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Solid, peer-reviewed confirmation for my predictions about early, rapid, galaxy formation. (Exciting!) Plus, an experiment we can do!
Yes, those potentially extremely early galaxies that the James Webb Space Telescope spotted back in July are, indeed, extremely early galaxies – plum bang where and when I said they should be
OK, I HAVE to slap up a quick, dirty, hot-take of a post today – because a major paper was published yesterday in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, backing up an earlier paper there, both of which confirm my predictions of early rapid galaxy formation. Hugely, hugely exciting.
I was shitting myself, posting those predictions back before the James Webb Space Telescope released its first data, because they were real outliers at the time, contradicting the mainstream view completely. If I was wrong on these core predictions, my entire theory was wrong, my book had no value, and I’d wasted ten years. So, scary moment, pressing “Publish.”
But I was right. (And, the vile and ignoble part of me is delighted to see, the entire scientific mainstream was wrong.) Hot damn.
I’m just going to quote the entire NASA press release, and intercut it with my comments… and with some quotes from my earlier predictions of exactly these results. The press release is titled, NASA’s Webb Draws Back Curtain on Universe’s Early Galaxies. This photo shows you the two galaxies in question (read the caption for details)…
A few days after officially starting science operations, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope propelled astronomers into a realm of early galaxies, previously hidden beyond the grasp of all other telescopes until now.
“Everything we see is new. Webb is showing us that there's a very rich universe beyond what we imagined,” said Tommaso Treu of the University of California at Los Angeles, principal investigator on one of the Webb programs. “Once again the universe has surprised us. These early galaxies are very unusual in many ways.”
I am thrilled for these scientists. They are doing what reductionist materialist science is extraordinarily good at, and getting us stunning data, at the absolute far range of what is technically possible.
But they are also, unfortunately doing what reductionist materialist science is bad at – because they cannot extract the meaning from that data. “Beyond what we imagined”? Hey, speak for yourself, Tommaso; I not only imagined it, I described it in detail, in advance. And I should make it clear, Tomasso Treu is a great scientist! I’m not putting the guy down. He’s professor of physics and astronomy in the UCLA College; he was recently named an American Astronomical Society fellow. But he’s trapped inside a wrong paradigm.
Which is why it’s kind of heartbreaking to read that “once again” in “Once again the universe has surprised us.” Because the universe always surprises these excellent scientists in exactly the same way – there is always more structure, earlier than they expected – and they never learn from this, because their paradigm won’t let them.
OK, back to NASA…
Two research papers, led by Marco Castellano of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, and Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
These initial findings are from a broader Webb research initiative involving two Early Release Science (ERS) programs: the Grism Lens-Amplified Survey from Space (GLASS), and the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS).
With just four days of analysis, researchers found two exceptionally bright galaxies in the GLASS-JWST images. These galaxies existed approximately 450 and 350 million years after the big bang (with a redshift of approximately 10.5 and 12.5, respectively), though future spectroscopic measurements with Webb will help confirm.
“With Webb, we were amazed to find the most distant starlight that anyone had ever seen, just days after Webb released its first data," said Naidu of the more distant GLASS galaxy, referred to as GLASS-z12, which is believed to date back to 350 million years after big bang. The previous record holder is galaxy GN-z11, which existed 400 million years after the big bang (redshift 11.1), and was identified in 2016 by Hubble and Keck Observatory in deep-sky programs.
Yeah. Well, I wasn’t amazed. I had predicted it.
“Based on all the predictions, we thought we had to search a much bigger volume of space to find such galaxies,” said Castellano.
Not all the predictions, mate.
I shouldn’t give Castellano a hard time here, either; my predictions are not coming from within the field, so there is no mechanism in place for drawing them to his attention. And most theories outside the field are by lunatics, for lunatics. Hard to find the signal in the noise. But I would hope that this confirmation of my predictions will count as signal.
“These observations just make your head explode. This is a whole new chapter in astronomy. It's like an archaeological dig, and suddenly you find a lost city or something you didn’t know about. It’s just staggering,” added Paola Santini, fourth author of the Castellano et al. GLASS-JWST paper.
“While the distances of these early sources still need to be confirmed with spectroscopy, their extreme brightnesses are a real puzzle, challenging our understanding of galaxy formation,” noted Pascal Oesch at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, second author of the Naidu et al. paper.
OK. Let’s start getting stuck in… Their extreme brightness is only a puzzle if the unexamined dogma underlying all your theories is that ours is a one-shot universe, made of dead matter with random properties, obeying arbitrary laws.
If you think, instead, that our universe is the result of an evolutionary process at the level of universes, then you would expect it to be optimised for galaxy formation (and thus black hole production, and thus reproductive success), which should give rise to a huge number of bright, early galaxies. Matter in an evolved universe does not have random properties; nor are the laws it obeys arbitrary; both have been optimised by evolution to generate exactly the complex universe of galaxies and stars (with planets capable of the complex chemistry of life) that we see all around us.
The Webb observations nudge astronomers toward a consensus that an unusual number of galaxies in the early universe were much brighter than expected. This will make it easier for Webb to find even more early galaxies in subsequent deep sky surveys, say researchers.
“We’ve nailed something that is incredibly fascinating. These galaxies would have had to have started coming together maybe just 100 million years after the big bang. Nobody expected that the dark ages would have ended so early,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz, a member of the Naidu/Oesch team. “The primal universe would have been just one hundredth its current age. It’s a sliver of time in the 13.8 billion-year-old evolving cosmos.”
Oh boy. “These galaxies would have had to have started coming together maybe just 100 million years after the big bang. Nobody expected that the dark ages would have ended so early.” Nobody? Let me quote my predictions, from before the James Webb released any data:
“As a result, galaxies will form efficiently, and early. I argue that huge numbers of supermassive black holes and their quasars will be blazing away merrily, well inside the first fifty million years. There will be absolutely loads of recognisable, rapidly growing (rapidly star-forming) galaxies within the first 100 million years (probably much sooner). This is earlier than the mainstream have traditionally assumed. (They keep having to shuffle a bit further back, as they find new quasars, and their galaxies, ever further back in time. But they are pushed there, reluctantly, against the logic of their paradigm; I am leaping there, exultantly, because my paradigm predicts it.)
So the James Webb Space Telescope will basically see galaxies with active galactic nuclei (ie, quasars and jets) all the way back, because those active nuclei come first and are what form galaxies.”
OK, back to NASA, yesterday.
Erica Nelson of the University of Colorado, a member of the Naidu/Oesch team, noted that "our team was struck by being able to measure the shapes of these first galaxies; their calm, orderly disks question our understanding of how the first galaxies formed in the crowded, chaotic early universe." This remarkable discovery of compact disks at such early times was only possible because of Webb’s much sharper images, in infrared light, compared to Hubble.
Wait, what? “Their calm, orderly disks question our understanding of how the first galaxies formed in the crowded, chaotic early universe”?
They question your understanding, not mine. Those calm, orderly discs are exactly what I told you you would see. Let me quote again from my pre-James Webb predictions, this time at more length, including some context for the prediction of rapid early galaxy formation.
“My argument (drawing on Wheeler, DeWitt and Smolin) is that the basic parameters of matter in our universe have been finely honed and optimised by evolution, over countless earlier generations of universes, to produce, for example, complex spiral galaxies such as ours.
(QUICK EXPLANATORY ASIDE: Why would evolution optimise for spiral galaxy production? Because such galaxies efficiently produce, over their lifetime, astonishing numbers of black holes, and thus baby universes – a tremendously successful reproductive trait.)
As a result of that evolutionary process at the level of universes, the colossal energy released by the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago was not merely scattering matter randomly: it was flowing through an evolved system, and in doing so, it was organising that system.
And the best time to organise that system was right at the start, when the energy was available in staggering quantities, and everything was relatively close together. I will argue that that’s when you build out your universal magnetic field; that’s when you generate supermassive black holes as the gravitational seeds of future galaxies – and so on. Later will be harder, and less efficient.
So here’s my meta-prediction: At all points in the early years after the Big Bang, the James Webb Space Telescope will see that the energy flowing through the system acts to organise that system. It's egg physics, not rock physics: far closer to biology than to the powerful but limited, reductive, mathematical physics we are using in cosmology today.
Another way of putting this is to say that the James Webb Space Telescope will see structure as far back as it can see: it will never find an amorphous, totally random cloud of gas.
That is, the future structure of the universe will be encoded in that matter from the very start, and it will unfold in a clearly directional process from day one, as the universe expands. Large galaxies, in particular, will come together early and fast, as the basic parameters of matter smoothly mesh to generate the conditions required for such rapid, efficient galaxy formation.
To a simple-physics reductionist, it will look like order is repeatedly and mysteriously emerging from chaos due to a series of odd coincidences in the masses of particles and the strengths of forces; but to an evolved-physics holist (like, um, me), it will be obvious that those masses and strengths evolved (over many, many, many, earlier generations of universe) so as to produce, in concert, just this unlikely (but ultimately reproductively successful) outcome in our particular (highly evolved) universe.
Our universe doesn’t just expand; it develops.
The analogy is with a fertilised egg, doubling and redoubling in size; though it might look from a distance like a mere blob on day one, it is never just randomly expanding, but is always building out a structure, which will grow clearer and clearer over time.”
Back to NASA
“These galaxies are very different than the Milky Way or other big galaxies we see around us today,” said Treu.
Illingworth emphasized the two bright galaxies found by these teams have a lot of light. He said one option is that they could have been very massive, with lots of low-mass stars, like later galaxies. Alternatively, they could be much less massive, consisting of far fewer extraordinarily bright stars, known as Population III stars. Long theorized, they would be the first stars ever born, blazing at blistering temperatures and made up only of primordial hydrogen and helium – before stars could later cook up heavier elements in their nuclear fusion furnaces. No such extremely hot, primordial stars are seen in the local universe.
OK, I am going to make another prediction: Yes, these early galaxies will turn out to be massive, with lots of low-mass stars, like later galaxies. No, they will not turn out to be made of small numbers of ultra-hot Population III stars, for the reasons I laid out in my earlier, pre-James Webb, predictions, in a section headed, fairly bluntly, THERE WILL BE NO ERA TOTALLY DOMINATED BY POPULATION III STARS:
“Remember, I am saying supermassive black holes form in a relatively short, sharp period just after recombination – before there is widespread star formation – and that they pretty much immediately generate quasars, which fuse and distribute carbon into the gas clouds from which most of the first stars are formed. So there will be no era totally dominated by so-called Population III stars – the hypothesised (highly inefficient) first stars, containing only hydrogen and helium.
Most of the first generation of stars will, if I am right, contain traces of carbon at formation, because early quasars make it by fusion and distribute it into the clouds to seed star formation. And such stars will therefore be relatively efficient at fusion, element formation, etc. (They will still be very low in carbon, and other elements such as oxygen, relative to later stars; but not completely lacking, as Population III stars are theorised to be.)”
OK, back to NASA.
“Indeed, the farthest source is very compact, and its colors seem to indicate that its stellar population is particularly devoid of heavy elements and could even contain some Population III stars. Only Webb spectra will tell,” said Adriano Fontana, second author of the Castellano et al. paper and a member of the GLASS-JWST team.
Nope. Prediction: when Webb spectra come through, they will find traces of carbon and oxygen in these stars. No hydrogen-and-helium-only Population III stars, for the reasons I have quoted above.
Aaaaand, back to NASA. Last paragraph, we’re nearly done here…
Present Webb distance estimates to these two galaxies are based on measuring their infrared colors. Eventually, follow-up spectroscopy measurements showing how light has been stretched in the expanding universe will provide independent verification of these cosmic yardstick measurements.
OK; that’s yesterday’s NASA press release in full, posted (and last updated): Nov 17, 2022. The editor was Jamie Adkins.
The thing is, if you are interested in this kind of stuff, you may have read about it in Nature, or the Washington Post, or the Guardian, or on NPR, or CNN, and on and on and on… Every major media outlet on earth has run a story on this in the past 48 hours. And all the coverage just takes NASA’s word for it, that nobody could have seen this coming! None of the journalists actually do any research to check if there is, in fact, a theory out there that predicted this. They basically just print the press release, with some rewording of their own.
Here’s the first line of the NPR coverage:
“New baby pictures of the universe, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, show that galaxies started forming faster and earlier than expected.”
Here’s the first line of the Washington Post coverage:
“From its perch a million miles from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope has sighted two of the most distant galaxies ever — and delivered a brilliant surprise. These galaxies are far brighter than anyone expected, challenging our view of how the cosmos took shape in the aftermath of the big bang 13.8 billion years ago.”
“galaxies started forming faster and earlier than expected… ”
“…Far brighter than anyone expected…”
THAN ANYONE EXPECTED! Aaaaarrrgghhh!!!
They are ALL like this. I get it, I get it, this theory is currently trapped on a Substack, it’s not a general theory with a track record and a fan club, it’s just me teasing out the implications of cosmological natural selection, crashing them into evolutionary theory, and discovering that doing so generates solid predictions… that turn out to be true. But if anyone wants to draw this post, and my detailed predictions, and my meta-prediction, to the attention of any of your journalist friends, or indeed to any of the journalists covering this story this week, feel free. Tell them there’s a theory that predicts all this! Let’s see if we can get it into the cosmological conversation.
Hell, why not run an experiment? Isn’t that what the internet is for? Let’s actually take steps to get this theory into the conversation…
Here are the media contacts for NASA, from that press release, in case they would like to update it with a mention of a theory that did actually predict all this:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Md.
Here’s the email for the NPR journalist, Nell Greenfieldboyce, in case she is interested in a followup story: NGreenfieldboyce@npr.org
And, likewise, here’s the email for the Washington Post journalist, Mark Johnson, in case he’d like to do a followup: Mark.Johnson@washpost.com
And if you do email any of these people, be nice! Be polite! Represent the theory well! Don’t be a grumpy sod like me! Just very gently and politely mention that there is, in fact, contrary to everything the scientists in their pieces said, a theory that predicted exactly this.
Oh, and I know a lot of you have joined me recently (hi! Welcome!), and therefore almost certainly didn’t see my original predictions at the time, so I’ll link them again here, in case you want to go back and explore them.
OK, that’s it! I am working on three longer posts, and will get something up next week. (Might be a rather unusual one.)
ISN’T ALL THIS TREMENDOUSLY EXCITING!
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What larks! Talk soon…