Born to do Math 80 — Apparent Age

Scott Douglas Jacobsen
5 min readMay 2, 2018

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Rick Rosner

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What about the apparent age of the universe?

Rick Rosner: So, I mean the deal is that if you have stuff in the universe that’s older than the universe, then the universe can’t be the age that way you say it is.

And that may be the case with a bunch of super massive celestial objects found in what should be the young early universe which seems weird because the Big Bang seems thoroughly established as what has to be the shape and the mechanics of the universe.

It’s what the universe looks like but the Big Bang as a theory has only been the leading theory of the universe for 50 years and we’ve had a complete picture of the distribution of matter in the universe for only a hundred years or less; make it 80.

It wasn’t until a hundred years ago or less that we even knew that there were other galaxies besides our own. And it was only within the past 80 or 90 years that we found out that the farther away a galaxy is the larger it’s apparent velocity away from us; the Hubble constant.

And it was only in 1964 and ’65 that we discovered the old early photons, the tired old photons from the first possible moment that the universe was transparent to photons.

Before about 300,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was so filled with ionized matter that too much stuff was crammed too close together that there was no way for photons to travel through the mess and get free.

Then at 300,000 years the universe becomes big enough that the ambient energy held by all the matter comes down and protons and electrons start combining into hydrogen and helium atoms and at that point it’s like the fog clears and photons can escape.

And some of the escaped photons just kept going from that point in time for us to intercept them 13 and a half billion years later. So it seems as if there are a zillion reasons; observational and theoretical reasons why we live in a Big Bang universe.

But a lot of those reasons can also be applied to an information-based universe with a big bang looking universe being the optimal forum for information to take.

And one thing to consider is that we live among the most normal-looking of the forms that Big Bang universes can take. Well, one of the issues in Big Bang cosmology is whether the universe is open or closed which also involves the term flat.

A flat universe according to general relativity is the universe that has just enough kinetic energy among its parts to keep on expanding forever, to keep on overcoming its mutual gravitational attraction; the gravitational attraction that every galaxy has for every other galaxy and for the universe to keep growing forever, but just barely.

The other possible Big Bang universes include a closed universe which doesn’t have enough energy to overcome galaxies mutual attraction which is like a hundred thousand people standing on the surface of the earth, all throwing a ball up into the air at the same time; the ball goes 30 feet into the air runs out of energy and all heads back down together to collapse together.

So imagine that except minus the earth with everybody throwing the ball. Everybody throws the ball up, the attraction among the balls pull them all back together because they don’t have enough oomph or enough kinetic energy to get away from each other.

Then there’s the open universe where the balls, the galaxies have way more energy than they need to never fall back into each other. And the Big Bang universe; the universe we live in; our particular universe seems to have exactly as much energy as it needs to overcome mutual gravitational attraction.

But then there are some additional… as theories get older they acquire additional refinement and often additional, say corrections to account for anomalous observational experimental data.

So, the Big Bang universe being 80 or 50 or however many years old, has accumulated various corrections for inflation and for hyper-expansion; good inflation is hyper-expansion but dark matter effects accelerated expansion if you look back at the apparent expansion of the universe. It looks like the universe is actually expanding faster over time.

It says if you threw a ball up in the air and it started traveling upwards slowly and then just gained more and more velocity as it rushes up in the air away from you, which is consistent with final some theories of what dark energy but also can be taken as serious quibbles with Big Bang Theory.

Kuhn, about 50 years ago, wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolution. He said that theories are formed are resisted by established science but eventually win because they account better for experimental for observations than the previous theory but as the theories age they accumulate more and more quibbles, more and more things that appear to be wrong with them until those theories are often in their own turn overthrown by the next theory.

And it’s not unreasonable to think that the Big Bang which is our first successful comprehensive theory of the overall structure and dynamics of the universe will eventually be overthrown or severely modified.

Perhaps the greatest theory in the history of physics, Newtonian universal gravitation, reigned for two and a half centuries until it was severely modified by general relativity and was overthrown in part, the parts being theoretical basis in that Newton described universal gravitation which says that the attraction between any two objects is the product of their masses divided by the square of their distance.

But it didn’t really say why while general relativity says that the why is because matter curves space. Matter helps to determine the shape of space.

You can continue to use Newtonian gravitation as long as you’re dealing with relatively small masses at relatively large distances but when you get into super compact masses or big masses you’re going to have to correct for general relativistic effects.

The first one to be verified was a precession in the orbit of mercury around the Sun where planetary orbits are ellipses and the ellipses don’t stay in the same place in space over long periods of time.

They kind of drift, so they’re not exact ellipses; they’re loops that don’t quite loop back around exactly in the same place, the loops travel in a circle around the sun, kind of like spirograph pattern if you’re old enough to remember those.

They instead of an ellipse forming around the Sun you get a flower pattern of largely overlapping loops, so eventually orbits revolves all the way around the Sun and comes back on it’s own.

In the first great victory for general relativity, the rate at which the ellipse formed by Mercury’s orbit was shown to process at double the rate it would under Newtonian gravitation.

So, Newton’s theory of universal gravitation was overthrown by general relativity but still survives because it’s still what you use in any kind of normal situation; situation where you want to figure out, say how far a baseball might travel on earth coming off a bat under normal circumstance like that.

And it’s not unreasonable to think that the Big Bang will be subject to at least a partial revolution especially if physicists or astronomers keep discovering more and more objects that can’t reasonably be shown to have been able to be formed in the time that’s elapsed since the Big Bang.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

Originally published at on May 2, 2018.



Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen supports science and human rights. Website: