Edgar Allan Poe: the first man to conceive a Newtonian evolving Universe

Paolo Molaro, Alberto Cappi
The notion that we live in an evolving universe was established only in the twentieth century with the discovery of the recession of galaxies by Hubble and with the Lemaitre and Friedmann’s interpretation in the 1920s.
However, the concept of an evolving universe is intrinsically tied to the law of universal gravitation, and it is surprising that it remained unrecognized for more than two centuries.
A remarkable exception to this lack of awareness is represented by Poe.
In Eureka (1848), the writer developed a conception of an evolving universe following the reasoning that a physical universe cannot be static and nothing can stop stars or galaxies from collapsing on each other.
Unfortunately this literary work was, and still is, very little understood both by the literary critics and scientists of the time.
We will discuss Poe’s cosmological views in their historical scientific context, highlighting the remarkable insights of the writer, such as those dealing with the Olbers paradox, the existence of other galaxies and of a multi-universe.

Is the universe ringing like a crystal glass?

The standard view of the expanding universe.

The standard view of the expanding universe.

Many know the phrase “the big bang theory.” There’s even a top television comedy series with that as its title. According to scientists, the universe began with the “big bang” and expanded to the size it is today. Yet, the gravity of all of this matter, stars, gas, galaxies, and mysterious dark matter, tries to pull the universe back together, slowing down the expansion.

Now, two physicists at The University of Southern Mississippi, Lawrence Mead and Harry Ringermacher, have discovered that the universe might not only be expanding, but also oscillating or “ringing” at the same time. Their paper on the topic has been published in the April 2015 issue of the Astronomical Journal.
In 1978 Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson received the Nobel prize for their 1964 discovery of the key signature of this theory, the primal radiation from the early universe known as the “cosmic microwave background” (CMB).
“Then in 1998 the finding that the universe was not only expanding, but was speeding up, or accelerating in its expansion was a shock when it was discovered simultaneously by east coast and west coast teams of astronomers and physicists,” said Mead. “A new form of matter, dark energy, repulsive in nature, was responsible for the speed-up. The teams led by Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess, and Brian Schmidt won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for that discovery.”
According to Mead and Ringermacher, this change from slowing down to speeding up (the transition time) took place approximately 6 to 7 billion years ago. Since then, Mead and Ringermacher say a vast accumulation of high-tech data has verified the theory to extraordinary accuracy.
Figure 1 is a NASA diagram representing the events of the Big Bang from the beginning of time to the present day as described by the current, accepted model known as “Lambda CDM” or Lambda Cold Dark Matter, where the Greek Lambda stands for Einstein’s “cosmological constant”. This cosmological constant is responsible for the acceleration of the universe. The outline of the “bell-shaped” universe represents its expanding size. The transition time is the point in time at which the bell shape shifts from going inward to outward from left to right.

“The new finding suggests that the universe has slowed down and speeded up, not just once, but 7 times in the last 13.8 billion years, on average emulating dark matter in the process,” said Mead. “The ringing has been decaying and is now very small – much like striking a crystal glass and hearing it ring down.”

The universe ringing while expanding.

The universe ringing while expanding.

Figure 2 shows the new finding superposed on the Lambda CDM model of Figure 1. The oscillation amplitude is highly exaggerated, but the frequency is roughly correct. Ringermacher and Mead have determined that this oscillation is not a wave moving through the universe, such as a gravitational wave, but rather it is a “wave of the universe”.
Ringermacher says the discovery was made accidentally when, through their collaboration on dark matter modeling of galaxies, they found a new way of plotting a classic textbook graph describing the scale of the universe against its age (lookback time) that did not depend on one’s prior choice of models of the universe – as was traditional.
“The standard graph, the Hubble diagram, is constructed by astronomers observing the distances of Type 1A Supernovae that serve as “standard candles” for measuring the expansion of the universe,” said Ringermacher. “Analyzing this new plot to locate the transition time of the universe, we found there was more than one such time – in fact multiple oscillations with a frequency of about 7 cycles over the lifetime of the universe. It is space itself that has been speeding up its expansion followed by slowing down 7 times since creation.”
Mead and Ringermacher say this finding must ultimately be verified by independent analyses, preferably of new supernovae data, to confirm its reality. In the meantime, their work into the “ringing” of the universe continues.

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Gravitational Lensing

In a long line of intellectual triumphs, Einstein’s theory of general relativity was his greatest and most imaginative.  It tells us that what we experience as gravity can be most accurately described as the bending of space itself.  This idea leads to consequences, including gravitational lensing, which is caused by light traveling in this curved space.  This is works in a way analogous to a lens (and hence the name).  In this video, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln explains a little general relativity, a little gravitational lensing, and tells us how this phenomenon allows us to map out the matter of the entire universe, including the otherwise-invisible dark matter.


Ultrafast Chemistry in Motion

This video describes how the Linac Coherent Light Source, an X-ray free-electron laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, provided the first direct measurements of how a ring-shaped gas molecule unravels in the millionths of a billionth of a second after it is split open by light. The measurements were compiled in sequence to form the basis for computer animations showing molecular motion. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) ….
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Einstein saves the quantum cat

Illustration of a molecule in the presence of gravitational time dilation. The molecule is in a quantum superposition of being in several places at the same time, but time dilation destroys this quantum phenomenon (Copyright: Igor Pikovski, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysic).

Illustration of a molecule in the presence of gravitational time dilation. The molecule is in a quantum superposition of being in several places at the same time, but time dilation destroys this quantum phenomenon (Copyright: Igor Pikovski, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysic).

Einstein’s theory of time and space will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. Even today it captures the imagination of scientists. In an international collaboration, researchers from the Universities of Vienna (Časlav Brukner), Harvard (Igor Pikovski) and Queensland have now discovered that this world-famous theory can explain yet another puzzling phenomenon: the transition from quantum behavior to our classical, everyday world. Their results are published in the journal “Nature Physics”. Continue reading Einstein saves the quantum cat

Francois Englert and Peter Higgs

Colloquium on the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs

Philip D. Mannheim

In 2013 the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs for their development in 1964 of the mass generation mechanism (the Higgs mechanism) in local gauge theories.
This mechanism requires the existence of a massive scalar particle, the Higgs boson, and in 2012 the Higgs boson was finally observed at the Large Hadron Collider after an almost half a century search. In this talk we review the work of these Nobel recipients and discuss its implications.