Why is the night sky not bright?

Dear comrades,

I agree with Harry Nielsen's reply to some criticisms of Alex Nichols on the article Crisis in Cosmology. But I feel there is one point that does deserve a more decisive counter-argument: the Olbers' paradox.

Heinrich Olbers stated that if galaxies and stars had existed for an infinite amount of time then the whole sky would look bright, not dark [at night]. Heinrich Olbers was right (at least if the Universe is not expanding fast enough and if it does not have a fractal shape).

Indeed, the Universe looks bright -- just not as bright as the Sun, because the Sun and the other stars are much warmer than the average temperature of the Universe. Every point of the sky is bright, at the typical wavelength of the Cosmic Background Radiation. It's just a wavelength our eyes cannot see: “an observer having his eyes sensitive to the Planck radiation at 3 K would see that the night sky is bright, as expected by Heinrich Olbers.” (Paul Marmet, The 3K Microwave Background and the Olbers Paradox).

Nevertheless, plasma cosmology does not state that galaxies and stars have existed for an infinite amount of time. Eric J Lerner explained in his famous book The Big Bang Never Happened that stars came into existence at a certain stage of the development of the (infinitely old) Universe, something like 20 billion years ago. The Universe has always existed; galaxies and stars have not.

“The light has been turned on” in the Universe with the start of the nuclear age (fusion inside the stars), but we can't see the light of stars more than 20 billion light-years away. When we look so far we just see what was happening “before” the nuclear age, and those were much darker ages dominated by gravitation and electromagnetism.

If the pace of physical reactions transforming energy is getting faster and faster (and not slower and slower as the Big Bangers postulate), looking around us we would not see an infinitely intense light coming from every point: we would see a lot of light coming from nearer light-emitting spots and darkness when we look at places farther away -- everything covered by a halo of light resembling a 3K blackbody radiation, coming from the interstellar medium (mainly, plasma). Well, in fact that is what we actually see!

The infiniteness of the Universe in space and time is not paradoxical, particularly if we imagine it as an evolving universe, not a stationary one.

(published on In defence of Marxism on December 8, 2005)

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