the formation of what we will ultimately see as new stars, galaxies and clusters out of the energy of the field.

DM contours

Figure 3.1 Massey’s “dark matter” contour map. The various colors show different types of ordinary matter but all their structure is built within the much more massive scaffolding of dark matter. (Massey: Nature)

In the computer simulation, below, one can visualize the location of field distortions surrounding the high energy concentrations we perceive as stars, galaxies and clusters. The apparent hard lines of the cloudlike forms are merely a representation of a selected threshold of perception. In actuality (if I may use that term) the intensity or energy level of these distortions probably follows a smooth curve, as other fields exhibit, i.e. falling off in intensity as the cube of the distance from the core. One can generalize from this conceptualization that we here in our galaxy, in fact, undoubtedly inhabit just such a region of “dark matter”, but we cannot detect it as Massey has been able to do by using Hubble images of regions at a distance from us. We can also see these regions as analogous to what we do perceive locally as magnetic, electric, and electromagnetic fields, which we also know are not particulate. This can also be seen as an explanation for the apparent “curvature of space” envisioned by Einstein. Light, itself, seen now as a visible range of frequencies carried on the background frequency of the electromagnetic ether, not through the vacuum of space, would naturally have its path distorted in traversing these regions, thus explaining Eddington’s 1919 observation of the curvature of light predicted by, and seen then as confirming Einstein’s relativistic model.

Massey w:light beamsMassey w:light beamsFigure 3.2 Computer simulation, “dark matter scaffolding” by Massey. This image, created by Richard Massey through his analysis of Hubble images, gives us an idea of how the “dark matter” surrounding the high energy phenomena in the universe might be seen if it were visible. The bright elements within these magnetic fields are not from the original images but were added to show how the structures might be organized. For example, our galaxy might be one of those bright dots. The yellow line represents an undeflected path of light, the orange one how a light beam is likely deflected by the higher intensity of the distorted field. (Lines added by cs)

In a universe that is entirely made up of a wide range of distortions of the background field, (not of little billiard balls of “particles”), these so-called regions of “dark matter” do not consist of anything like a particulate ether forcing expansion of the universe as proposed by some authorities, but are simply distortions of the field arising from the presence of the high energy distortions they surround. Ernst Mach predicted this phenomenon when he stated, “… the ether not only conditions the behavior of inert masses but is also conditioned in its state by them.”

So here is the truth of the mysteries of “dark energy” and “dark matter.” All of everything is made up of energy, in various states depending on how and in what region of the universe it arose. That field, which we have chosen to call the ether, is all there is of what the mystery lovers among us choose to call dark energy. It is a field that while internally turbulent is fixed in its location. It is not going anywhere. Those regions of that field that have undergone distortion, increases in energy density where they surround and permeate those high energy, perceptible entities that have, up until now, been identified as objects, with a property called “mass,” is what those same experts have called dark matter. Our portion of the universe, our star, our galaxy, have taken part in this process. The energy concentration we call the milky way has generated a region of distortion of the field, a region characterized by a higher energy density, a region of dark matter so to speak. We live in that region. It surrounds and permeates us and affects the way our stars and planets behave, as we affect it, as Mach pointed out so many years ago.

Powerful evidence of these assertions have appeared in two studies in recent years. British researchers, M. Lockwood, R. Stamper, and M.N. Wild published in NATURE (Vol. 399, 3 June 1999. Pages 437-439), a paper entitled A Doubling of the Sun’s Coronal Magnetic Field during the Last 100 Years. They point to a doubling of the intensity of the sun’s field in that period. The reason for this occurrence is obvious in the model of the simple universe. Our entire solar system has moved into a region of increased energy density, that is, we have moved closer to the center of a system surrounding a high energy concentration in the field. One can picture this clearly if one imagines the orbits of our little group of planets around the sun. If the sun were fixed in position relative to the ether, or one fixed reference frame. then the planetary orbits would describe a series of concentric ellipses. But the sun itself is in motion, and into a region of higher energy density. One has then to imagine the orbits of our system as describing helices as the center of their rotation itself moves laterally relative to the ether and relative to other systems also in motion. (See Jamal Shrair, The fact remains, our solar system has moved in the last 100 years deeper into a region of higher energy density and the result is that our sun’s magnetic field has doubled in strength.

So here arises the need for a new vision of the precise notion of gravity, if “dark matter” is not actually subject to its “relentless pull”, but is a totally different kind of manifestation of the structure of the field; and a new look at expansion, assuming it really exists, as probably the creation of new concentrations (stars, galaxies, clusters) arising with help from the universe’s absorption of energy from the surrounding (and permeating) field of the cosmos.

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