A new model for the origin of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation


Scientific article rejected for its "motivation".

Editors of scientific journals need to reject submissions for many reasons. A submitted article may be too specific or too general for the target journal, it may be poorly expressed or inconsistent. It may contain apparent errors in reasoning or assumptions or data used. And, of course, all articles compete for space -- only the more interesting or apparently important ones will make it through the editorial process.

But imagine my surprise when an article was rejected by Physical Review D on the grounds of its 'motivation'. The simple scientist might assume that putting forward a possible scientific advance would be motive enough for submission, but evidently not so.

The article in question has the title "A New Model for the Origin of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation". CMBR is admittedly a fairly specialist topic, but what would cause the Physical Review D editor to reject it with some ferocity?

The reason seems to be that implications of the new model, if validated, would shake the foundations of what we think we know about the Universe we live in. These implications would be apparent to an informed editor, and could cause them considerable disquiet about an upheaval in their settled scientific environment.

The article appears immediately following. After the article is a copy of the rejection letter, and then some comments on the whole affair.

The article

A new model for the origin of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

An important feature of the universe we can observe around us is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation or CMBR. The standard model for the origin of CMBR assumes that it originated from the Big Bang, generally taken to have occurred at the beginning of the Universe. However, here it is shown that there a number of serious deficiencies with the Big-Bang/CMBR model.

Instead, a new model is put forward, the Hydrogen/CMBR model, according to which CMBR is merely the interchange of microwave quanta between atoms of interstellar and intergalactic hydrogen. This model lacks the deficiencies of Big-Bang/CMBR and provides a base which should be capable of considerable development.

Figure 1 shows the spectrum for CMBR radiation, redrawn from data from NASA's COsmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite1.

Fig. 1. The spectrum of cosmic microwave background radiation.

The microwave intensity has a peak at about 2 mm wavelength, falling away steeply for longer wavelengths, but for shorter wavelengths the curve is asymptotic towards zero.

This spectral curve happens to coincide very closely with a theoretical curve for so-called 'black body radiation'. A Black Body is an abstract concept2, an object that absorbs all electromagnetic radiation that falls onto it. No radiation passes through it and none is reflected.

A property of 'black body radiation' is that the wavelength of its intensity peak depends directly on the temperature of the black-body object itself. Hotter objects radiate at shorter wavelengths. If the CMBR radiation was emitted by a theoretical black body, that body would be at a very low temperature, only about 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

The CMBR is a highly uniform pattern of microwave radiation which comes in from all over the celestial sphere. Microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, but are of longer wavelength (lower energy) than visible light. The CMBR fits onto the theoretical 2.7 degrees K black-body curve to an accuracy close to 1 in 100,000.

Because microwaves fall in a part of the spectrum which is largely absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, not much was known about CMBR until it was possible to put up satellites to detect it, beyond the atmosphere.

In 2003 a purpose-designed satellite called WMAP (for Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) was put into orbit 1.5 million kilometres away, at one of the Lagrange points. These are stable points in the Earth's own orbit, which stay ahead of or behind the Earth itself.

WMAP's mission is "to survey the sky to measure the temperature of the radiant heat left over from the Big Bang"3. It aims to map out minute temperature differences in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation in order to help test theories of the nature of the universe.

When the existence of CMBR was experimentally confirmed, the question of its origin was keenly sought. The Big Bang model already included a prediction that the event would be accompanied by emission of radiation. Siegfried has summarized the current view4:

"Years earlier, [George] Gamow had foreseen that the big bang should have generated ... high intensity radiation from the original stage of expanding universe ... calculations of the radiation's temperature today were made by Gamow's collaborators ... who found that this microwave background should measure about 5 deg Kelvin. (Today's best measurements give a temperature of 2.7 deg)" .

The first part of this, Gamow's own work, is fair enough. Gamow was one of the leaders in promoting the Big Bang model, and presumably was well able to calculate some of its consequences.

Unfortunately, the idea was seized on that the CMBR was the embodiment of the Big Bang radiation prediction.

Siegfried writes above that "calculations of the radiation's temperature today were made", and many other explanations talk about "the temperature of the CMBR radiation", which is supposed to be "the echo of the Big Bang, reverberating around the Universe".

These are nonsense phrases. Temperature is a property which may be possessed by matter, not by radiation. Radiation cannot be said to have a given temperature, where did the idea of saying so come from?

Apparently it comes from the fact that the CMBR spectrum almost exactly corresponds with the theoretical spectrum of emission from an abstract 'black body' at a temperature of around 2.7 deg K. So what has this got to do with the Big Bang?

The Big Bang model does not mention anything in the Universe's early times at such cool temperatures. Matter in the Universe then was supposedly very hot, averaging around 3000 deg C. Radiation produced then would be of visible-light wavelength, far more energetic than microwaves.

So a giant assumption was made. The 'Big Bang' radiation was supposedly transformed into the CMBR radiation by the expansion of the Universe itself, which "stretched out the waves" from visible-light size to microwave size as it went.

Really, this is just another nonsense. An expanding universe would not, of itself, stretch the wavelengths of radiation travelling within it. If it did, then all radiation from distant galaxies billions of light-years away, and hence billions of years old, would also be stretched down towards microwave length, very much more than in observed red shifts.

An important consideration is that the CMBR is very uniform from all over the celestial sphere, fitting onto the theoretical black-body curve to an accuracy of about 1 in 100,000. If it is assumed that the CMBR originated from the Big Bang, there is nothing in the Big Bang model to suggest that any radiation would be created at such a tight wavelength. Even if it was, the radiation would be unlikely to have retained this precision during its subsequent history in different parts of the Universe.

The Hydrogen/CMBR model

Evidence has been given above that the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, CMBR, has no clear connection with a Big Bang. What, then, is its source?

There is one particular candidate which leaps out as obvious -- quanta passing between the hydrogen atoms of the intergalactic and interstellar voids.

This explanation is a very natural one, which fits in neatly with everything we know about CMBR. All hot bodies radiate heat, the heat on our faces from the Sun is infrared radiation, of longer wavelength than visible light.

In the theory of heat radiation, 'hot' means anything above absolute zero, 0 deg K. Even at 2.7 deg K atoms will still radiate, even if very infrequently and at a long, low-energy wavelength.

To be precise, a single atom in interstellar space cannot have a specific temperature. But if all the atoms are treated as an all-pervading gas, that gas can have a temperature, and that temperature appears to be around 2.7 deg K.

The radiation involved will very likely be quantized, that is, it can only have one of a selection of possible values. The CMBR spectrum will be very uniform because the quanta involved are passed on and back throughout the Universe.

In a typical enclosed gas, an energy equilibrium is set up as gas molecules collide and transfer energy. The average distance of travel between collisions is the mean free path for the gas molecules.

In the case of interstellar hydrogen, the mean free path is very large indeed and collisions would be very infrequent. Instead, equilibrium would be obtained by the above interchange of microwave quanta.

This model should be amenable to treatment by quantum mechanics, which deals with the physics of situations where quanta are produced or absorbed. The theory of black-body radiation, mentioned earlier2, already has tie-ins with quantum mechanics. Hydrogen is the simplest type of atom, to which quantum mechanics is readily applied, and analysis should yield further predictions which are testable.

In summary, the current Big-Bang/CMBR model lacks a credible connection between the theoretical Big-Bang event and the data observed for CMBR. The Hydrogen/CMBR model, based on the exchange of microwave quanta between hydrogen atoms in space, explains the observed data more logically and more elegantly.

The Hydrogen/CMBR model has many implications for cosmology and astrophysics. Some of these implications are dealt with in a recent web article5.


1. Cosmic microwave background radiation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background_radiation.
2. Black body. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_body.
3. Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WMAP.
4. Siegfried, T. Strange Matters: undiscovered ideas at the frontiers of space and time. Berkley Books, NY, 2002
5. Noel, D. The Placid Universe Model (2008). http://www.aoi.com.au/bcw/Placid.

The rejection letter

prd@aps.org to davidn
2008 Mar 27
Dear Dr. Noel:

I am writing in reference to your manuscript "A new model for the origin of cosmic microwave background radiation''.

Physical Review D does not, in general, publish papers on speculative alternatives to or reinterpretations of currently accepted theories unless stringent requirements are met. Papers that lie outside the mainstream of current research must justify their publication by including a clear and convincing discussion of the motivation for the new speculation, with reasons for introducing any new concepts.

This discussion should be at a level of detail and precision comparable to that of the accepted theory, and should be at a level of discourse appropriate to the current state of research in the field. If the new formulation results in contradictions with the accepted theory, then there must be both a discussion of what experiments could be done to show that the conventional theory needs improvement, and an analysis showing that the new theory is consistent with existing experiments.

Upon reading your manuscript, I conclude that your paper does not satisfy all of these requirements. I regret to inform you that it is therefore not suitable for publication in Physical Review D.


Editor, Physical Review D

Comments on this matter

The above matter deserves comment, not particularly on the subject matter of the article, but because of what it reveals about the likely treatment of new concepts by the established scientific community.

These comments are made, not in the sense of grievance or complaint, but in the spirit of analyzing what happens in the real world of science, as opposed to the public image of how it operates. This topic can be as interesting and surprising as any area of hard science.

I have suggested
elsewhere that "the 'Peer Review System' works, in science and elsewhere, only up to a certain level of orthodoxy. Above that, it hits the floor level where live those who would be disadvantaged by a change in the status quo".

How the Establishment may react to perceived threats against the status quo is graphically illustrated by the rejection letter above. Looking closely at this, it can be seen that it sets up some truly amazing barriers against a perceived assault.

The requirement to explain the 'motivation' for submitting a new idea is the most obvious. Even with some experience in presenting new ideas, I was taken aback by the brazenness of this concept.

Look then at the passage: "Papers ... must justify their publication by including a clear and convincing discussion ... at a level of detail and precision comparable to that of the accepted theory, and should be at a level of discourse appropriate to the current state of research in the field."

It would be impossible, for a new idea, to satisfy such a requirement. By definition, a new idea cannot come with all the critical background of an established theory. If such a background existed, the idea would not be new.

The name of the editor sending the rejection letter has not been specified, for a particular reason. I suspect that the rejection is generated, not by the views of a specific person, but by the complex of forces acting on that person. That is, the 'Establishment Apparatus' would force the editor, perhaps unconsciously and by the operation of unwritten forces not obvious even within the Apparatus, to such a conclusion.

The CMBR concept put forward above appears rather specialist and not especially controversial. But a capable scientist in the field would realize that it has implications which could act as a bombshell under the 'conventional wisdom' applicable to the structure, nature, and history of the Universe.

These implications are followed up in a Web article, 'The Placid Universe Model', which is at http://www.aoi.com.au/bcw/Placid. This latter article is intended for a general audience, rather than a specialist one, and the expectation is that anyone who studied high-school physics should have no difficulty with it. Even so, I believe that the scientific basis of this article is sound.

David Noel /2008 Apr 17.

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