The Insular Institute was founded in 2002 by a small group of independent scientists, with the objective of exploring alternatives to the standard model of cosmology. Over the course of the next 15 years, members of the Institute published a number of papers on alternative cosmological models, and presented the results of their research at several international conferences. These publications and presentations can be found elsewhere on the Lost-in-Spacetime website.
Some of the key concepts developed by the Institute are summarised below.
The Insular Institute was wound up in 2016 following the death of two of its founder members. However, much of the research initiated during its lifetime continues to be developed by other scientists, some of which will continue to be reported in the Lost-in-Spacetime blog.
The mission of the Insular Institute was:
- to explain the phenomena of Dark Energy and Dark Matter
- to explore alternatives to the ΛCDM ‘Concordance Model’ of cosmology
- to elucidate how gravity actually works at the sub-atomic scale in the context of General Relativity
There has always been some controversy as to whether Einstein’s field equations of General Relativity are consistent with Mach’s principle – that the mass of every particle is due to its interaction with every other particle in the universe. The concept of a Machian universe is particularly attractive as the universe would then be a zero energy system – it can be created from nothing in such a way that the total rest mass energy of all the matter in the universe is equal and opposite to the gravitational energy between all the matter it contains. It can be shown that the Machian nature of General Relativity can be made explicit by expressing the stress-energy tensor in the Einstein equation in appropriate cosmological units, i.e.. mass/energy is expressed as a fraction of the total mass/energy of the universe, and distance/time is expressed as a fraction of the size of the universe. Once this is done, it can be seen that Newton’s gravitational constant, G, is not in fact a constant at all, but is directly proportional to the age of the universe. This has many consequences for cosmic dynamics and other cosmological phenomena such as black holes. It also has profound implications for Planck scale phenomena.
Hubble Red Shift
The standard explanation for the observed Hubble red shift is that our universe is expanding following its birth in the Big Bang (plus inflation). This cosmic expansion is predicted as a consequence of combining the equations of General Relativity with the Robinson-Walker spacetime metric. In the absence of a cosmological constant (Lambda), the solution to these equations leads to a cosmological model with an increasing, but decelerating, scale factor. Applying the same equations using a Machian cosmology gives a linearly increasing scale factor, assuming that the system starts in equilibrium (not in fact the case). So again, the usual interpretation would be to say that our universe is expanding. But there is another much more radical mechanism that can give rise to an increasing scale factor: the fundamental particles that constitute our universe are shrinking with time. This is more than a semantic distinction. By removing the implicit coupling between the cosmological scale, used to measure the effects of gravity, from the quantum scale, used to measure interactions involving the electromagnetic field, many previously inexplicable observational phenomena and cosmological coincidences can be readily understood.
The concordance model of cosmology assumes the existence of a mysterious dark energy, that comprises about 75% of the total matter/energy in the universe. This assumption is based on the relatively recent observation that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating following an earlier period of deceleration.
A cosmology based on the Quasi Static Universe model, incorporating Mach’s principle, can be shown to account for the observed cosmological dynamics without any recourse to additional scalar fields.
Dark Matter is another component of the concordance model of cosmology, and is thought to account for about 21% of the energy density of the universe (leaving only 4% for baryonic matter). Its existence is implied from a number of astronomical observations, including the CMB angular energy spectrum, gravitational lensing, and galactic rotation curves. A Machian cosmological model can provide an alternative explanation that is able account for all these observations. This is based on the concept that the gravitational energy associated with all normal matter is in fact smeared out over a much larger volume of space (and time) than the volume currently occupied by that matter.
Cosmic Microwave Background
Observations of the CMB in recent years have provided a wealth of new data for cosmologists. One aspect of the CMB that has not been well studied is the actual energy of each individual CMB photon. The Quasi Static Universe model predicts that CMB photons do not lose energy as the scale factor of the universe increases; rather, they lose power. In this model, the current 1:1000 ratio between the CMB energy density and the density of baryonic matter in the universe will be the same as the ratio that existed at the epoch of decoupling when the CMB was formed.
If the CMB is indeed comprised of many fewer photons, each with energies many orders of magnitude higher than currently assumed, then this will give rise to measurement anomalies in sensitive microwave detectors. The Insular Institute predicts that these anomalies will manifest themselves as unexplained photon shot noise in the detectors on board the Planck satellite based CMB mission to be launched in 2009.