Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Was Copernicus Wrong?

Admit it, sometimes you think the world revolves around you. In fact, it's possible that the whole universe revolves around you, and a new analysis may be able to confirm your ultra specialness once and for all. Don't go getting all full of yourself, until you read the post below by our newest Physics Buzz blogger, who we call Uncalm.

Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus stated that the earth is not in a special, central place in the universe. As observers, humans on earth have no advantage over other places in the universe.

But was he wrong? Is the earth actually located in the center of a matter-free bubble, a billion light years long, and enclosed by a massive dense shell of material?

If so, dark energy, which is invisible (like dark matter) and thought by physicists to pervade all of space while causing the universe to expand faster, may not exist. The force of gravity would cause galaxies inside the bubble to speed towards the earth, creating the illusion that the universe’s expansion is accelerating. Your average observer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Robert Caldwell of Dartmouth College and Albert Stebbins of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory believe that they can test whether the earth is in a special location of the universe.

If the earth was located in the center of an immense bubble, microwave background radiation (a form of light found throughout all of space and left over from the big bang) in the universe should contain small deviations from a perfect blackbody spectrum.

Aptly named, a perfect blackbody is an object that absorbs all the light that hits it (none is passed through or reflected), so it appears black when cold. The blackbody spectrum is the amount of light emitted from the blackbody (called blackbody radiation) at each wavelength. If the blackbody is at a hot temperature, it will emit exactly as much as it absorbs, at every wavelength.

So, the spectrum from microwave background radiation in the universe coming towards the earth centered in a bubble (sans reflection), would generate a curve similar to that of a perfect blackbody spectrum.

Unfortunately, NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer sent out in 1990 did not have the ability to detect such small deviations. But the Absolute Spectrum Polarimeter (pictured), a new NASA satellite in the early stages of inception could detect these deviations.

According to NASA, the satellite could be launched in the next decade. Early polarimeters worked by using a Nicol prism to produce a beam of plane-polarized light, which is passed through a tube and analyzed. To improve accuracy, several other prisms are used to introduce rotation by a few degrees for half of the light, creating a split field.

Caldwell and Stebbins think that data from observations of microwave background radiation might shatter the illusion of dark energy, or confirm that the earth ain’t nothing special.

In any case, most people already think of themselves as the center of the universe.


  1. Read balloon inside balloon theory of matter and antimatter universe on opposite entropy path producing gravitoethertons at common boundary by annihilation and injected into our universe as ether/space/dark energy/WIMPS what ever you may say.......-----.....

    1. Or just use Occam's Razor. No need for Dark Matter/Dark Energy/Phlogiston to shoe horn a theory out by orders of magnitude from observed reality. Trust the verified observations, then work the theory.