Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Sound waves fossilized in the maps of galaxies across the Universe could be interpreted as signs of a Big Bang that took place 13 billion years earlier than current models suggest.

Last year, theoretical physicist Rajendra Gupta from the University of Ottawa in Canada published a rather extraordinary proposal that the Universe’s currently accepted age is a trick of the light, one that masks its truly ancient state while also ridding us of the need to explain hidden forces.

Gupta’s latest analysis suggests oscillations from the earliest moments in time preserved in large-scale cosmic structures support his claims.

“The study’s findings confirm that our previous work about the age of the Universe being 26.7 billion years has allowed us to discover that the Universe does not require dark matter to exist,” says Gupta.

“In standard cosmology, the accelerated expansion of the Universe is said to be caused by dark energy but is in fact due to the weakening forces of nature as it expands, not due to dark energy.”

Rewind currently accepted models of accelerating expansion, and the emptiness of space stops being very empty about 13.7 billion years ago, with every fleck of material in the Universe confined to a volume you could now fit into your top pocket with room to spare.

This was all fine and dandy until measures of what are thought to be freshly-baked galaxies revealed a Universe that appeared surprisingly mature for massive cosmic objects not even a billion years out of the ovens.

This leaves astronomers with a dilemma – either existing models on the evolution of galaxies and black holes need adjusting, or the Universe has, in fact, been around a lot longer than we think.

Current cosmological models make the reasonable assumption that certain forces governing the interactions of particles have remained constant throughout time. Gupta challenges a specific example of this ‘coupling constant’, asking how it might affect the spread of space over exhaustively long periods of time.

It’s hard enough for any novel hypothesis to survive the intense scrutiny of the scientific community. But Gupta’s suggestion isn’t even entirely new – it’s loosely based on an idea that was shown the door nearly a century ago.

In the late 1920s, Swiss physicist Fritz Zwicky wondered if the reddened light of far distant objects was a result of lost energy, like a marathon runner exhausted by a long journey across the eons of space.

His ‘tired light’ hypothesis was in competition with the now-accepted theory that light’s red-shifted frequency is due to the cumulative expansion of space tugging at light waves like a stretched spring.

The consequences of Gupta’s version of the tired light hypothesis – what is referred to as covarying coupling constants plus tired light, or CCC+TL – would affect the Universe expansion, doing away with mysterious pushing forces of dark energy and blaming changing interactions between known particles for the increased stretching of space.

To replace existing models with CCC+TL, Gupta would need to convince cosmologists his model does a better job of explaining what we see at large. His latest paper attempts to do that by using CCC+TL to explain fluctuations in the spread of visible matter across space caused by sound waves in a newborn Universe, and the glow of ancient dawn known as the cosmic microwave background.

While his analysis concludes his hybrid tired light theory can play nicely with certain features of the Universe’s residual echoes of light and sound, it does so only if we also ditch the idea that dark matter is also a thing.

Of course, having no need to explain the origins of dark matter or dark energy would make physics a little easier in some respects. Whether CCC+TL is up to the task of turning cosmology on its head will depend on whether it can solve more problems than it creates.

For now, our Universe remains 13.7 billion years young, even if it has a few curious skeletons in its closet.

Published 2024 March 15 by the American Astronomical Society • Testing CCC+TL Cosmology with Observed Baryon Acoustic Oscillation Features.
DOI 10.3847/1538-4357/ad1bc6

Before the Big Bang:

The Origin of the Universe and What Lies Beyond

“A riveting tour of the cosmos from one of the brightest minds in astrophysics.” —The Washington Post