AOH :: MOCKGRAV.TXT|
For nearly fifty years gravity has had the honor of being called the prime
shaper of the universe. According to the most widely held theory, the Big
Bang scattered matter helter-skelter. Then gravity tugged dust particles
and clouds of gas together, organizing them into discrete galaxies. But now
a pretender, appropriately called mock gravity, is vying for gravity's
position in cosmic history.
The new scenario of galaxy formation, with mock gravity in gravity's leading
role, goes as follows: About a million years after the Big Bang, the
universe was 100 million times as dense as it is now. Gravity had already
organized much of that matter into massive stars, which shed enor- mous
amounts of light on the rest of the universe, i.e., on individual dust
particles. In this bright, thickly packed early universe, some dust
particles were so close together that they shielded one another from that
pervasive light. More significant, they guarded one another from radiation
pressure -- the force exerted by light particles, or photons.
This mutual shadowing, two particles resting in each other's shade, created
a vacuum between them, devoid of radiation pressure. Therefore, radiation
pressure from outside pushed the two particles together. According to
University of Arizona astrophysicists Craig Hogan and Simon White, this
pushing force, a by-product of radiation pressure, is mock gravity. After
mock gravity created clusters of dust, these small gas clouds drew inward.
In time, more and more matter condensed until a galaxy formed.
For mock gravity to have played this role, the universe would have to have
been quite different from what astronomers assume it was. Since a typical
dust particle is less than a millionth of a meter in diameter, there would
have to have been tremendous amounts of matter and energy to cre- ate a
galaxy 100,000 light-years across. The existence of mock gravity would also
imply that a lot of matter now resides in the burned-out remnants of ancient
stars, some of which may be black holes.
Of course, mock gravity is strictly speculative. Says White, ''We were
intrigued by the possibility that something so offbeat and contradictory to
prevailing thought might have been responsible for the creation of the
universe as we know it.''
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