The original question was:  Recent research claims the universe is static and not expanding, but what about the evidence from red shift?

Answer by Barry Setterfield

The proposition that the universe may be static comes as a shock to many. The research paper dealing with this question by Lerner et al, was published in the International Journal of Modern Physics D in May 2014. A PDF can be found here:
with the abstract here:

An article discussing these results, and conclusions to be drawn from them, can be found here:
This paper by Lerner et al raises several matters. First, it makes the claim that by using the surface brightness (or Tolman) test for galaxies it has been determined that the universe is static, not expanding. This contrasts with earlier papers by Pahre et al in Astrophys. J. 456 (1996) L79, Lubin andSandage, Astron. J. 122 (2001) 1084, and Sandage, Astron. J. 139 (2010) 728. In these papers the Tolman test was also used and seemed to indicate that the universe was expanding.

Second, the logical conclusion to Lerner’s paper is that the redshift of light from distant galaxies cannot be indicating expansion, but must have some alternate cause (which they do not define).

Let us deal with the second matter first, the origin of the observed redshift of light from distant galaxies.

When an electron in an atom is elevated to a higher orbit by some energetic process, it will sooner or later drop back down to its original orbit. In so doing, it emits a photon of light of a specific wavelength which is characteristic of that atom. Because different elements have different numbers of electrons and orbits to accommodate them, the wavelength of light emitted from the transition of electrons from one orbit to another is characteristic of that element. Because of the numbers of orbits involved, each element had a whole suite of lines of characteristic wavelengths which form a series on the rainbow spectrum. Thus atoms of any given element have a unique “barcode” of lines. What is being observed as we look progressively further out into space is that these barcodes of lines are systematically shifted to the red end of the spectrum. The more distant the galaxy, the further towards the red end of the spectrum these barcode lines are shifted. This is called the redshift.

The common explanation for this is that they show that the universe is expanding. The reasoning goes something like this: As the universe expands, the fabric of space expands and the light-waves in transit through space are also stretched so they become longer or redder. The alternative explanation is that the reddening is caused by a Doppler shift as the galaxies race away from each other. A similar Doppler shift is observed with sound waves. Recall what happens when a police-car with its siren going approaches you and then passes you. As the car pulls away from you the pitch of the siren drops as the wavelengths of sound are lengthened. In a similar way, some astronomers say that the wavelengths of light are lengthened as a galaxy moves away from us. So, while there are problems with both explanations, by using one or other or both of them, many astronomers are confident that this redshift is evidence that the universe is expanding.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If the universe was expanding, it should be doing so in a smooth fashion, like a car accelerating down a highway. However, since 1976 data has accumulated that shows the redshift is not a smooth function but increases in a series of steps or jumps. This is discussed more fully here:

The problem is that, no matter which of the two versions of universal expansion is accepted, neither can accommodate a universe expanding in jumps with stationary periods in between. So the redshift on that basis alone must have some other explanation. The article by Lerner et al has a tendency to reinforce this conclusion.

Although a number of options have been considered, Dr. John Gribbin (in New Scientist for July 9th 1994) noted that the only viable solution to this problem was that the redshift was due to the behaviour of atomic emitters within the galaxies themselves and had nothing to do with universal expansion. This is possible because the properties of the vacuum can be shown to influence atomic behaviour. Consider the following scenario. When a rubber band is stretched, energy is put into the fabric of the rubber band. This energy is in the form of potential energy which becomes kinetic energy once the rubber band is released. In a similar way, when the universe was initially expanded, energy was invested in the fabric of space. This potential energy eventually appeared as what is now known as the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) of the vacuum.

Because the conversion of potential to kinetic energy takes time to accomplish, the ZPE built up with time. This build-up was rapid at first, then tapered off in a manner similar to the initial rapid movement of the rubber band when released. The rubber band then tapered off in its motion and, in a similar way, the rate of build-up of the ZPE strength also tapered off. A number of physicists have shown that atomic orbit energies are linked with the ZPE strength. Thus as the ZPE strength built up with time, so, too, did atomic orbit energies. Since higher energies mean bluer light, this means that light emitted by atoms became bluer with time. However, since atomic processes only go in jumps, it can be shown that the increase in atomic orbit energy must likewise go in jumps. Therefore, as we come forward in time, light emitted by atoms became bluer in jumps. Conversely, as we look back in time, light emitted from atoms became redder in jumps. The redshift is thereby a measure of atomic orbit energy (high redshifts for low orbit energy) and so a measure of the ZPE strength. This is also discussed in detail in the above link. On this basis, the redshift has nothing to do with galaxies racing away from each other, or the fabric of space expanding.

The other matter raised by the Lerner et al paper is the actual behaviour of the universe itself, whether it was expanding or static. Note that it is common to think that a static cosmos would collapse under gravity. However, Narlikar and Arp addressed that matter in a paper in 1993 (Astrophysical Journal 405:1, pp.51-56). There they demonstrated that a static universe with matter in it was stable against collapse provided that it oscillated slightly. Their proposition is entirely reasonable and opens up two options for us. The first is the possibility that the universe is currently static as a minority of astronomers believe, including Lerner et al. The other option is that it is expanding, just as standard cosmology accepts. Notice that earlier papers by Lubin, Sandage and others came to the conclusion from the Tolman or surface brightness test that the cosmos was expanding. Thus both sides in this discussion have used the surface brightness or Tolman test on galaxies to determine what the universe is doing, but both sides are coming to different conclusions. It is therefore appropriate to ask if there is some independent way of determining the truth of the situation.

As it transpires, there is an entirely independent method of determining the behaviour of the universe. The method uses hydrogen cloud data which has an outcome reported by a number of scientists, including Lyndon Ashmore in Proceedings of the NPA 6, Long Beach, CA (2010) and Proceedings 2nd Crisis in Cosmology Conference, CCC-2, ASP Conference Series, Vol. 413 (07/2011).

Envisage the situation. Randomly scattered throughout the cosmos are giant “clouds” of hydrogen. As light passes through these clouds selective wavelengths are absorbed and produce dark lines on the light spectrum as measured by a spectrometer. The main dark line in this is the Lyman Alpha line. As light goes through an increasing number of hydrogen clouds on its journey, an increasing number of Lyman Alpha lines are built up in the spectrum. As a result of traveling great astronomical distances, light passing through these clouds arrive at earth with a whole suite of lines, known as the “Lyman Alpha Forest.” Since the hydrogen clouds increasingly further away from our galaxy have successively greater redshifts, the position of the Lyman Alpha Line on the spectrum of an individual cloud will be dependent on distance and hence registered by its redshift.

Because of this, we can tell how far apart the hydrogen clouds are by their redshifts. Universal expansion means that hydrogen clouds will move successively further and further apart over time. If the universe is still expanding, then the average distance between these clouds should still be increasing and therefore the differences between their redshifts should be increasing as we come forward in time to our own epoch. On the other hand, if the universe is static, the average distance between the clouds will remain fixed. This is something that we can easily measure. A detailed examination by Ashmore and others indicate that, from the most distant (and hence earliest) objects in the universe down to a redshift of about z = 2.6, the hydrogen clouds get successively further and further apart. From a redshift of z = 2.6 down to z = 1.6 the universe stabilized and became static. From a redshift of z = 1.6 the clouds remain a fixed distance apart. Ashmore concludes “Whilst these results do not support any cosmology individually, they do support one where the universe expanded in the past but that expansion has now been arrested and the universe is now static.” (Ashmore, NPA Procedings 6 above).

It may well be for this reason that ambivalent results have been obtained by the Tolman test. Out of a total of 967 galaxies studied by Lerner et al, a total of 744 galaxies were from nearby out to the crucial redshift of z = 2.6. The universe was static in this redshift range. Only 223 galaxies in the tests were involved in universal expansion which occurred earlier than a redshift of z = 2.6 out to z = 5.

This model for the universe, initial expansion followed by a static condition, was independently discerned by other evidence, and presented by Setterfield here: , as well as elsewhere.

This model appears to be in accord with Scripture. We are told a dozen times or so in the Scriptures that God created the heavens and stretched them out. Interestingly, nearly all those references to expanding the heavens are in the past tense. The implication is that it is a completed action and the expanding is not continuing now. Thus the hydrogen cloud data are in accord with the Scriptural proposition that there was indeed an initial expansion, but that expansion slowed to a halt following which a static condition for the universe prevailed. This is discussed in detail in this link:

For more information
View a lecture by Barry Setterfield on the Decreasing Speed of Light here.

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About The Contributor

Barry Setterfield