Is Everything Actually Shrinking?

Article Updated: 27 Feb , 2017

Whoa, here’s something to think about. Maybe the Universe isn’t expanding at all. Maybe everything is actually just shrinking, so it looks like it’s expanding. Turns out, scientists have thought of this.

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Video Transcript

It’s tinfoil hat day again at The Guide To Space. There’s some people who would have you believe the Universe is expanding. They’re peddling this idea it all started with a bang, and that expansion is continuing and accelerating. Yet, they can’t tell us what force is causing this acceleration. Just “dark energy”, or some other JK Rowling-esque sounding thing. Otherwise known as the acceleration that shall not be named, and it shall be taught in the class which follows potions in 3rd period.

I propose to you, faithful viewer, an alternative to this expansionist conspiracy. What if distances are staying the same, and everything is in fact, shrinking? Are we destined to compress all the way down to the Microverse? Is it only a matter of time before our galaxy starts drinking its coffee from a thimble or perhaps sealed in a pendant hanging on Orion’s belt? So, could we tell if that’s actually what’s going on?

Representation of the timeline of the universe over 13.7 billion years, and the expansion in the universe that followed. Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team.

Representation of the timeline of the universe over 13.7 billion years, and the expansion in the universe that followed. Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team.

Better get some scotch tape for the hats, kids. This one gets pretty rocky right out of the gate.
The first horrible and critical assumption here is that shrinking objects and an expanding universe would look exactly the same, which without magic or handwaving just isn’t the case. But you don’t have to take my word for it, we have science to punch holes in our Shrink-truther conspiracy.

Let’s start with distances. If we assumed the Earth and everything on it was getting smaller, we’d also be shrinking things like meter sticks. In the past they would have been larger. If everything was larger in the past, including the length of a meter, this means the speed of light would have appeared slower in the past. So was the speed of light slower in the past? I’m afraid it wasn’t, which really hobbles the shrinky-dink universe plot. But how do we know that?

The diagram shows the electromagnetic spectrum, the absorption of light by the Earth's atmosphere and illustrates the astronomical assets that focus on specific wavelengths of light. ALMA at the Chilean site and with modern solid state electronics is able to overcome the limitations placed by the Earth's atmosphere. (Credit: Wikimedia, T.Reyes)

The diagram shows the electromagnetic spectrum, the absorption of light by the Earth’s atmosphere and illustrates the astronomical assets that focus on specific wavelengths of light. ALMA at the Chilean site and with modern solid state electronics is able to overcome the limitations placed by the Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: Wikimedia, T.Reyes)

You’ve probably seen spectral lines before or at least heard them referenced. Scientists use them to determine the chemical composition of materials. A changing speed of light would affect the spectral lines of distant objects, and because some people are just super smart and were able to do the math on this, we know that when we look at distant gas clouds we find the speed of light has changed no more than one part in a billion over the past 7 billion years.

Shrinking objects would also become more dense over time. This means that the universal constant of gravity should appear smaller in the past. Some have actually studied this, to determine whether it has changed over time, and they’ve also seen no change.

Artists illustration of the expansion of the Universe (Credit: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center)

Artists illustration of the expansion of the Universe (Credit: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center)

If objects in the Universe were shrinking, the Universe would actually be collapsing. If galaxies weren’t moving away from each other, their gravity would cause them to start falling toward each other. If they were shrinking, assuming their mass doesn’t change, their gravity would be just as strong, so shrinking wouldn’t stop their mutual attraction. A Universe of shrinking objects would look exactly opposite to what we observe.

So, good news. We’re pretty sure that objects, and us, and all other things in the Universe are not shrinking. We’re still not sure why anyone would name a thing Shrinky Dinks. Especially a craft toy marketed at children.

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13 Responses

  1. john kulick says:

    I have written a couple of papers that have been published in peer reviewed journals describing the geometry of expansion based models.

    The First Paper defines a Multidimensional Geometric Expansion of Spacetime.

    The Second Paper proposes a model by which inertial mass is lost over the passage of Cosmological Time which would cause matter to contract.

    The second paper makes a strong theoretical argument against the Big Bang Model. If someone made as scathing and valid argument against my model, I would have to admit it is wrong.

    The third paper should be done in a few weeks for a publisher to review. The working title for the abstract is “Dark Matter, Quasar Distribution, and Evoluion of the Universe’s Structure”. Dark Matter is not needed and a number of heretofor unresolved issues in astonomy are resolved or “after the fact” fixes are replaced with predicted effects.

    The Fourth Paper, which also is mostly done with respect to calculations, should be available to submit to a Journal by June. Dark Energy is not needed.

  2. afarmer says:

    I have an alternative to the statement: the “Universe is expanding” or instead is “shrinking” as commented in your article. I am thinking Instead the speed of light is really slowing down over long distances, creating the illusion of space expanding or in your theory the universe is shrinking.
    I know this goes against all previous mathematical reasoning, but thought it was worth a comment; let me know why this goes against all reasoning.

    • doawithlife says:

      Before I poke holes, I’d like to specify a few things and have you clarify.
      1) If you mean light from other stars is slower then normal light, then we would have noticed. The speed of light on our planet is basically constant, weather that light comes from other stars or from our own star. This has been measured time and again.
      2) My thought to expand on what you have. Light slows as it gets further from the 0 point(center of the universe).

      Basically, can you expand on what your saying?

  3. doawithlife says:

    Yes yes, 100 times yes.
    Scroll down on the linked page to find the post I made 5 months ago concerning this. Below is a small quote from my post where I talk specifically about the universe collapsing, the entire thing is much longer.
    “Waves in our universe are attempting to get back to zero, to normalize the universal equation back to 0. Think of air being sucked into a vacuum. Problem is there is a bottleneck of sorts. As 0.2*infinity*x tries to move to 0.0, 0.4*infinity*y tries to move to 0.0 at the same time. So they split the difference. 0.2 becomes 0.1 and 0.4 becomes 0.2. Keep the astrological constant of 0.2/0.4 or 0.1/02 (of course I am ignoring the 3rd coordinate). On the otherside of zero is a bunch of frequencies that add up to be the exact opposite, or the superpartner.”

    Relativity is a neat thing. It means the universe can be confined in the space i, yet we can never reach the edge. It also means we can be collapsing, yet seem to be expanding. Long as everything collapses at an even rate, who would know?

    All the holes science punched in this, are straight silly. If the universe is shrinking, then the vibration of sub-atomic particles is the equalizing force. Vibration at this level is what dictates time, if you change the speed of vibration then time changes and that accounts for speed of light and gravitation changes or lack there of.
    As I mentioned above in my quote, it’s all relative to each other and they all move accordingly. If they keep an even movement, then you can’t detect gravity changes over time. Because from your relative stand point, it hasn’t changed.
    Not magic, simple. 5 months ago, I dismissed his scientific holes – without a video to make them. The basic theory covers gravity, light, and time and why they would seem the same.
    Apparently these people don’t understand the underlying theory at all. At all.

  4. chfosmith says:

    TO: Dalibor Frívaldský : The correct Web address for the paper.

    Seems like a careless error to me.

    The problem with the speed of light objection is that the speed of light is constant in any reference frame, but if the reference frame changes?
    That is how anybody can slow light down (in a lab) to an “apparent” walking speed without a violation of the theory of relativity.
    It has to be noted that speed changes seen by astronomers can have many causes besides the Doppler effect, such as gravity lenses, polarization changes due to electric fields, etc.
    This is a very complicated area of physics, which, unfortunately, still needs a lot more research.

  5. h1a8 says:

    I disagree with the reasoning why the universe is not shrinking. According to the universal law of gravity the shrinking would imply creating larger distances and thus weaker gravity forces. Double the distance will the Force of gravity is fourthed.

  6. phototheorist says:

    You hear a lot about if the universe is shrinking or expanding or the speed of light is speeding up or slowing down. Imagine the universe in a wave form. ( A ripple of formation). It slows as it gets to the top and speeds up as it lowers to the bottom. The speed of light remains constant only to bend, being dependent on the gravitational pull of the massive suns. Depending on how close the massive suns are to each other and their gravitational strength, light can create an arc or a small S pattern. Something to think about in one’s spare time.

  7. Vic says:

    How about the universe is expanding/shrinking (changing) because there is a force outside its realm and time acting upon it, and that force is not subject to the realm, time and laws of nature/physics of the universe?

  8. ShortForRichard says:

    Condensing is a better analogy. A theory I have held for many years. If you are going to rethink it, you can’t just change one aspect and use the theories you did not change to prove it can’t be true. The notion that the gravitation constant would not change is of no more use in this model than our current model because everything is absolutely relative to the observer’s frame of reference, besides which, as we already know, gravity is not a force in non-Newtonian mechanics, which is where the constant comes from and it has been out the door for what, a hundred years? Why? Because Everything is absolutely relative and the gravitation constant can only tell you that basically, you, the observer, exists in the same way Newton, as an observer existed.

    Gravity is not a force, it is travel through space-time – we are spiraling into our own gravity well. Deeper = More Dense is one way to think about it, but how in the heck can or should an assumption about mass remaining constant be made, justified or defended. In our grand rethink, what do we suppose radiation to be – well, it can certainly be energy given off as particles condense.

    The notion of a vacuum or of a universally rigid ether – that space is a certain volume within which reality happens continues to hold back our understanding. Matter and energy define space and are wholly responsible for it’s existence. Get enough energy condensed in a given volume and it collapses into matter – under the right conditions, all the energy in a long weightless wave is trapped, it spirals in and forms a stable little chunk of ball lightning. The electrical forces in/out balanced with the magnetic forces out/in. There is actually no more mass than there was when the energy was stretched out as a wave (i.e. – no mass) – mass is a secondary construct created by the electro-magnetic interactions of this little ball lightning with others nearby.

    Being absolutely relative within the same density framework, which we can envision as directly related to our radial distance from a ‘gravitational’ center, determines the size/strength of force/total energy – call it what you will, but every bit of everything is stuck in the same relative soup surrounding the observer. Relatively, everything is in the same proportions with the same relative energy levels as everything else in that framework, thus the constants will not change.

    A rock falling to earth must give up energy to get there and we must pump energy into a system to lift it up, off and push it away from the gravitational center. This may very well be the key to how propulsion with no reaction mass works – the microwaves pump everything up and it drifts to the density level associated with where it belongs in terms of the radial distance from the gravitational center.

    In a similar fashion, the speed of light will do you no good. Here we may envision the wave as containing a certain amount of energy and we may even imagine both the frequency and amplitude as being scaled up in regions of low gravity, condensing back down in perfect unison relative to the density of space-time where said energy is harvested (aka – measured, aka, condensed into a photon)

    No problems with wave particle duality – it is all energy and one condenses it to a particle by the very act of detecting its existence. If an observer harvests the light energy in the dead of near gravity free space – they themselves, their spaceship and all of their equipment are within the same density state as will be the light that they measure at that particular point of observation.

    Regardless of any of it, it brings up a great example of how we cherry pick the axioms that suit the conclusion we hope to draw – just like invoking the gravitational constant in a universe where gravity is not a force.

    One that has always bugged me is, again, holding on to a classical notion that is clearly at odds with our obviously non-classical actual existence. And that is the doppler shift. Throughout the long, arduous process of accepting space-time curvature and dispensing with Euclidean geometry, we still presume and calculate our physics based on the notion that light travels in a straight line from point A to Point B across the vastness of space and time. The presumption that red shift is and can only be doppler shift as rendered by Euclidean geometry in a Newtonian universe while simultaneously dispelling such notions is absolutely maddening. We base everything on the red shift – the size and age of the universe, the ‘fact’ that it is expanding, the Big Bang theory – Everything! Yet, magically, light is exempt from the curvature of space-time – it makes a direct bee-line from point A to point B, traveling on a straight chord undercutting every curve of space-time. Is that what sub-space is? All the more maddening because the answer, I’m sorry, is, duhh.., kind of obvious – isn’t it?

    Take a sinusoidal shaped length of rubber band in a straight line and uniformly stretch it into a curve while keeping the endpoints fixed – well of course it is overall longer than it was before and the result is the frequency of the sinusoid decreases – it shifts toward the red! Red shift must be a measure of curvature more so, or in addition to, increasing distance. One might be inclined to think exclusively curvature because, say at the time some light escaped from a star 10 billion years ago, the star was 10 billion light years from earth. If the light is travelling free from the source, there is nothing to pull it no matter how fast the star is moving away from us. If we are similarly moving away from the star, perhaps the light reaches us 10.5 billion years later – but how in the heck can that red shift we observe have anything to do with how fast the 2 bodies are moving apart? Light is emitted and travels at the speed of light and nothing can travels faster, but the notion of a red shift tied to the source forces us to have an emission source traveling faster than the speed of light before any red shift occurs at all – it doesn’t make any sense and the stretching of the wave as a whole by being forced to follow a curved path makes complete sense.

    So why do we cling to the former notion and beat the latter with a stick? On the other hand, the notion of light not travelling at all, but simply being the instantaneous excitation of an existing string by the 2 smallest distance apart end points to interact with it is also compelling and worthy of consideration to explain entanglement. Is anyone investigating how entangled photons from a distant start might be used for instantaneous communication across the galaxy, or between galaxies? Seems to me, if you are going to go there and say it is an instantaneous bridge immune to our feeble notions of distance, well then that is how advanced civilizations will be communicating, by manipulating naturally entangled photons. I get a little laugh every time I see an article saying something along the lines of “demonstrated quantum entanglement over the greatest distance yet, when distance, is in fact meaningless to the theory itself ” – Shouldn’t SETI be looking at twinklings from stars rather than searching the entire sky for radio waves?

    So, back to everything condensing into its own gravity well. An astronaut flies into deep space at a very fast speed and comes back and everyone he/she knew has died of old age a long time ago. Did the astronaut really travel such a great distance at great speed? Or was it a smallish distance at a modest speed and it is simply that the further and further he/she moved away from the gravitational center of his/her home planet, the slower and slower became the rate of the passage of time within his/her relative framework? I put it to you that the universe doesn’t care and math will always serve it up just the way you like it. Such is the inescapably pervasive nature of relativity – The universe is going to do what the universe does and math is a superbly amenable descriptive labeling system whose one and only promise is “if you build it, they will come”. Rebuild your view of the universe with different assumptions or axioms that play together nicely and math will always reward consistently built input with valid predictions and punish you with ridiculous notions from inconsistent or flawed input. The universe doesn’t care how we describe it and math doesn’t care how we go about using it.

    What possible experiments might be helpful to test the inward spiraling, condensing universe?
    1) Instantaneous quantum entangled measurement comparisons between a LaGrange point and the surface of the earth, somehow, perhaps.
    2) Ancient dead flesh and/or plant matter – the dinosaurs were huge, but were they really, at the time, relatively? Based on what we know about biomechanics in Earth’s family tree, we must be able to get a sense of how many cells, how many moving parts there are in a living animal-machine. With access to preserved ancient flesh, can we determine if the number of cells in a brontosaurus is more similar to those in a sperm whale or perhaps closer to the number of cells in Blue-Jay. If the latter, it favors an argument that everything was on a relative ‘puffed up’ scale millions of years ago.
    3) This bit might actually demonstrate the yang of the yin and go toward an argument of a natural sustaining or hedging of size and or mass of Earth or any planet with photosynthetic life. Regardless, a great thought experiment with possible physical experiments to back it up. Here goes – we understand by conservation of mass and energy that when a photon strikes the right molecule in the right way, the energy is absorbed and excites the molecule into a higher energy state. Later, perhaps, the molecule collapses to the previous lower energy state accompanied by an emission of energy equivalent to the energy of the photon – all is preserved. Energy is absorbed and things heat up and then they cool as the excess energy is released. We also know energy and mass can be converted between these two forms. But it takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce a small mass and likewise a small mass can yield a tremendous amount of energy. Let’s set our sites on something a little less dramatic than nuclear bombs or turning lead into gold – Photosynthesis – magical life – producing food from sunlight. One photon and one molecule of a plant or microbe. What really happens is a mystery and the mysteries of life and the universe are vast and intricate. Just because we have lots of trouble converting energy into mass, should we then assume that photosynthesis is merely a trick of heating and cooling, or are we looking at a microscopic process that does just that, one photon at a time. A tiny, tiny amount of mass to be sure, but over nearly half the surface of the earth exposed at all times, and accounting for periodic cloud cover, snow and rocky outcroppings, but also multiple ‘addressable’ depths within bodies of water, how many photons participate in photosynthesis over the course of an eon? And if photosynthesis actually converts the energy of every participating photon into mass, how much more massive is the planet with life on it compared to a lifeless rock of similar initial mass? That’s the thought experiment. A physical experiment, assuming the thought experiment actually results in any kind of appreciable mass, may be out of reach in terms of the sensitivities required, but the idea would be a living plant within a closed system encased in glass, sitting on a scale in the sun. I would be afraid the glass could actually ‘breathe’ enough mass to render the experiment futile, unless the plant could be kept alive for a very long time. Perhaps the plant in a closed glass container with air pressure, the system itself then enclosed in a larger glass container in which a near vacuum is pulled and then direct sunlight onto it all and see if it gains weight.

    That’s all the manifesto I can muster for now. Happy Physicing!

  9. carl prater says:

    The accelerating expansion of the universe is due to the repulsive gravity of diffuse antimatter. Just as matter’s interaction with spacetime is attractive, antimatter’s opposing interaction with spacetime must be repulsive. This accounts for all observations and solves some of cosmology’s biggest mysteries, not the least of which is baryogenesis. As the early universe cooled, matter and antimatter coalesced from the primordial energy. They would usually self annihilate, but antimatter with repulsive gravity would tend to diffuse while matter with attractive gravity would tend to concentrate. Eventually enough concentrated matter gathered to form galaxies, stars, and planets while antimatter continued to diffuse and spread. Antimatter with repulsive gravity would be unable to form stars and therefore would never be fused into higher atomic number nuclei. So antimatter exists primarily as antiprotons or anti-hydrogen as positrons permit. There could be versions of anti-helium too, but only as created during the earliest moments after the Big Bang. This is why no antimatter structures have been observed in the empty regions of intergalactic space. It also explains why gamma rays from annihilations are not observed since they can only occur at the particle or atomic level. So the makeup of the universe is such that matter is concentrated in galaxies which are surrounded by diffuse antimatter in the spaces between. As the spaces between galaxies grows, the repulsive gravity of diffuse antimatter will first neutralize and then dominate over the attractive gravity of concentrated matter causing the accelerating expansion of the universe observed today.

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