Good morning. It's Friday, June 1st. Actually, it's about 6:30 in the morning and I've just finished breakfast of pancakes, maple syrup, bacon, a couple poached eggs, coffee. Sometimes, I think if I had to do it all over again, I'd be a cook. I love cooking, and I have to admit I think eating is a pretty good thing, too. Welcome to Electric Politics. I'm George Kenney.
A propos of nothing in particular, I'm still highly displeased with the Democrats. Since that vote on war funding, it's as if politics here has gone into stasis. Clearly, if Pelosi thought she'd give the tyrant Iraq in order to concentrate on other things, she was wrong. The bright side, I suppose, is that there's now more reason than ever to work out platforms locally and nationally for an independent party or two.
Okay, now. Today's show is something a little different. A conversation with a dissident American scientist who says that establishment cosmology is all wrong, and who has good evidence with which to argue his views. Before you get out your tinfoil hats, let me say just a couple things.
First, I've been following Dr. Arp's work for a number of years, and though I'm not a scientist, I do believe his theory of what redshift really is, to be more than plausible... and, he's always been accessible. We've been corresponding sporadically all this time, and I'm very grateful in particular for the excellent advice he's given me about creative dissent.
Indeed, when I first started this podcast, Dr. Arp was one of the very first people I asked to be a guest, but he politely declined on the grounds that the phone charges on my side for calling Germany would be too great. Sometime later, maybe six months or so ago, I asked again, but he declined on the grounds that he didn't know anything about other heretical views of cosmology, having to do with electricity, another subject which I'm interested in.
Now, I'm nothing if not persistent, and when I asked Dr. Arp a third time if he'd please talk with for the Electric Politics podcast, he finally agreed... which I'm delighted he did, as I can't emphasize enough how important I believe his work to be.
Without further ado, here's Dr. Halton Arp, to talk for 46 minutes. Let's listen.
Today, I'm very honored to have as my guest Dr. Halton C. Arp. Dr. Arp is an American astronomer born in New York City, now at the Max Planck Institut fuer Astrophysik in Germany. Previously, he was a staff astronomer for 28 years at the Mount Palomar and Mount Wilson observatories.
Early in his career as an assistant to Edwin Hubble, he conducted Hubble's nova search in M31. He has won the Helen B. Warner Prize, a Newcomb Cleveland Award, and the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Science Award, among many other recognitions. For more articles and more detailed material, please visit Dr. Arp's website, http://www.haltonarp.com.
His trademark thesis, that redshift is not necessarily an indicator of cosmic distances, is the subject of his classic book, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science, 1998, still in print and available from Amazon. Also look for his other classic work, the Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, with a new edition just out, published by Willmann-Bell, and this isn't available from Amazon, but you can get it from Willmann-Bell directly, with a link from Dr. Arp's website.
He received his B.A. from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from Cal Tech.
Welcome, Dr. Arp.
ARP: Yes, thank you.
HOST: Um, now, I'm just curious... were you always interested in science? Were you a big science person in high school or... How did you get started with all of this?
ARP: Oh yes, I... didn't go to school much until high school, and I did a lot of reading on my own and I decided that I had to find out how the universe was going to come out to see what I would do; whether I would be serious or just enjoy myself. So I decided after reading Realm of the Nebula by Hubble and some other books that it would be pretty easy to find out whether the universe was going to go on forever or collapse and that was the first question to answer. That was about when I was 12... 12-13.
HOST: Um, and you got your degree in the 50s; did you go on the G.I. bill or...
ARP: Yeah, when the war ended, 1946 I entered Harvard. I was discharged from the navy into civilian life, went right straight to Harvard and graduated after three years and then went to Cal Tech to get my Ph.D., four years.
HOST: ...and what were you doing with the Navy in World War II?
ARP: I was an electronics technician: the radar and radio, sonar was just coming in, and they badly needed technicians who would be able to operate it.
HOST: (noise of agreement)
ARP: So it was so new they had to take people with aptitude and teach them.
HOST: It's interesting that you were fascinated with science at an early age. When I was a kid here in Washington, one of my best friends in junior high school was someone who's on television now from time to time: Bill Nye the Science Guy.
ARP: Oh yeah.
HOST: ...and he was my best friend and of course, he was always working in the science labs in the junior high school and we had a black fellow who was the science teacher who was really excellent. You know, Bill would be in there all the time working in the labs and cleaning the glass up after the classes and doing all sorts of things... but he had that amazing interest at a very early age.
...and then, okay, so you were at Harvard and then went to Cal Tech. Even then, Cal Tech was a pretty advanced place to do astrophysics, I imagine.
ARP: Well, they were very strong in physics, but at that point, they had no astronomy department.
HOST: Oh, really?
ARP: Yeah, because they had gone in with Carnegie Institution to build a 200 inch telescope, but as I say, they had no astronomers so they signed a contract with Carnegie that the astronomers at Carnegie would... they would build a telescope together and the astronomers at Carnegie would be faculty at Cal Tech and Cal Tech, when they got their faculty then were staff at Carnegie.
HOST: Were you involved at all in building the telescope?
ARP: No, it was going by the time I arrived.
HOST: and then what was your Ph.D. dissertation about?
ARP: It was globular clusters, the [ -?- ] drew diagrams of them and the variable stars because Walter Baade, who was my advisor at the time, was very keen on getting the distance scale of the universe and the Cepheids and globular clusters were the answer to finding out what were the distances to the nearest galaxies.
HOST: Now, you probably wouldn't say this - I was just going through the web and trying to find out more background, and I see that at one point, you were listed by the Association of Astronomical Professionals as the most outstanding young astronomer and also among the top 20 in the world. So as a young man, you were recognized.
ARP: Yes, yes, there was a Newcombe Cleveland Prize and the Helen Warner Prize and I was a counsellor at the American Astronomical Society and then later president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
HOST: As you were working on these large astronomical objects, you started to notice that there were patterns that conflicted with the theory. I guess - correct me if I'm wrong about this - in 1966, you submitted a paper which was rejected to the Astrophysical Journal... was that your first paper on redshift, or...
ARP: No, that was a later paper. The whole trouble started, I think, in 1963 when people first discovered these... what looked like stars in the sky, and were emitting radio waves and so they called them radio stars, and then they were shocked to find when they took spectra that all the elements - hydrogen, calcium, etc. - were all shifted very strongly to the red, so there's big redshift. And so then, the conventional people thought it over pretty quickly and decided that this meant they were at a huge distance from them, from the observer, and that they reflected the expansion of the universe at these huge distances.
HOST: That's what we would call quasars today.
ARP: That's what we call quasars, yeah. And so, I wanted to observe; I thought they also would give the answer to the size and nature of the universe, but I couldn't, as most of those positions were proprietary or kept secret, so I did the next best thing: I did the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, with the idea of finding out how galaxies evolve. You know how... experiments, we'll use them as experiments in a lab, so to speak.
ARP: ..and in 1966, when it was finished, one snowy night at Palomar, I looked around these peculiar galaxies that I had, and lo and behold, I found these radio quasars, and that's when the trouble started, because the conventional viewpoint was that they couldn't be that close; they couldn't be nearby gala... they couldn't be at the distances of nearby galaxies - they had to be out at redshift distances. So that's where the long battle started.
HOST: So you got these high energy, high redshift quasars sitting right next to low redshift galaxies...
HOST: ...and as you looked at them, they're connected.
ARP: Yeah. Well, it was not only the clustering, but of course then as time went on, more and more evidence came up along this line, and you'd see interaction between the quasar and the galaxy, or a filament going out to the... a luminous filament going out to the quasar - something like that. Direct, direct photographic evidence, you know, that they were connected.
HOST: Now this is a big problem for conventional science. I mean, in the diplomatic world, we have personae non grata. I guess, in the scientific world, you have scientia non grata. You kind of became a scientia non grata in a way.
ARP: Yeah, it was a very very intense struggle, because... and today, of course, almost all of the work is done on the assumption of distant redshift quasars and the redshift is a velocity of recession and there's a huge amount of telescope time, money and publishing, and everything is tied into that one assumption, that one critical, basic assumption.
HOST: Um, well, now that there are more and more telescopes out there... we've had the Hubble telescope for a while and we're about to the get the Hubble's replacement, what kinds of evidence have people found, without intending to, that would tend to corroborate your original observations?
ARP: Well, there's a lot of this evidence comes up, and as soon as it turns up, when people realize what it's saying, they sort of drop it like a hot potato. One of the recent controversies arose when somebody took a Hubble Space Telescope picture of NGC 4319/Markarian 205, there's two - the quasar would be Mark 205 and the galaxy, 4319, and they're connected by a bridge, which I photographed with the 200-inch, and published a lot of, and then later with Jack Sulentic, we published 4-meter plates of it, and there was a lot of evidence on that side. The HST, the Hubble Space Telescope, took it, and then published a paper saying that the bridge didn't exist and this disproved it, and what they'd done is that they'd just taken a light exposure. So, immediately, a number of... particularly, amateurs... just took the NASA release and printed it deeply and there was the bridge. And so that went back and forth in science a little bit, and then it petered out, except it's come up again, I guess, in Sky & Telescope. There's going to be another letter to the editor and so forth.
HOST: One of the things - also - that is possible today that wasn't possible when this controversy started is that amateur astronomers can duplicate a lot of the results that you could do 40 years ago.
ARP: Oh yes, yes. [ -?- ] has a beautiful photo of this bridge of an amateur in England with a 50 cm telescope - bad weather in England - and he's just got a CCD detector and he just kept at it and it made a beautiful picture of the bridge.
HOST: ...and in the recent edition of your classic, they not only have all the original pictures that you had in your book, but then they have a lot of pictures taken by amateur astronomers as well.
ARP: Yeah, this latest one that's come out with a sort of biography of me in this first year(?), that has a lot of amateur photography in there, but there's another book, came out in 2003, which I call the Catalogue of Discordant Redshift Associations and in the back of that, there's a series of color plates, including this one by the amateur in England, and also an object that two young Spanish astronomers confirmed. NGC 7603 which has got an arm reaching out to a galaxy of a much higher redshift, and then in the arm are two quasars, which everyone had been avoiding, and these two Spanish astronomers took a spectrum of them and showed that they were quasars, and they're clearly right in the bridge from the galaxy, and so that was something Fred Hoyle discussed in the Russell lecture and that led Fred to propose a scheme for getting... a physically viable scheme for getting these high redshifts without recession velocities.
HOST: Fred Hoyle was always, I guess, a supporter of your views.
ARP: Yes. He and Geoff Burbridge and Margaret Burbridge and Jack Sulantic and people like that. I remember when Fred was visiting down at Cal Tech, he came up one day, and said "can I see the original picture?", and I said "sure", and he sat there and just looked at it, and he said "don't say anything; I just want to look at it and make up my own mind", and then he went away, and the next thing I knew, he was giving this invited lecture to the Russell Prize Lecture and he said that astronomy was in a crisis point; it had to make the turn now, and accept this, but someone asked in the lecture... I remember standing there, one of our friends from Princeton came up and said, "ah, you two, you're crazy... you're crazy", and that was sort of the... still, the response.
HOST: ...and eventually... I guess it took 28 years, but finally, the authorities at Mount Palomar decided that they'd had enough, and they just didn't want to hear any more about these observations.
ARP: Yes, that's right. When they took away... when they said that I had to stop observing these things, then I realized I had to resign on point of principle, and I thought it over pretty carefully, and I thought, well, this is more important... the principle is even more important than the observational fact, and the observational fact will straighten itself out, eventually, anyway, but that principle is the most important.
HOST: That a very admirable act on your part, but I guess, moving over to the Max-Planck Institut, you have a telescope there, right?
ARP: Well, it turned out to be an excellent move. I didn't realize this, but when I got to Max-Planck, I found... well, I knew, but I didn't realize how good it was, they'd sent a satellite X-ray telescope, and this X-ray telescope was looking at all of these objects - a lot of them in my atlas, and I had also got time on the X-ray telescope, and these active objects, then, turned out that the quasars were - almost all of them, well, there were a lot of X-ray sources over the sky, and most of them were quasars, and they were clustered around these X-ray galaxies, so you had this additional proof - X-ray quasars, X-ray galaxies. They could see the X-rays coming out of the galaxies, and that was... that was a field day for me - just a feast, and it would turn out very, very fortunate that I... you know, I was lucky that way.
HOST: Well, what happens in the actual scientific, peer-reviewed literature? Are you able to get your findings published at all, or...?
ARP: It's very difficult. In the beginning, they were published with some difficulty. Now, it's getting even more difficult. Publications are scattered around in various journals, and now we're publishing on the web in the astro-ph, which is... not refereed. It's governed, but not refereed. So I think that the best... I think that the journals - the conventional, scientific journals - in cases like this, are heading for obsolesence, and they take a long time, but... I can't see... it's a big tanker to turn around on a dime.
HOST: Yeah, yeah. Well, I have some idea of what the implications are, but please talk to our... sketch out for me, assuming you're correct and that redshift is not a measure of recessionary velocity, what does that mean in terms of our big theories of the universe?
ARP: Well, that's very interesting, and very exciting because observationally, empirically, you can trace the origin of the galaxies, the origin of the quasars and their evolution into normal galaxies. You can see them as they first come out of the nucleus: they're very small, very energetic, very highly redshifted, usually X-ray sources and so forth and then as they come out, they slow down, they enlarge, they begin evolving into normal galaxies.
HOST: Sort of "blooming" in a sense...
ARP: Yeah, it's... like a seed developing, and the thing that Fred pointed out his student, Jayant Narlikar did, was go to the Einstein theories... equations, field equations, and say, well, look, you've... well, I'm saying this now, but you've... the Friedmann solution, we didn't correct, because he assumed the mass, the elementary particle mass is a constant. In other words, if you're going to create something, and in the Big Bang, you create everything out of nothing, instantaneously, and they're all electrons and protons and everything at their current value, but if you don't do that... if you start them off slowly as a seed and let them grow in mass with time, then you get a general solution to the Einstein equation, and you don't get any need for geometric terms... you don't get any Riemannian tensor terms, curvature, space curvature terms, a flat universe. It's very simple, and gives you the correct answer, mathematically.
Ironically, mathematically, the same answer, but physically, it's almost exactly the opposite from the Big Bang. So, it has very very far-reaching implications, but it also opens up the possibility for us to understand... or some day... how this matter is created in this early state, what are the conditions, how it's going to work out in the future - how it's going to play out in the future...
HOST: So, instead of having a universe that's 16 billion years old or something that started with the Big Bang, we have a universe that's somehow self-renewing, that's very, very ancient, or perhaps just... has been around forever.
ARP: Yes, yes, it's continuous creation, and... that's exactly right.
HOST: To me, that is intuitively much more satisfying and... not being a scientist, but just trying to think about nature, and observing things, that somehow, that makes more sense, and I can't explain why, really, than the notion that there's nothing, and no time, and no... anything and then suddenly, out of quantum energetic activity, you get this this big bang that produces everything all at once.
ARP: Yeah. Well, my friend John Dobson is a well-known amateur has this sign he wears around that says, "nothing does not exist"...
HOST: (chuckle) That's good; I like that.
HOST: Yeah, yeah... well, you said a moment ago that it's even more difficult now to get papers published in the peer-reviewed journals because, well, obviously, big science doesn't like this; there's so much invested already in the current paradigm, but... do you find that younger astronomers seek your guidance or want to know more and try to understand what you found, or...
ARP: Yes, yes there are. There are some younger scientists who do this, but I have to tell them right away, that it's a very dangerous thing for them, because if they're in the degree... process of getting a degree, then their getting the degree is in peril. If they're in the process of getting a tenure appointment, then they're be passed over; I've seen this again and again. And some... so... right away, I tell them it's a dangerous thing. Some of them will persist and they say, "okay, we'll keep our noses clean, but we'll look out for these kinds of evidence, and so there's some people who in the future probably will follow this on.
HOST: Wow. And the ones who... do you find that opponents are willing at all to try to debate the facts on their merits, or... the reaction is just to freeze you out and to put a blackout on everything?
ARP: Well, in the beginning, there was debates, and there was one held in Washington, D.C. There's actually even a book out on the debate. George Field and John Bahcall and myself. Bahcall and myself were the debaters, and that was a debate in the spirit of science, but after that, people decided just their own projects and their own interests were so important that they just focused on what they were doing.
HOST: It's amazing, but you know, when I first became aware of your work about, I don't know, five or six years ago, something that immediately struck me was the parallels to the discipline of economics where the preponderance of economists today really do blackboard theory and everything all makes sense on the blackboard, but if you try to think about it in terms of what peoples' lives are actually like, it's much different, and it just... it really struck a chord, where what you've got now are a lot of scientists who are the recipients of an enormous amount of funding, who live in a kind of a blackboard world, it seems.
ARP: Yeah, it's an enormous amount of data, and a lot of electronic processing - mass processing, and it consumes people, and the one thing they don't do, which is so important, is to look at the pictures. They don't look at the pictures. When I was doing the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, I had a room in the observatory, and I posted up the pictures as I got them off the telescope, and I would stand there and look at them, for days, weeks, and even after a week of looking at pictures, suddenly I'd see something that I hadn't seen before because I wasn't expecting it, and people have a tendency to see what they expect. "I'll see it when I believe it."
HOST: Now, how, when we... in reading the book Redshift, which I have - I can't seem to locate it, but it's somewhere in a pile of books somewhere around the house - as you say in the book, you really don't have to know a lot of math to understand what you're saying and a lot of it is in the pictures, and I agree with that, having gone through it and read it... and tried to go through some of the math, although I'm not really good enough to follow it. But, Dr. Arp, in looking at the pictures, how do we know that the picture is not deceptive in itself, that the picture is actually picking up objects in the same space rather than something that is really, really far away, something that's, you know. I mean, if you've got a camera and so forth. Is it a property of the way telescopes work, or... how do we assure ourselves that that's the case?
ARP: Well, with some experience in the old photographic realm, you'd look at a picture and say - the first thing you'd say: "I see so-and-so and so-and-so. Is that a plate defect, or is that something that's unaccidental?", and then you'd see to tell what's a plate defect and what was real in that way... and then you'd say, "okay, I have to have a second plate - a second, confirmatory image", and you get that, and then you say, "okay, let's investigate in different wavelengths", and then you'd find that the connection was, say, blue, or red, or something like that, or that had substructure in it, or you'd see a connection, or you'd see an interaction; you'd see whether actually the two objects were interacting together. For instance, there was a quasar that was published in a group of other quasars. No, there was four quasars with the 10 meter telescope at Keck and they reported a redshift for this quasar, and nobody said anything, and then somebody said to Margaret Burbridge, "you know, I was looking at that spectrum and I think there's another spectrum in there with that object", and so, we looked at it, and sure enough, there were two redshifts, much different, 0.30 and 0.7 - something like that - ... vastly different.
ARP: So, there just happened to be a good HST photograph of it which split the two, I mean, they're only a quarter of an arc-second apart - it's just incredible, and then we... another lucky stroke there was a high resolution radio map of the thing, and you could see the radio contours joining these two objects together and you could see the radio contours showing you that the quasar was being ejected along... in a certain direction; you could see the motion in the contours, and we figured out the probability of that being an accident - or that probability of that being a coincidence - and it came out 10-14. Well, you know 10-9 is one chance in a billion, 10-5 is a hundred thousand so a one thousand billion to one chance it was an accident.
HOST: Yeah... yeah...
ARP: We had a hell of a time getting it published. It finally did get published in a professional journal, but it's been absolutely ignored since then.
HOST: I suppose if you did a meta-study and then looked at all the different instances and calculated the probabilities and the overall probability of those occurring would be just impossible.
ARP: Oh yeah. Meta statistics would be a lot of fun.
HOST: Has anybody done that, or?
ARP: No, I don't think anybody's done that. As I say, everybody's tending to their own little project.
HOST: (Assent) Then I'm... without being undiplomatic, I'm curious: do people at Max Planck like you and let you do your thing there? Is there more of a relaxed attitude outside the United States, or...?
ARP: Yes, definitely. I mean, we're good friends, and we talk, and... I'd say we were very good friends. For the most part, we don't talk science. Not this particular... we talk science, but not in this particular subject - we steer away from that. One of my good friends I play tennis with all the time is a conventional cosmologist and, as I say, we're very close, but he's on the other side and we just don't discuss it.
HOST: Are there other people who've followed your path... who are not Americans. Are there Japanese, or Russians or even... outside the scientific communities in their own countries, or are you pretty much unique in the world, or?
ARP: Well, I'm trying to think... there are some innovative and non-conventional astronomers, perhaps in other subjects like dark matter and so forth; people who criticize dark matter and there are a lot of people who criticize the Big Bang... and in that sense, we're on the same side, and I think there's a sort of an underground feeling if I might say so, that the Big Bang is really dead and is just being sort of 'carried', like we're carrying a corpse around.
HOST: Well now that's very interesting. Tell me more about that. How have regular establishment people been attacking the Big Bang structure?
ARP: Well, there's been this cosmic background radiation, which was the Nobel Prizes recently awarded and that's been - there's some close examination and some swing opinions are appearing - I don't want to go into the details because I'm not supposed to be privy to all this. I can say that what I think a lot of people - well, particularly amateurs and generalists are going the same path I did, which is to say, "well, gee, if these Friedmann solution and the Einstein equation is not good, then what about this... or how do we account for gravity?" ...and well, Einstein says it's space curvature, and then when you think, well, space curvature. You make this a simple experiment, you hold up your hands and say, between my hands is space, now try to curve it... just doesn't make sense, and so it's... I think in the end, it's going to require more of a development of quantum gravity and the basic knock against general relativity would be that it's geometry, it's not physics, and so I think this is a 300-pound gorilla that's sitting in the room with redshift written on him and nobody sees him and this is why they don't see it. This is what at stake is pretty paralyzing.
HOST: I always had trouble in high school trying to understand the idea that if you go to the edge of the universe, that you'll wind up back where you started. I don't even know if I'm explaining that right.
ARP: Yeah, closed space. Well, that's a form of curved space and they... my father used to say that and how could you do that, and I was really smart at that time, I said, well, the line is straight; the space through which it's drawn is curved, and he's sort of looking at me and, I realize now he was right.
HOST: Well, in the same way that particle physicists at the Superconducting Supercolliders try to figure out from their experiments what the larger, the macro-macro level is like, is it reasonable to think that your paradigm for the macro universe has lessons for people doing particle physics?
ARP: Oh yeah, well, this is the nice part of it, you're seeing this new quasar or new proto-galaxy that's coming out is an ionized ball of gas and it's hot, well, I mean, well, you take a hot cloud of hot gas in the hot Big Bang, and it's not going to condense, it's going to go poof, it's going to dissipate, so in order to have this galaxy form, they have to assume this dark matter which takes up 90% of it, I mean, that's very non-scientific, they just say, "there's enough dark matter, we can't see it, we can't detect it, but it holds it together and makes it collapse".
HOST: Yeah, every couple of years, there's some new theory about what the dark matter is.
ARP: ...but in the Narlikar-Hoyle-Arp approach, it's very natural, because as particle masses gain... gain mass, as they grow in mass, then, in order to conserve momentum, they slow down, and then the mass is increased so you get a normal, you get a natural formation of a galaxy without any dark matter, so it's a solution to the dark matter problem right there.
HOST: So the initial stuff that's coming out is coming out at basically the speed of light.
ARP: Yes, that's what... Narlikar and I talk about this all the time and Narlikar says it's pure energy so it has to come out at the speed of light, and I think yes, he's right, it probably starts that way, but the conditions in the nuclei are such that a zero mass particle, which is a pretty big cross-section - it's got the normal charge - it's going to be caught in this frozen matter. I mean, this medium that it's going through, it's very hard to penetrate, and I think that slows it down a lot in the beginning, and then later on, when it hits some clouds out, you can see these quasars getting the radio halos stripped away from them, and they're still pretty fragile. If you look at M87, you see this beautiful beam of - this jet coming out and then look in the jet with HST and so forth, you see these little plasmoids coming out with about the velocity of light and then further on they're getting bigger and they're ablating and they're breaking up. They're all synchrotron radiation - just pre-atomic stuff and they haven't - they're just charged particle radiation. You can actually see them in this latest book I was talking about. You can actually see these things forming as they come out.
HOST: Well, that makes me think of a stupid question. Could you reproduce something like that in the lab?
ARP: Yeah, if you could reproduce the creation requirements that you find inside of a galactic nucleus. A galactic nucleus is a pretty special place - tremendous density and energy flowing through it and X-rays and so forth. Also, there's another very interesting aspect to this, and that is, in order to make a new galaxy, you have to have a hell of a lot of information, and that means that in this seed that comes out, this proto-galaxy that comes out, you have to have enough information to make a whole new galaxy with a zillion planets and animals and viruses and everything else. So, that means you're in a low entropy state, that's something we say about entropy and information in this process of creation, which is really challenging - which really challenges the imagination.
HOST: It is amazing. It's mind-boggling just thinking about it. I have another - please forgive me my stupid questions, Dr. Arp, but in this paradigm of the universe, is it theoretically possible to have faster-than-light travel, or again is that a violation of information?
ARP: No, as a matter of fact I think that's necessary, and as a matter of fact, on my web site I have a little thing called redshift, something to the blue Pacific, and as another friend of mine, an excellent person, Tom van Flandern, who has also worked along this line, there's this LeSage pushing gravity, and there you say that there's gravitons - that gravity is not "pulling" the way it is in Newtonian physics, and gravity is the result of a bath of high-velocity small particles pushing things together. I mean, you know if you say things, under normal gravity they pull each other - they pull on each other... yeah, but how do they pull? Is there a rubber band that pulls on them, or something like that? No, we're suggesting that there's this bath, this pressure that pushes them together, so 1/r2 law. ...and then you say, well, okay, how fast are these things going? Much faster than light. Well, they're very, very low mass, so they have a long de Broglie wavelength and you say, okay, the longer de Broglie wavelength enables the speed of light, not in vacuum, what is normally called vacuum but it's pretty thick stuff, but this is really going fast and it's able to go up nearly 3 x 1010th the speed of light. And that's almost - it's not infinitely fast; it's something short of being infinitely fast. It's much, much faster than the speed of light. But what it means is preserved causality and the argument there goes, that the earth is going around the sun, the earth sees the sun as it was 8 minutes ago, because that's the light travel time, so the earth is not revolving around the sun where it is now at that time, it's revolving around the place it was 8 minutes ago, and if that is so, then the Earth has to slowly spiral into the sun. Well, van Flandern, who's an expert in planetary orbits and so forth - worked for the Naval Observatory for many years - has computed what the speed would have to be, and that's where he gets 3 x 1010. Now the relativists - the general relativity people say there's an instantaneous component to Einsteinian gravity - conventional gravity.
HOST: Spooky action at a distance.
ARP: Yeah, that's right, and it's instantaneous, but if you think about it, instantaneous means there's no causality - that you lose causality, and that's, I think, a tremendous price to pay and I'm not willing to pay that. So, that's the argument for faster-than-light, or one of the arguments.
HOST: Would it be possible to scale that process into macro-objects that we're familiar with like spaceships, or... in theory.
ARP: Yeah, I think so. I think that these things are impinging on the Earth and planets and then you have to reconsider the Expanding Earth Theory, which is another disreputable theory that's been hammered on for a long time.
HOST: Now, I'm amazed you mentioned that; I happen to like that theory. Would you talk about that a little bit?
ARP: Yeah, well, okay, it was Wegner of course, as you know, who saw that the continents fitted together, and proposed that they had drifted apart because the Earth was expanding, and of course, that was ridiculed because the geologists said, no, the continents are anchored in basaltic rock, and they can't move. Well, they find out now that with plate tectonics, that they're slipping and sliding all over the surface, in a care-free way.
HOST: Well, the tectonics stuff is different from an expanding earth, though.
ARP: Yeah, that's right.
HOST: I always liked the idea that in old, old, ancient times, you have these huge animals that would have an easier time of it on a smaller planet with a lighter load on them.
ARP: That's right. I was in a lecture once where the guy was computing the strain/stress of the neck muscles of one of these huge vegetable-eating dinosaurs, and he said he didn't think it would work with current gravity. But then the other thing that brought the expanding earth, there's a seam, the Atlantic Ridge of course has been measured as spreading apart by about the right amount for the age of the earth, and if you're interested, visit my web site: there I make it a little more formal presentation of this, but it's very interesting in the sense that it brings in again the question of the conventional theory of gravity, the conventional theory of the expanding universe, and so forth, and it has repercussions all down the line... which should be exciting, which, people, you know, whichever way it comes out in the end, if people get into it and start talking about it, and looking at it and testing it instead of running from it, then that would be science, it would seem to me.
HOST: I should think that if redshift bothers people, the idea of an expanding earth would be total anathema to most. I don't know when I came across that idea - quite a few years ago, and liked it, never really read much about it, but always thought, "ah, that's interesting" and, you know, why not?
ARP: Well, there's a whole underground there - there's a bunch of Italian geologists and physicists who've written a big, thick book on the various explanations. There's an Australian group who's done measurements and so forth, so it's another one of those underground movements.
HOST: Well, talking about sort of, odd, odd ways to interpret the world that we live in, or unusual ways, one of the things that, to my mind is most consequential about having a universe that's not limited by 16 billion year age is that, if we assume provisionally that the universe has been around for a trillion years or ten trillion years or whatever it may be, that then the odds that there is intelligent life out there become, well... it has to be, and there has to be life all over the place - intelligent life, and so it... I find the thought of that just fascinating, that if we're living in a universe that's full of intelligent life, what does that mean about or what might that mean about our place in the order of things? Because I would assume that it's not just, you know, sort of an untended garden, or whatever. But I guess that gets into religious... do you have people asking you about religious questions when you talk about cosmology very much?
ARP: No, there's this question of intelligent design that's been simmering down a little bit now, and I have this little story I tell about intelligent design, and that is there's a design person and a conventional astronomer arguing about... is there a God or not and so forth, and as they look out into the sky, written in letters of fire, it says "I Created The Universe", and the scientist immediately calls up the observatory and says "what is this, some sort of hoax?", and the observatory says "no, no, those - it's really, real, those stars of fire are out there, millions and millions of light years away, and so the next night, they're arguing and the design person says, "you see? I told you, I told you there was intelligent design" - they look up and written in fire in the sky is "But I Don't Know Whether I'm The Product Of Natural Evolution".
HOST: I think that's about right, that's a good... that's a funny joke; I like that. Well, Dr. Arp, we've gone over a fair amount of stuff here. That's probably a good note to end on, but is there anything else that we haven't talked about that you'd like to mention, or go into?
ARP: No, I don't think so. I think we've sort of touched lightly on a lot of things.
HOST: Well, let's wrap it up here then. I just want to thank you very, very much for your work. I have the greatest admiration for you. Sincerely, I think you're - it's not too much to call you a Galileo of our time, and I believe, for what it's worth, you'll be proved right, and I think the universe that you talk about is a much more interesting and much better place than the one we're stuck with, with conventional science, but... I want to thank you very much for talking with me.
ARP: Well, thank you for your encouragement, and I enjoyed it.
HOST: Just marvelous. Absolutely marvelous. Thank you so much, Dr. Arp.
HOST: As I think you can tell listening to him, despite being a brilliant scientist, Dr. Arp is a normal guy - a thoughtful, decent guy. Clearly not a maniac running insisting that people believe his pet theory just because he says so, and, really, Dr. Arp should be thought of as a hero, not just by other scientists but by all of us for walking away on principle from Mount Palomar when they took away his telescope time. Being able to walk away from an important institution is sometimes the greatest power that people will ever have over it, whether anyone realizes that at the time or not. I give the Germans full credit for having snapped Dr. Arp up.
Now, to carry some of my own thoughts about the implications of Dr. Arp's views just a little further... if, indeed, the universe is really ten trillion, to pick a random large number, or more, years old, then it would be silly to think that intelligent life hadn't spread throughout the thing a very long time ago, and it would be even more silly to think that planet Earth was floating around on its own, unnoticed. I suppose this line of argument brings me uncomfortably close to creationism, but I wish to emphasize that I have no problems with the theory of evolution per se, and that I've never seen any version of creationism that had the least appeal. Nevertheless, it does seem obvious to me that if the universe is an ancient place, and if there's intelligent life everywhere, then that intelligent life almost certainly would have been busy tweaking evolution on this planet as it progressed. For all we know, planet Earth is an incubator, or in more prosaic terms, perhaps we're somebody else's property.... which gets to the problem credited to Enrico Fermi, famous physicist and Nobel Prize winner, who built the world's first nuclear reactor under a squash court at the University of Chicago. Fermi's Paradox asks, essentially, if extraterrestrial life is out there, why hasn't it said hello? I think this is actually the right question, but for the wrong reasons. To refine it, perhaps, what we should be considering is, given the proposition that Dr. Arp's theory of redshift is true, and its implications of super-abundant, intelligent life everywhere, then what good reasons could extraterrestrials have for not wanting to say hello? In beaureaucratic terms, what kind of system would have in place rules prohibiting such communication from happening with an emergent sapient species?
I wonder, and I think this way of framing things adds something to the whole question of UFOs. In my experience, all bureaucratic systems have leakage - the only real rules are the informal rules. I would not be the least bit surprised if that insight scales up to intergalactic civilizations or indeed the afterlife, if one exists. So, what we may be seeing with UFOs are beings skirting the rules... perhaps teenagers on a joyride, perhaps idealistic researchers, or perhaps even some sort of religious zealots. We'll have no way of really knowing until we actually do know from being explicitly told. Until then, however, it makes sense to try to speculate, wisely, on what purposes could exist in a very ancient system. At the very least, we should consider what responsibilities we may have as stewards for this planet and hesitate before submitting to be judged by our own common standard that greed is the sumum bonum.
Okay, on to next week.... Back to the dissection of our failing polity. Next Friday, I talk with Chalmers Johnson, whose latest book is Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. Thinking about my conversation with Chalmers, I still can't decide who's more cynical... something unusual for me. The week following Chalmers, I talk with John Stokes, otherwise known as Hannibal, who is one of the co-founders of the popular tech web site, Ars Technica. John writes on a variety of subjects at Ars Technica including a good deal of politics and policy. His latest book is Inside the Machine: An Illustrated Guide to Microprocessors and Computer Architecture. John is also a Pentecostal Christian, and a Ph.D student at the University of Chicago's Divinity School, interested in the Apocalypse. So this conversation ranges quite widely, and John is probably the closest person to being a billionaire that I'll ever talk to. Only kidding. If you're unfamiliar, I do most highly recommend Ars Technica. That's www.arstechnica.com. Its huge popularity is very well deserved.
The weeks following, I'm not entirely sure, but I hope I'll have some of that schedule sorted out by next week. Several irons are in the fire. Thanks very much to all those who wrote in last week. I do take a real interest in your views, and I very much enjoy hearing from you, and I will write back, and thanks once more to Sean-Paul of the Agonist, for again steering his readership to the E. P. podcast... twice, in fact, over the Memorial Day weekend... and thanks to those Agonist readers who have given a listen. I hope you like what you found.
HOST: Okay, then, that's it for this week. As always, it's a great privilege for me to bring you these shows, and I'm happy to do it. Thanks for listening, and please stay tuned to Electic Politics.
Transcribed by Ritchie Annand.