Every so often I encounter a work that has greater possibilities, but is limited, in some form, by the creator’s inabilities. Usually this occurs in the arts, but recently I decided to cave in, after several years of resisting his ubiquitous ads in science magazines, and bought (very cheaply) Terence Witt’s self-published book on cosmogony and cosmology, Our Undiscovered Universe: Introducing Null Physics, The Science Of Uniform And Unconditional Reality. It’s the sort of book that most people, ensconced in publishing, sneer at. When poets or writers self-publish their works, even if as mediocre as that put forth by big houses, there is always a taint of vanity. Similarly, because Witt self-published his book, without submitting it to the rigors and politics of peer review, most scientific types scoff at it. But, they do so at their own peril. This is not to say that Witt’s hypotheses and predictions are all wrong, although I suspect many are and some are not, but because the book does detail, very well and vividly, the manifest flaws in the current Big Bang Theory of universal origins. Now, Witt is not the first person to do so. In fact, Fred Hoyle, proponent of the Steady State Theory of universal origin, was the first to deride the current dominant model by derisively calling it the Big Bang.
What Witt does manage to do is take many common (more accurately, good) sense arguments, and weave the most detailed counter-theory to the Big Bang yet published. Having said that, there are quite a few flaws that even an amateur like I can easily poke holes through. But, the fact that the theory does not accomplish all that its subtitles claim is not the book’s biggest fault. That would be Witt’s own meager writing skills and poor semiotic and dialectic abilities — he should have hired a good editor and proofreader. In short, a better writer could have put forth a better (in the sense of being personally compelling) case with the same evidence. Not that it would be enough to overthrow the current dogma (and, yes, the continued ad hoc additions and subtractions from the Big Bang Theory does qualify it as a dogma, as it is detached enough from objective facts), but a better written, and less prolix, book could have convinced more outliers in the Academy to, if not endorse Witt’s views, at least acknowledge the painfully obvious: that the current cosmic creation model that dominates science is, at the very least, as coherent as Swiss cheese is uniform.
Let me add, at this point, that my review of Witt’s book makes no claims of attempting to prove or refute the many physical equations and/or material observations beyond lay understanding; it will just give a lay critique of the overall thrust. The reason for this will become clear when I quote from some of the book’s biggest detractors, whose errors of detraction are as bad as Witt’s. Having said that, much of modern physics is a house of cards that even the laity can recognize. According to the book’s bio on Witt, he is a wealthy, self-made entrepreneur, who made his fortune in biomedicine. The book runs well over 400 pages, and is quite detailed, although, tellingly, it is not standardly referenced. All of these factors — the lack of peer review, the structural uniqueness of the book, Witt’s own non-cosmological background, the self-publication, and the occasional errors (scientific, dialectic, and grammatical) he makes, have allowed many of his critics to savage him as a latter day Immanuel Velikovsky, if not Erich Von Daniken. This is unfortunate, because the book has, generally speaking, many more pros than cons.
Before I detail some of the book’s best and worst points, let me state that Witt has been savaged, often correctly, but far more often wrongly, in assorted chatrooms. Far too often, the "critiques" devolve down to mere ad hominem. The ironic thing is that most of his chatroom critics are misinformed sciolists — blog post Buddhas and entry level physics students, who are significantly less informed about physics and cosmology than Witt (or me), have not even read the book, and subsequently misrepresent (often blatantly) Witt’s ideas. It’s one thing to honestly savage a claim, but one need do so by having read and understood the claim, not merely labeling someone a crackpot, when much of Witt’s ideas are more soundly materially grounded than many current Big Bang ad hoc creations — superstrings, dark matter and dark energy — which are mere patches to forestall the dike’s many leaks.
Of course, that does not mean there are no problem’s with Witt’s ideas. Currently, there are two major non-chatroom essays that tear Witt to shreds, and while much of the claims are technical, those which are not often devolve down to ad hominem, again. The writers basically miss much of reality for their theoretical claims. The first lengthy essay, written in 2008, was by physics professor Ben Monreal. Much of the piece contains useless attacks, such as this:
Witt’s ideas are standard crackpot claptrap: some things are meaningless sophistry (pseudomathematical exposition of Existence vs. Non-Existence and Infinity), some things are flat experimental falsehoods (Witt’s guesswork about the atom, for example), and some things are chains of completely un-anchored speculation (a new phenomenon to explain the Cosmic Microwave Background; a second phenomenon to hide the first; a third phenomenon to explain the second; and so on).
The reason that this quote is useless is because it mixes in solid criticism with criticism that is dead wrong, thereby making Monreal’s motives and critical abilities as suspect as what he claims of Witt’s. For example, Monreal is correct to call Witt’s mathematical excursions, involving the meaning of Existence, sophistry (one cannot make real math from a philosophic posit, there has to be a specific quanta). But Witt does bring to bear some good and specific criticisms about both the atom’s structure and the still hazy and unproven existence of the growing zoo of sub-atomic particles. As well, he does puncture holes in much of the CMB, but fails to proffer a good alternative. So, the truth likely lies somewhere between Monreal’s and Witt’s claims, which thus casts Monreal in the role of not only a Defender of the Faith (and we all know how well history treats those fellows), but Proponent of a Rival Theory (which also asperses much of his claims with envy and its concomitant protectionism).
Monreal is at his best flaying Witt when he does not delve into abstruse mathematics, and nails Witt for, as I mentioned, his semiotic liabilities:
Chapter 3 contains such gems as Theorem 3.1: "The Existence of Any Half of the Universe is Equal to the Nonexistence of the Other Half" (pg. 66) and Theorem 3.9: "The Time Required for Light to Traverse the Universe is Eternity, infinity/c" (pg. 72). I am not making this up. Witt throws around "infinity" as though it were an ordinary real number; he multiplies and divides by it, etc., with normal algebraic cancellation. This is complete nonsense; there are two centuries of mathematical thought figuring out the mathematical properties of infinity, and Witt's approach is valid in exactly none of them.
This is a readily understandable dagger to the heart of the base of much of Witt’s subsequent mathematics (which went awry with his mathematizing Existence), and he does so again here:
Chapter 13: Crackpot gravity
Witt launches his now-typical rigamarole (sic) on the topic of gravity. He defines half-a-dozen unmeasurable quantities ("An object's internal hypervolume is proportional to its energy and the constant of their proportionality is the gravitational index" (pg 238)), then forgets about them and cites perfectly mainstream physical equations (the photon's gravitational energy is the same as its kinetic energy). And then, again as usual, he starts tossing out careful numerical predictions for utterly unmeasurable things.
But, overall, Monreal does not give Witt any due for his poking holes through many of the manifest flaws of modern cosmogony- such as the fact that there is no provable way to claim physics has or has not evolved along with the rest of the cosmos (although Witt believes that it has not evolved); that there is no mechanism for the creation of matter ex nihilo; that there is no proof, whatsoever, of dark energy or matter; and a dozen or more other manifest flaws in current cosmological theory. And Monreal’s attack is all the weaker for these flaws.
The second major assault on Witt’s book came from someone named Ian Fisk, a man from New Zealand whose qualifications to opine in scientific detail on such a book seem to consist of his being a … noted hiker. There simply is nothing, save his own opinion, that would lend the man any credence to make any deep physical claims against Witt. This, though is obvious from both his writing, and the fact that he claims the notoriously bad online Lowest Common Denominator website Wikipedia as a source. Like Monreal, he does get in some good shots at Witt’s mathematical claims:
Infinity in mathematics is the concept of having no bound. Here is null geometry's definition of infinity: Infinity is the universe's invariant diameter and "The universe's diameter is the invariant width of nonexistence. It constitutes a fixed, exact level of linear largeness, and therefore the absolute metric of unboundedness" (page 43). Thus Terence Witt has turned a concept with no units into a quantity with the units of length. It gets worse. He implies that infinity has a size or magnitude by use of the word "invariant" and a statement on the next page – "Although finities and infinities cannot be directly compared, their magnitude is preserved under addition and subtraction". In other words infinity has a magnitude (can be counted, i.e. is finite) and so you can add 1 to it and get something greater than infinity.
But then he shows he clearly has no idea what constitutes cosmology when he states:
The first obstacle for any cosmology to overcome is Olbers' paradox where the night sky is as bright as the surface of a star in a static, infinite and eternal universe. The Big Bang resolution is that the universe is finite in time and expanding. Terence Witt starts with discarding the optical version of the paradox because "light would probably be scattered long before it travelled the distance necessary to make Olbers' evenings white". This is incorrect since any light that is scattered from a line of sight to a star is replaced by light that is scattered into the line from nearby line of sights. The paradox also applies to the entire electromagnetic spectrum, e.g., radio astronomers would see a uniformly bright radio sky. It even includes the neutrinos emitted by the stars. Thus any sources of scattering would have to cover the entire spectrum without any gaps and also scatter neutrinos. At this point we know that "Our Undiscovered Universe" has not resolved Olbers' paradox and so contains an invalid cosmology.
Of course, modern cosmology recognizes that Olber’s Paradox is not really a paradox, and many of the reasons are even contained within the Wikipedia link Fisk provides, which Fisk apparently did not read, lest he would not have stated: "At this point we know that 'Our Undiscovered Universe' has not resolved Olbers' paradox and so contains an invalid cosmology." In short, the paradox is no paradox, merely a misnomer, therefore not anything that any cosmology need deal with.
One of Witt’s more intriguing claims is his idea of lumetic decay explaining away the red-shift of distant galaxies. Fisk analogizes it to the old concept of "tired light," and uses those arguments against Witt’s claim, even though Witt takes care to distance himself from the earlier idea. Fisk is thus straw-manning. Witt may indeed be wrong in his posit, but Fisk is simply too lazy to deal with Fisk’s claims, so tackles an already discarded one as a proxy. Similarly, he rips into Witt in this following example, only to aid Witt’s argument, at least dialectically:
You can explore the site to see some more of his non-science. You can immediately see a couple of the typical excuses that crackpots come up about why their revolutionary theory is ignored (from the Technical FAQ page):
- When is the theoretical physics community going to comment on Our Undiscovered Universe?
It will be interesting to see. Credibility is the coin of the realm in science, and there are quite a few good reasons, such as fear of losing funding, for a scientist to be conservative. Keep in mind that the cold fusion fiasco is still a painful memory for many physicists, and the last thing they want to do is be associated with any bold new claims.
- If Our Undiscovered Universe is such an incredible scientific breakthrough, why wasn't it published in a respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal?
Peer-reviewed physics journals are excellent venues for presenting new measurements, statistical analyses and mathematical models, but they are not designed to revisit long-standing interpretations of well known measurements. Journals are published by consensus. They reinforce the reigning paradigms; they do not publish papers that challenge paradigms.
Now, as my wife worked for years in the sciences, I can tell you that Witt’s answers are nothing if accurate. What exactly is crack-potty about scientists being slaves to funding, or that peer review reinforces accepted paradigms? Obviously, Fisk would do well to read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions.
Not only does peer review stifle real science, it can lead to today’s Big Bang crackpottery, as well- dark matter, dark energy, strings and superstrings, branes, multiple universes, cosmological constants, infinitely branching cosmos, etc., none of which have come close to being scientifically verified. One of the major problems with current science is that it eschews its fundament: the scientific method, despite the scientific method’s being a tool, and the greatest discovery in human history.
For the sake of brevity, I will now highlight a handful of the best and worst portions of Witt’s book, and do so mostly chronologically. The first boner the book makes comes in its preface, where Witt cams the must fundamental mystery of the cosmos is not how it came to be, but why? Yet, right here he derails, because science, and the scientific method cannot answer such a question, and since the rest of his book tries to answer that query, it becomes more a philosophical tract than a scientific one. Just as intent is meaningless in art, because one can never know an artist’s true intent, only his result, so is intent meaningless in science. It puts me in mind of the great old television show, The Prisoner, where the show’s hero short-circuits a supercomputer by asking it the one unknowable question: why? In the preface he also shows, for the first of many times, why a good editor was needed. In describing the term axiom (p. xix), he calls it a "major tenant," when he clearly meant "tenet." These errors of judgment and editing augur much of the rest of the book’s flaws; perhaps the biggest of which is that, in answer to why the cosmos came to be, all the book can muster is… because. Yes, Witt erects his counter-theory to the Big Bang, but, even if one were to accept all his physical premises, it comes nowhere near to answering his initial query of why?
Early on, Witt posits that the universe is unchanging (in the holistic sense) and its laws are also unchanging. Yet, there simply is no way we can even know if all of the physics of the local observable cosmos apply uniformly. From afar, we cannot even know if a distant galaxy is matter or anti-matter. Much of Witt’s posits are, thus, based in faith, that least scientific of terms. As example, one of my earliest childhood ideas was that the cosmos consists of nothing, but nothing in motion. I was not the first person to posit that mass = nothing in motion; and Witt, in this regard, is the prime champion of this claim, but he, ultimately, offers little more proof than my childhood hunch. But, whereas much of Witt’s objection to modern Big Bang ideology resides in its being fundamentally immaterialistic, whereas Witt, far more so, is a materialist (as is Lee Smolin, a physicist whose views share some consonance with Witt’s, in opposition to the Big Bang), this materialism is not only limited to matter, but the idea of there being only three physical dimensions and one temporal one.
Then Witt makes another error, this one the bad semiotic one I previously mentioned: he starts defining and using the concept of existence and trying to construct mathematical proofs about it. But this is like trying to mathematically deduce a robin, or even its song. He will state, "Existence is by definition incomplete nonexistence." Great, but this says exactly zero of scientific import. Semiotically, Witt is mixing "hard" numbers with "soft" metaphors, and it becomes a grand solipsism. This is bad enough in philosophy, but it’s fatal in math and science. This is not to say that I do not find myself, to a degree, simpatico with Witt’s philosophy, but it’s simply wrong to conflate that with a scientific proof. Yet, despite flaws like this, Witt does score some points when he, in essence, argues that cosmic paradigms that make use of multiverses or omniverses are silly, since the ‘universe,’ by definition, is everything. The existence of "other" universes, if proved, merely means expanding the definition of universe, just as the discovery of other galaxies necessitated redefining the universe. Witt also does well when he disposes of the idea that space is being created by the continued expansion of the cosmos. He fares less well when he claims that all moments of time permanently exist in space, separated by infinite distances. This, however, is anti-materialist. Because, dividing time into its smallest fractions would show that the motion of the earth, on its axis, about the sun, about the center of the galaxy, and in the cosmic context, must be moving by infinitesimal degrees, so that with each infinitesimal moment of time that passes, each moment is separated by only almost infinitesimally small distances. In this, Witt violates his own idea’s materialism willy-nilly.
The book’s second part gets even dicier, as one of its claims from Part One is "Time is the difference of space." This is further semiotic nonsense, as it was not proved in Part One because it cannot be proved, as stated. It is a metaphor (and an irrational one, at that), not a mathematical proof. As the book progresses, he makes some interesting claims about the eternal recycling of hydrogen, and claiming that spiral galaxies are whirlpools, although his proofs are spotty. Throughout the book I made many notes, but, now, in looking through many of them, I see that their detail is not as important as the pattern they weave: Witt’s book is not really a work of science, nor even a scientific proof. Rather, it is a philosophic challenge to the current dogma of the Big Bang. Viewed as science, most of Witt’s critics are right about many of the flaws they point out (way too numerous to list); but, as a philosophy, Witt is on to something far more material and far more profound than his detractors are willing to credit him with.
By the end of the book, Witt makes predictions about varied things, such as spiral galaxies being shown to suck stars into their centers, like whirlpools, as well as red shift being cause by lumetic decay, and while these claims are as yet unsubstantiated, the fact is that Big Bang does so, as well, and its ad hoc creations are far less rooted in observable reality: dark matter, dark energy, gravitons, superstrings, tachyons, quarks, leptons, etc. And it’s these sorts of ever-expanding, and unproven, ideas and objects, that litter the dominant model far more so than any comparable faith-based things litter Witt’s. As mentioned, physicist Lee Smolin argued well against such things in many of his books, especially, The Problem With Physics. And no one calls him a quack or crackpot. Likely this is because Smolin’s works are grounded much more in testable physics whereas Witt’s work is, despite his saltations through mathematics and physics, a profoundly philosophic one. Eric J. Lerner’s 1991 book, The Big Bang Never Happened, which expands upon the plasma universe model proposed by Hannes Alfven, by contrast, is more observationally grounded, therefore less philosophic than Witt’s book (and, interestingly, Witt dismisses Alfven’s theory, as well as the Big Bang and Steady State theories).
In this regard, though, one might best hearken back to the term used to describe modern scientists a few centuries ago: natural philosopher; but not in the exact sense of its old meaning, but in its fully modern incarnation: that of someone who uses science to postulate on philosophy. Now, having termed Witt’s book a philosophic tract, and having labeled him a philosophic materialist, let me append one more term to him and his ideas: reformer. That is to say that Witt’s ideas, sans a likely misguided dogma in the field he writes of, would likely not cohere into something full of its own weight. But (and it’s an important but), that its import is in its iteration of a dogma’s failures is not to be as easily dismissed as something akin to Velikovskian comets-cum-planets, nor Von Danikenesque ancient astronauts. This, conversely, does not mean that Witt is the Alfred Wegener (of "continental drift" fame) of cosmology, but it would not shock me if, between 2050 and 2100, the dominant "standard model" of cosmology will not be the Big Bang, but something that is somewhere between the current model and Witt’s argument- and perhaps quite a bit closer to Witt’s side of the spectrum, although likely not all the way. Unfortunately, for a work of natural philosophy, Witt’s book, as mentioned, is deadly dull, and could really have used a good science editor, not just for proofreading, but to school Witt in the use of dialectics as a tool.
Is Our Undiscovered Universe a good book? No. It’s poorly edited, loaded with semiotic gaffes and poor dialectic, and, in many senses, reads exactly like what it is, a high-end vanity press book. But, just because Witt does not present his ideas in the best possible way does not mean that they lack merit. It is a book regarding science and philosophy, after all; Witt made no claims to the science-based artistry of Loren Eiseley, only to be another in that rare breed, the outsider who is right. In many ways, my stance toward the arts puts me in a similar situation, and accounts for my sympathy; except there are three distinct advantages I have: 1) my claims are not theoretical, but provable, 2) I do not stray too far from my areas of expertise, and 3) I have the dialectic skill and pattern recognition ability to make and impose my correct views in a debate. Most claimants and critics cannot, and, as shown, most of Witt’s detractors resort to some spurious claims and mathematics, themselves; and when that flails, turn to ad hominem.
No one ever said criticism was the province of logicians. Witt’s book may not be good, but the philosophic import of his ideas are sound (regardless of any sympathies I bear); even if some do run afoul of current observation and speculation. I do doubt that Witt, or anyone else, in the foreseeable future, will ever get a grasp of a Grand Unified Theory or Theory Of Everything, for science will, by its nature, always be a thing added to; it will never be "complete." But Null Physics may be an important slap in the face to those willfully blinded by their own entanglement in a granting system that adores the status quo, even when it is failing. For this, alone, Witt’s book and work deserve a wider audience, inside and outside the Ivy Halls of Academia.Powered by Sidelines