We keep finding too many galaxies in the early universe, further undermining the Big Bang theory, but physicists are too busy going woke to care

A meeting of the American Astronomy Society reveals the existence of hundreds of new galaxies much further away and therefore further back in time than we expected, prompting scientists to reconsider theories of galaxy formation if not the Big Bang entirely while other astrophysicists rail against the white supremacy of exceptionalism and perfectionism.

The James Webb Space Telescope allows humanity to peer further into the past than ever before.  It was specifically designed to see what its predecessor, the Hubble, could not.  The Hubble, which was a marvel of technology in its day, took us back some 13.4 billion years in time, giving us the ability to witness objects as they existed around 400 million years after the formation of the universe in what most scientists believe was the Big Bang.  The JWST goes farther and deeper, where Hubble can detect wavelengths of light measured at 1.5 microns, it can capture images about 20 times longer in wavelength, allowing it to discern things much colder and more distant with precision.  Scientists had expected these new images of the early universe to show an era where galaxies were not nearly as prevalent as they are today and not nearly as bright or well structured.  This is because the Big Bang stipulates that the universe required hundreds of millions of years to cool from a hot, dense, and uniform state before stars and galaxies could properly form.  If you go much further back, there is nothing to see.  Therefore, the JWST should be showing us a period of time with far fewer galaxies than the Hubble, but the universe frequently doesn’t work the way we think, and the data JWST is returning suggests the exact opposite. Data which has also suggested to some, at least, that the Big Bang never happened in the first place and our models of the evolution of the universe as well as estimates of its age are completely wrong.

The Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) collaboration recently reported on images scientists believe depict the universe between 500 million and 2 billion years old.  They identified approximately 850 new galaxies, measured the distance to them, and classified them as “disk,” “spheroid,” or “irregular.”  According to Sky and Telescope, “Despite their youth, the galaxies had shapes similar to those nearer to us. The percentage of disk galaxies declined only slightly in the early universe, while the fraction of those with a central bulge and those with an irregular shape stayed roughly constant over cosmological time.”  This is important because disk galaxies, with their placid arms stretching into the cosmos and their relatively gentle rotation, are supposed to take longer to form and can only form in areas of the universe that are uncongested, relatively speaking.  Jeyhan Kartaltepe of the Rochester Institute of Technology noted, “We’re not surprised to see disk galaxies…I think the surprise is to see so many of them. . . . We’re really not seeing the earliest stages of galaxy formation yet.”  Haojing Yan of the University of Missouri spoke at the same press conference, describing 87 galaxies even earlier in the history of the universe, as early as 200 million years after the purported Big Bang.  “Our previously favored picture of galaxy formation in the early universe must be revised,” he said.  Jordan Mirocha  of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, another speaker at the American Astronomy Society conference, put it this way. “There’s either an overabundance of galaxies, or they’re much brighter than our typical models predict.”  “I think we have more to think about,” he added.

This might turn out to be the understatement of the century considering one of the key pillars of our understanding of reality is at risk.  There are only a few potential causes for this level of disconnect between our predictions and our actual observations.  The Big Bang could be wrong, the universe could be older than we had previously believed, galaxies could form much quicker than we believe, or we could potentially be looking at bad data.  Supporters of the Big Bang are considering two potential scenarios that might save the theory, that galaxies formed earlier and quicker, or the data could be wrong.  They are loath to consider either of the first two options because the end result of the universe being older than we expected is close to a fundamental threat to the theory, which predicts the composition of the current universe and its age.  If that prediction is wrong, the whole Big Bang is called into question, leaving us with either bad data or much more rapid galaxy formation to save it.  Ethan Siegel, writing for The Big Think, takes on the bad data angle, claiming these most distant galaxies “might be fooling us all” because initial readings could be affected by “light-blocking neutral matter, hot gas and plasma that scatters and disperses that light, growing and shrinking clumps of matter that change the gravitational potential in the region where the light is propagating, and the expansion of the Universe, that stretches the wavelength of any light that travels through it.”  He noted, correctly, that two sets of data are required to validate distance, photometric data and spectroscopic data, and until we have both, we could be looking at “interloper galaxies” that are not what they seem.  This is at least partially true.  The 850 galaxies identified by the CEERS collaboration have both photometric and spectroscopic data, but the 87 galaxies identified earlier in the universe await spectroscopic validation.  It is possible, if not likely, that at least some of these will prove to interlopers, meaning at best the predictions for the early stages of the universe would be a little closer to these latest observations.  Of course, this doesn’t solve the whole problem.  There are still far too many spiral galaxies too early either way, and more than likely there are still going to be too many too early, even if not the full 87.

Ultimately, this will lead to revisions in our theories about the formation of galaxies in the earlier universe, but it’s difficult to say how this is possible in the context of the Big Bang as it is currently conceived.  The formation of stars and galaxies takes time, and can only occur under certain conditions.  If the Big Bang is correct, neither can form immediately after the birth of the universe.  Both require a “lumpiness” for gravity to work its magic that simply is not present when the entirety of matter and energy was spread out in a uniform, superheated brew.  There needs to be a cooling period before matter can gather into clusters where gravity can work and then those clusters can begin forming stars.  In the modern universe, it takes about a million years for a star to form, but the modern universe, where almost all matter is clustered in galaxies, is extremely lumpy by comparison to what the Big Bang predicts for the beginning of time and space.  We can only assume the process took longer when matter was far more diffuse.  There are also billions of stars in a galaxy.  The Milky Way for example is estimated to have a hundred billion stars.  Obviously, we can assume that many stars formed at once in the earlier universe, but still these stars would need a significant amount of time to cluster into groups and then form into mature galaxies, especially stable, disk-like galaxies.  Previously, it was believed this process took approximately a billion years after the Big Bang.  Scientists were split on how exactly it unfolded, mainly whether the clustering happened on a galactic scale first, then down to stars, or the stars formed first and then clustered up into galaxies.  Whatever the case, scientists are now confronted with the fact that this process occurred up to five times faster than they expected.  This is no small change, and will likely require big changes to the Big Bang, if not scrapping it entirely as some have previously suggested.  (For the record, I am in the scrap it camp, you can read my previous posts here, here, and here.)

Unfortunately, we might never know because there are those in the scientific community that seem far more focused on fighting white supremacy than doing actual science.  Natalie Gosnell is a professor of physics at Colorado College, not associated with the studies above, but one who encapsulates the disturbing trend. Recently, she combined her artistic and scientific sides in an immersive art piece, The Gift, which she believes exemplifies the creativity too frequently lacking in science.  “Both artists and scientists are just observing things about the world, making interpretations about those observations, and then sharing their interpretation,” she explained.  The installation shows how a dying star can expand to several times its size, transferring some of its mass to another star that is orbiting closely enough.  The transfer of mass causes the receiving star to burn brighter and bluer than before.  Frequently, the receiving star is known as a “vampire” or “cannibal” for obvious reasons given it is consuming the mass of another, but Ms. Gosnell believes this presents a “violent” and “hyper-masculine” view.  “I think because science and art have been so separated, and there’s…systemic issues within science, the metaphors that are often chosen [to discuss science] are very violent and hyper-masculine,” she explained, leaving how an event that explodes with the force of millions of nuclear bombs is not properly characterized as violent. Regardless, so prevalent is this view that she herself succumbed to while being featured on the Discovery Channel’s 2010 program, How the Universe Works.  “And I totally played into [the hyper-masculine stereotypes], because, ooh, snazzy. I get to be on the Discovery Channel,” Ms. Gosnell noted. “Of course, like, the price was too high.”  “It felt like I was masquerading, essentially, as what an astrophysicist was supposed to be like,” she added.  “As an astrophysicist, I’m a product of institutions that are steeped in systemic racism and white supremacy.  The tenets of white supremacy that show up [in physics] of individualism and exceptionalism and perfectionism… it’s either-or thinking, and there’s no subtlety, there’s no gray area. All of this manifests in the way that we think about our research, and what counts as good research, what counts as important research?”

Alas, physics without these things is no physics at all.  It will certainly take an exceptional individual or team of individuals to either save the Big Bang by demonstrating how galaxy formation can happen up to five times as fast.  This team will need to be perfectionists, given the underlying theory of General Relativity is accurate to something around six decimal points and there is no margin for error at that level of precision.  Their solution has to be either-or because you can’t have it both ways:  Galaxies cannot take a billion years to form and still be present in high numbers after a few hundred million.  There will be no subtlety or gray area either, because the Big Bang either happened or it didn’t.  Given the era we live in, it’s difficult to say if Ms. Gosnell is simply telling the media what it wants to hear or if she is serious that hard science can be conducted without some combination of individualism, exceptionalism, perfectionism, and binary thinking.  These are requirements for a job with a description that includes peering back billions of years in time and solving the riddles of our existence.  It’s not white supremacy, even the dumbed down version she is using cribbed from a farcical paper written over twenty years ago with no evidence whatsoever.  It’s the way the world works, and without accepting these facts, it seems unlikely anyone will be able to figure out how the universe actually works.  Sadly, the scientific establishment is already dealing with institutional inertia and rot that have prevented the discovery of a new major theory in close to 50 years.  They appear unable to cope with evidence that fails to support their theories, duly telling us that nothing is wrong even when it is obviously so.  Instead, they spend their time crafting theories that bear no resemblance to the world as we experience, and then justify that time without a lot of mathematics that bears even less resemblance.  These are foundational problems on their own.  A new level of wokeness will destroy the entire enterprise.

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