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What impact does the detection of gravitational waves have on biblical creation?

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Published: 16 February 2016 (GMT+10)

Summary

  • Gravitational waves as predicted by Einstein were observed by the LIGO observatories for the first time on September 14, 2015.
  • The detection strongly supports Einstein’s general theory of relativity published in 1916 where Einstein predicted such a phenomenon. No evidence for violation of general relativity was observed.
  • A binary pair of black holes were observed to coalesce—the first time their existence confirmed.
  • Their distance, determined from luminosity, is about 1.3 billion light-years.
  • The black holes had masses of 36 M (mass of Sun) and 29 M before coalescence and 62 M after they combined. An equivalent of 3 M was radiated away as gravitational waves.
  • There is very high confidence that the event seen at two widely separated sites must be real. The quality of the detected signals are high and were the same at each site.
  • This is, in principle, repeatable (with other binary sources) and therefore is operational science. No fudge factors were invoked.
  • The laws of physics used are the created laws of our God.
  • The detection provides strong confirmation that the current value of the speed of light has not changed since creation. Therefore the idea of c-decay is ruled out.
  • There are other more plausible solutions to the biblical creationist starlight-travel-time problem.
  • Big bang cosmology is not operational science. This observation in no way strengthens claims that the alleged big bang happened. The big bang necessarily still needs many unverifiable fudge factors. It is still unreasonable.
GW150914
Figure 1: The gravitational-wave event GW150914 observed by the LIGO Hanford (H1, left column panels) and Livingston (L1, right column panels) detectors. Times are shown relative to September 14, 2015 at 09:50:45 UTC. For visualization, all time series are filtered with a 35–350 Hz bandpass filter to suppress large fluctuations outside the detectors’ most sensitive frequency band, and band-reject filters to remove the strong instrumental spectral lines. Top row, left: H1 strain. Top row, right: L1 strain. GW150914 arrived first at L1 and 6.9 ms later at H1; for a visual comparison, the H1 data are also shown, shifted in time by this amount and inverted (to account for the detectors’ relative orientations). Second row: Gravitational-wave strain projected onto each detector in the 35–350 Hz band. Solid lines show a numerical relativity waveform for a system with parameters consistent with those recovered from GW150914 confirmed to 99.9% by an independent calculation (details in original). Shaded areas show 90% credible regions for two independent waveform reconstructions. One (dark gray) models the signal using binary black hole template waveforms. The other (light gray) does not use an astrophysical model, but instead calculates the strain signal as a linear combination of sine-Gaussian wavelets. These reconstructions have a 94% overlap. Third row: Residuals after subtracting the filtered numerical relativity waveform from the filtered detector time series. Bottom row: A time-frequency representation of the strain data, showing the signal frequency increasing over time. (Caption edited from the original, Ref. 6)

The discovery of gravitational waves

On 14 September 2015 at 09:50:45 UTC the two gravitational wave detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)—one at Hanford, Washington and the other at Livingston, Louisiana—simultaneously observed a transient gravitational-wave signal. The signal exhibited the classic waveform predicted by Einstein’s general relativity theory for a binary black hole merger, sweeping up in frequency from 35 to 250 Hz, and exhibited a peak gravitational-wave strain of 1.0 × 1021 at the detectors.1

The two detectors recorded the same signal, which matched the predicted waveform for the inspiral and merger of a pair of black holes and the ringdown of the resulting single black hole. The signal was observed with a matched-filter signal-to-noise ratio of 24 and a false alarm rate estimated to be less than 1 event per 203,000 years, equivalent to a statistical significance greater than 5.1σ (where 1σ represents 1 standard deviation).2 In other words, the detection is highly likely to be real.

The source lies at a luminosity distance of about 1.3 billion light-years corresponding to a redshift z ≈ 0.09.3 The two initial black hole masses were 36 M and 29 M,4,5 and the final black hole mass is 62 M, with the equivalent of 3 M radiated as gravitational waves. The observations demonstrate for the first time the existence of a binary stellar-mass black hole system but, more importantly, the first direct detection of gravitational waves and the first observation of a binary black hole merger.

The results were published6 in Physical Review Letters (PRL) on 11 February 2016 with a fanfare of public announcements. Interestingly some of my colleagues at the university where I work, which has researchers involved in this discovery, asked why not publish in one of the more prestigious journals Science or Nature? Possibly PRL was a faster option to publish knowing that over one thousand people had to keep silent prior to publication, and Science and Nature have a much longer lead time to publication. Nevertheless it didn’t work, as atheopath Lawrence Krauss tweeted more than a month ago that a detection was confirmed and from that time rumours spread.

The observations are shown in Fig. 1. There is illustrated the waveforms detected by both LIGO detectors, which are located on opposite sides of continental USA, and separated by a distance that takes light about 10 ms to traverse.7 The gravitational-wave event, labelled GW150914,8 was first observed at the Livingston site (L1) and about 7 ms later observed at the Hanford site (H1). The waveforms were extracted by applying a template matched-filter, derived from a general relativistic calculation. The results from the two sites overlap extremely well and have a very high signal-to-noise ratio.

Unlike the BICEP2 South Pole Telescope fiasco in 2014,9 with a claimed detection of primordial gravitational waves from the supposed big bang inflation epoch, which was subsequently retracted in 2015,10 this detection seems to be very robust. And though the laser interferometers do have a very small likelihood of a false positive, produced by random noise with the same type of waveform, getting that result in two locations, separated by approximately the light travel time between the two sites, is extremely improbable.

Estimated-gravitational-wave
Figure 2: Top: Estimated gravitational-wave strain amplitude from GW150914 projected onto H1. This shows the full bandwidth of the waveforms, without the filtering used for Fig. 1. The inset images show numerical relativity models of the black hole horizons (grey images) as the black holes coalesce. Bottom: The Keplerian effective black hole separation in units of Schwarzschild radii (RS= 2GM/c2) and the effective relative velocity given by the post-Newtonian parameter v/c = (GMπf/c3)1/3, where f is the gravitational-wave frequency calculated with numerical relativity and M is the total mass (caption from the original, Ref. 6).

Figure 2 illustrates the scenario of a black hole binary inspiral merger. The unfiltered waveform is shown in the frame below the pictures. This unfiltered waveform shows the expected disturbance to spacetime as a function of time as the black holes spiral together. The bottom frame plots the separation between the two black holes as a function of time as well as their relative velocity as a fraction of the speed of light.

One significant feature of this inspiral, as expected from modelling with general relativity, is the final phase of ringing during the ringdown. This shows a classic loss (dissipation) of energy from the system that is well understood in laboratory physics. This feature was predicted a few decades ago and is the expected classic signature of such a merger. So when I saw this, with such a high signal-to-noise ratio, I was immediately convinced that this was indeed a real detection.

On a personal note, the detection of gravitational waves means that a prediction I made in 2006 was wrong. Hulse and Taylor received the physics Nobel Prize in 1993 for their discovery, in 1974, that the neutron star binary PSR B1913+16—where one is also a pulsar emitting a radio signal—showed a loss of energy as gravitational radiation, as the two stars slowly moved towards each while spiraling around their common centre. This was recorded for several decades, exquisitely confirming what Einstein predicted. But no gravity waves were detected from that source, and that led to my prediction, based on the cosmology of Carmeli, where I reasoned that gravitational waves did not travel as waves through vacuum, though gravitational energy from the binary PSR B1913+16 was indeed lost to space as heat.11 But, alas, I now admit I was wrong.

Operational science

This discovery is consistent with Einstein’s idea that spacetime can be thought of as a fabric that ‘waves’. In this case metrical distortions of spacetime can propagate through it, travelling at the speed of light (c). This is further support to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which already has been very successfully tested in the local lab and in our solar system. Time keeping with GPS clocks is one very important example. The clocks on the GPS satellites at an altitude of about 20,200 km need corrections for both special and general relativistic effects, which amount to about 38 millionths of a second per day. It’s not much, yet it is a real measurable effect that would result in huge errors in GPS results if not corrected for. As a result we would classify this as operational science. And so is gravitational wave detection from coalescing binary black holes, or any other very dense objects that might be detected in the future.

Even though this type of measurement cannot be observed within our solar system, where humans may be able to directly go, these observations are, in principle, repeatable—not with that particular binary pair, but others like it. Such repeatable observations are one aspect of what we call operational science, even though we cannot directly interact with the black holes under investigation.12 This is similar to the observed energy loss from the neutron star binary pair for which Hulse and Taylor received their Nobel Prize. It is repeatable and consistent with robust physics testable on earth, though in a different area of application.

Creation or big bang science?

Big bang cosmology is not operational science. The assumed big bang origin of the universe from a universal singularity13 (not a black hole), which is a fancy term for nothing,14 is not repeatable science. Nor are there other universes that we can observe to test how a typical universe began in a big bang or otherwise.

The failed BICEP2 claim of detection of primordial gravitational waves and the ‘smoking gun’ evidence of the inflation epoch,9,10 illustrates the problem. The claim at the time was that it was ‘smoking gun’ evidence. That is an explicit admission that the event itself was not observed, but unobserved forensic or potentially circumstantial evidence after the fact.

Then there is the problem of degeneracy.15 In astrophysics and cosmology this means that there are a plethora of possible theories to explain the same cosmological observations. Just detecting Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, which was a big bang prediction of George Gamow in 1948, is not sufficient reason (evidence) to conclude that the big bang happened (at some moment in the unobserved past). You would have to show that all other possible causes for the CMB radiation are ruled out. Besides there is contradictory evidence that supports the idea that the CMB radiation is not even from the background16 and thus it can’t be leftover radiation from the big bang fireball, as is believed.

If contrary evidence was found that ruled out this gravitational wave detection then that should be seriously considered. But I think that that is unlikely. Ruling out the very unlikely possibility of gross fraud, by a lot of scientists involved in the discovery, it is hard to see that this could be anything else other than a genuine detection, since it has all the hallmarks of the laws of physics that we do understand. No unknown unknowns were invoked to get the observations to fit the theory. No evidence for violation of general relativity was observed.

Now, these laws of physics, are exquisitely designed laws from the hand of the Creator of this universe. The fact that the black hole system is so far away (admittedly there are some assumptions to derive that fact) and the same laws we have discovered on earth apply out there tells us of the consistency of those laws. They are the creation of an Intelligence, a Creator, and we are just discovering how wonderfully He made this universe.

I suspect that there will be a host of claims on the internet and in other news media that this discovery somehow validates the big bang origin of the universe. But, it doesn’t!

einstein_field_equations
Figure 3: Einstein’s field equations. Λ is the cosmological constant, which is used on the modern form of the Friedmann-Lemaître solution.

The standard big bang cosmology is based on the solution of Einstein’s field equations found by Friedmann and Lemaître, in the 1920s. Those same field equations were linearized in what is called the post-Newtonian approximation, and from that Einstein developed the theory for gravity waves propagating through spacetime. But there are many possible mathematical solutions of Einstein’s field equations for the whole universe, many of which have already been discarded, as not fitting what we observe. The existence of a solution does not mean it has any physical significance. Einstein himself obtained the Einstein static universe solution, which he later discarded. Because he had included the cosmological constant (Λ) to maintain a static universe, when he heard of Hubble’s 1929 discovery of an expanding universe he exclaimed that its inclusion was the biggest mistake of his career.

Every solution requires a set of assumptions, which are called boundary conditions. These are assumptions about the initial conditions, and in the case of the Friedmann-Lemaître solution it requires the cosmological principle, which is an assumption that states that the universe is isotropic and homogeneous, or uniform. That means that the matter density in the universe, on the large scale, is the same everywhere, and that there is no unique centre nor any boundary or edge to the universe. It also assumes the laws of physics are the same everywhere and at every epoch.

Biblical creationists would agree that the laws are the same at every place in the universe, but not necessarily at every epoch, because there was a very special Creation epoch—Creation week. Big bang cosmology also has an exception, at the big bang itself, which is effectively a miracle without any sufficient cause (or explanation).

Besides the issue of the topology of the universe—whether it has a unique centre and an edge—the cosmological principle has a few big problems. One of them is the ‘Axis of Evil’.17,18 This is the determination of a peculiar alignment of the temperature fluctuations found in the CMB radiation, from both the WMAP and the Planck satellites. Those data independently determined the same anomalous axis in the universe, aligned with the plane of our solar system, in the particular direction determined by the two points where the sun’s path crosses the earth’s equator each year.19 But such an extraordinary axis in space should not exist. The local physics of our solar system and that of the big bang fireball should have no connection. This refutes the homogeneity and isotropy requirement of the cosmological principle, and because it does so much damage to their theory, the big bang cosmologists have called it the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Another big problem that has developed as a consequence of acceptance of the standard ΛCDM big bang cosmology20 for the universe is the belief in dark energy and dark matter. Because the observations on the large-scale measurements in the universe21 do not fit the modern form of the Friedmann-Lemaître model, dark energy and dark matter22 were invoked to get agreement. Dark energy, a sort of anti-gravity, was put in via the cosmological constant (Λ) but dark matter was necessary to bolster the total amount of matter since the small amount of normal observed matter was insufficient to get the theory to agree with the observations. Dark energy and dark matter are unknowns to science and hence I call them fudge factors,23 unknown unknowns, or ‘gods of the gaps’24 for modern cosmology.

Interestingly, the calculation used to determine the masses of the merging black holes in the analysis of this week’s discovery employed the standard canonical speed of light, c.25 That is, it used the same constant value that we measure today. Does that tell us something? I think it does.

Some biblical creationists favour a much higher value for the speed of light in the past, from a time soon after creation of the universe, after which it decreased or decayed down to its current value (the concept is known as cdk, from c-decay). They use this supposed much higher value of c in the past as a solution of the biblical creationist light-travel time problem.26,27 But now this new discovery shows that, at a time in the past representative of a distance in the cosmos of 1.3 billion light-years, the value of the speed of light (c) was identical to today’s current value. Regardless of which creationist cosmology you like, the gravity waves observed in September 2015 must have left their source very soon after Creation week. Thus the cdk idea is thoroughly rejected.

Conclusion

What do we conclude? Einstein’s general relativity is further strengthened as good operational science with no fudge factors. Any change in the speed of light is rejected. Nevertheless there exist other much more plausible solutions to the biblical creationist starlight-travel-time problem.26,27,28,29 With a constant speed of light, general relativity theory gives us the needed clue that time is not an absolute in the universe, which means that much more time could have been available for light to travel to earth from the most distant sources, even within the 6,000 years since creation. There are no other implications that impact on biblical creationist explanations for the origin of the universe.

Update added 4 March 2016

In regards to some claims that the detection was faked, Science News reported this:30

For 5 months, LIGO physicists struggled to keep a lid on their pupating discovery. Ordinarily, most team members would not have known whether the signal was real. LIGO regularly salts its data readings with secret false signals called “blind injections” to test the equipment and keep researchers on their toes. But on 14 September 2015, that blind injection system was not running. Physicists had only recently completed a 5-year, $205 million upgrade of the machines, and several systems—including the injection system—were still offline as the team wound up a preliminary “engineering run.” As a result, the whole collaboration knew that the observation was likely real. “I was convinced that day,” González says.
Still, LIGO physicists had to rule out every alternative, including the possibility that the reading was a malicious hoax. “We spent about a month looking at the ways that somebody could spoof a signal,” Reitze says, before deciding it was impossible. For González, making the checks “was a heavy responsibility,” she says. “This was the first detection of gravitational waves, so there was no room for a mistake.” (emphasis added)

One of the researchers who works on the LIGO instruments is a personal friend of mine. Today he told me that the simulated false signals that they do inject for calibration purposes are not powerful enough to create the detected signal. He said that they just could not do it.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. The laser interferometers used to detect these signals are about 4 km long. The strain sensitivity refers to the detection sensitivity in terms of the fractional change in length of the arms (ΔL1-ΔL2)/L. So any putative signal can be detected that results in an absolute change in the arm length of as little as a few parts in 10-19 m. That is about a ten thousandth of the diameter of a hydrogen nucleus, i.e. of a proton. Return to text
  2. Any detection with a statistical significance greater than 5 standard deviations is considered real. In this case the result is shown to be far above the background noise in the detection histogram. See Fig. 4 in Ref. 6. Return to text
  3. The luminosity of the source and its redshift were determined from the brightness of the source signal where standard big bang cosmology was applied. Nevertheless that choice of cosmology has little impact on the veracity of the detection. Return to text
  4. These are their masses in their own rest frames. Return to text
  5. M represents the mass of our sun, a solar mass unit. Return to text
  6. Abbott, B. P., et al., Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger, Phys. Rev. Lett. 116(6), 2016 | doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.061102. Return to text
  7. 1 ms = 1 millisecond. Return to text
  8. GW means gravity wave and the date of the detection is included in the nomenclature. Return to text
  9. Hartnett, J.G., Has the ‘smoking gun’ of the ‘big bang’ been found?, March 2014; creation.com/bbgun. Return to text
  10. Hartnett, J.G., New study confirms BICEP2 detection of cosmic inflation wrong, February 2015; creation.com/inflation-wrong. Return to text
  11. Hartnett, J.G., and Tobar, M.E., Properties of gravitational waves in Cosmological General Relativity, Int. J. Theor. Phys. 45 (11):2213–2222, 2006. Return to text
  12. Even though I am calling this operational science, such science done in the cosmos, where the researchers have no local laboratory wherein they can interact with their experiments, is a weaker form of the science. Therefore a higher standard of evidence should be required before conclusions may be drawn. And even then the tentative nature of the science needs to be properly understood. Return to text
  13. Hartnett, J.G., The singularity—a ‘Dark’ beginning, July 2014, creation.com. Return to text
  14. Hartnett, J.G., An eternal quantum potential or an eternal Creator God, January 2016, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  15. Degeneracy in this context means there are multiple solutions that cannot be distinguished from observation. Return to text
  16. Hartnett, J.G., ‘Light from the big bang’ casts no shadows, Creation 37(1):50–51, 2015; see also biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  17. Hartnett, J.G., CMB Conundrums, J. Creation 20(2):10–11, August 2006. Return to text
  18. Hartnett, J.G., Development of an ‘old’ universe in science, July 2015, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  19. This is when the sun is seen exactly overhead at the equator. It occurs only twice a year due to the tilt of the earth’s axis. As the earth travels around the sun, the sun is seen overhead at lower or higher latitudes. Twice a year at the summer and winter equinox, Earth’s equatorial plane passes through the centre of the sun. Those two points on the opposite sides of Earth’s orbit, in the plane of the orbits of the planets, describes a unique direction in space. Return to text
  20. CDM refers to cold dark matter. Return to text
  21. Type Ia supernova measurements, for example. Return to text
  22. Dark matter historically was invoked before this. It was found that is needed in spiral galaxies to get the dynamics of the rotation of the galaxies to fit standard theory. This then spread to galaxy clusters and super-clusters also. Return to text
  23. Hartnett, J.G., Big bang fudge factors, December 2014, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  24. Hartnett, J.G., Is dark matter the unknown god?, Creation 37(2):22–24, 2015, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  25. Canonical speed of light is defined as c = 299,792,458 m/s. Return to text
  26. Hartnett, J.G., Starlight and time: Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?, July 2015, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  27. Hartnett, J.G., The Lecture: Starlight and time—Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?, July 2015, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  28. Hartnett, J.G., Solutions to the biblical creationist starlight-travel-time problem, November 2014, biblescienceforum.com. Return to text
  29. Batten, D., (Ed.), et al., How can we see distant stars in a young universe?, The Creation Answers book, ch. 5, Creation Book Publishers, Queensland, Australia, 2006. Return to text
  30. Cho, A., Gravitational waves, Einstein’s ripples in spacetime, spotted for first time, Science, sciencemag.com, accessed February 2016. Return to text

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Readers’ comments
vaughn M., United States, 29 February 2016

As a clarification to my question. You made the following comment.

" that time is not an absolute in the universe, which means that much more time could have been available for light to travel to earth from the most distant sources, even within the 6,000 years since creation"

I'm not sure if you understand relativity.

Relativity makes the claim - if you were traveling at the speed of light no time would pass for you so for the GW that reached us from 1 billion light years away no time pass for them. However from our perspective time moves on at a normal speed as we are relatively speaking not moving at the speed of light.

You see the conclusion? For the earth the GW did take over 1 billion years to get here however if you were sitting on the GW literally no time would pass.

Is this not a more correct restatement of your conclusion?

John Hartnett responds

Only massless particles, like photons and gravitons, can travel at the canonical speed of light in vacuum. It is only a thought experiment, in special relativity, to consider riding on a photon, but certainly a stationary observer would compute that your clocks had nearly stopped relative to her clocks if you were travelling at nearly the speed of light, as measured by the stationary observer. But I failed to see how such a thought experiment proves your claim.

If you assume no general relativistic effects during the flight of the GW and therefore time in all reference frames (i.e. all points of space from source to receiver) passes at the same rate as Earth clocks then you might correctly determine that the GW took 1 billion years to reach Earth. This also assumes the Einstein Synchrony Convention (ESC). I personally now favour the ASC model for creation, which means that situation you describe is true under the ESC, but it takes zero travel time in the ASC model with the event timed as occurring in 2015 when it was observed. As I previously said, it depends on which cosmology/cosmogony you like.

vaughn M., United States, 28 February 2016

The two detectors that measured the gravity waves noted a delay corresponding to the gravity waves traveling at the speed of light. This means the gravity waves did travel over 1 billion years to get to us.

To confuse the frame of reference from a light beam traveling the speed of light to us not traveling at the speed of light is an astonishing misstatement of relativity.

How do you explain this?

John Hartnett responds

If the source black hole binary was at 1.3 billion light-years (a determination of which depends of several factors including a choice of cosmology) then we can say for sure that the gravity waves traveled 1.3 billion light-years distance. But how long did they take? And how long was it measured in a particular frame of reference, the black hole binary rest frame or the earth rest frame? I am sorry I don't understand your second statement. You'll need to be clearer.

Timothy M., United States, 28 February 2016

Hi Dr. Hartnett

My apologies if these questions have already been asked. If the collision is 1.3 billion light years away, how do they know this is the gravity wave they are detecting?

Secondly, would it really only take .45 seconds for two black holes to merge. Would the wave really dampen that quickly?

Thanks much for this interesting article.

Tim

John Hartnett responds

There are very particular expected waveforms of the gravitational waves generated before and during the coalescence of two black holes. These were exactly as predicted. It would be difficult to generate these, however the LIGO team took great care to detect any spurious environmental signals at the same time, and saw none. I have mentioned this in the comments above.

It only took 0.2s for the two black holes to merge into one. In an article posted today I explain more about why this is plausible. Please read Impact of gravitational wave detection: A response to Setterfield’s response.

solomon V., Australia, 24 February 2016

How would you explain the presence of blackholes in a YEC timescale if the duration for a star from creation to collapsing into a blackhole is greater that the YEC timescale. Thanks.

John Hartnett responds

Biblical creationists believe that God created the universe and the host of heaven, meaning He populated it with stars and galaxies at the time of creation. It was fiat creation. Therefore that necessarily means most of the objects in the cosmos resulted from the direct creative acts of God on day 4 of Creation week. There would be some period of time since where cosmic processes have occurred. Now depending on the creationist cosmology you like, a time dilation model might have some hundreds of millions of years of process (an upper limit) for changes that occurred in the cosmos while less than about 6000 years passed on Earth. Thus the creation of black holes, both stellar size and supermassive at the hearts of galaxies, would largely be the product of direct creation by God. Details of star formation indicate that it would be a very rare case that a star formed directly from a collapsed molecular cloud of hydrogen gas. Such special conditions are needed that I am confident in saying stars don't form naturally. Stellar mass black holes are an advanced case of a highly compact star and as such they are the result of the direct creation of God. There is no need to assume hundreds of millions of years for their "evolution" from a super giant star to a black hole, though possibly that could be accommodated in some time dilation cosmologies.

Tommy S., United States, 22 February 2016

@John Hartnett, Most of my reasons, aside from scripture, of why I still believe the universe is not billions of years old comes from the evidence we have and not just blind belief. For example, how do you explain why spiral galaxies haven't lost their shape yet if they've been winding for billions of years? And if Earth was in a time dilation field, just how far did that field extend? Do you have some sort of idea of where the transition from time dilation to billion year old universe is? Was our entire solar system in this time dilation? Is there some sort of mathematical progression of time from earth outwards such that it is 6,000 year on earth and say, for example, 100,000 years at pluto, etc.? Does the time dilation theory relate to the gravity well theory? If so, why aren't objects in the universe blue-shifted instead of red-shifted?

John Hartnett responds

All good questions, but myself and a few others have discussed those points before on creation.com. See for example in a model I suggested back in 2005, Creative episodes in a creationist cosmology (PDF). No more than several hundred million years of astronomical time has passed in the spiral galaxies we observe, not billions. Since there is always a component of mature creation in creationist models even several hundred million years of astronomical time is an upper limit. It may be far less than that.

In 2003 I proposed a simple model A new cosmology: solution to the starlight travel time problem. In a model there I suggested the solar system was young compared to the rest of the cosmos. In that 1st cosmology the time retardation was only in the solar system during Creation week but becomes normal after that time and hence there is no blueshift problem. Neither does it occur in my second cosmology found in my book Starlight Time and the New Physics. That is because of an extra dimension, the velocity dimension of the spacevelocity phase space, which is not the same as spacetime.

Philip G., Australia, 22 February 2016

Thank you for the article.

How can we detect gravitational waves from the collision of black holes, if black holes are currently just a mathematical construct? Black holes are not as yet, a proven reality.

And Newton's pondered the nature of gravity because of the seemingly instantaneous attraction between bodies of mass.

Why then is the propagation of gravity waves, constrained to the speed of light?

John Hartnett responds

It looks to me that black holes are very much real. Of course nothing is ever proven. We only can disprove something. I would say the argument for their physical existence, particularly stellar mass size black holes, just got a lot stronger.

For gravity Newton pondered action at a distance. He did not know what speed that action propagated. There are some today who argue that it is near instantaneous, but general relativity points to it being limited to the speed of light c.

JM B., Netherlands, 21 February 2016

I had been saying last year that, after reviewing the LIGO magazine, [link deleted per feedback rules], that LIGO should be detecting gravity waves within a couple of years. What was the prediction of the several creationist models? Which model is most successful? (After all, science is more about making working predictive models, that about determining if facts fit retroactively).

John Hartnett responds

I joined the gravity wave research group at the University of Western Australia at the beginning of 1997. Since that time I have heard many physicists making predictions that gravity waves would soon be detected. When this discovery was announced, some physicists commented that they had given up thinking they would ever detect them.

To my knowledge no cosmological model that was purely biblical creationist in design has made any prediction about gravity waves. That has not been a focus. My own prediction (that was wrong) was using Carmeli's cosmological general relativity (CGR) theory, which quite clearly is not my invention. But I have also used it and in my book Starlight Time and the New Physics attempted to outline how that theory might be modified/extended to create a creationist model.

You ask, which model is the most successful? That is a difficult question to answer. How do you judge success? The fact is that the detection of these gravity waves tells us that Einstein's general theory of relativity (GR) is a good starting point for a theory to describe the universe. The problem after that is how to choose the correct initial conditions, and other boundary conditions (assumptions which all models need), when describing the universe created by God, yet employing GR where applicable. Russ Humphreys has attempted to do that in 3 different cosmologies. I have attempted to do that in 1 cosmology with GR plus a supernatural event and 1 with CGR not GR. However I now believe that the assumption of an expanding universe (one of those boundary conditions) is not correct. So I have been developing a new model. That is a static universe model. Humphreys also is working on a static universe model now (his third).

In terms of what science is, cosmology is not science. And that is very important to understand. It is not repeatable operational science but more like a forensic science, an historical science, which is much weaker and does not work like normal operational science with hypothesis, prediction and test/refutation. Many of the same observations can potentially be accommodated by very different models. And certain "facts" must be accepted as a given. The starting assumption today in modern cosmology is that there was/is no Creator. This false assumption, I believe, is the reason why big bang cosmology has developed so many fudge factors, dark entities, to fill in when the theory fails.

Brent D., Australia, 21 February 2016

In Figure 1 there are two images from the two different locations. Why aren't they exactly the same? I presume they used the same equipment to detect the frequency waves. The one of left depicts a stronger reading than the one on the right and there are slight differences in the waves. If the source is 1.3 billion light years away the distance between Washington and Louisiana shouldn't cause this difference. Maybe they are not 1.3 billion light year away and this data reflects the closeness of the event instead.

John Hartnett responds

There are slight differences in sensitivities of the two detectors at different parts of the detection frequency band. There is no difference in the amplitude of the gravity wave signal. Matched filtering is applied to get these waveforms (top panel Fig.1) from what would look like noise in the raw data. Some environmental differences may also contribute. That is evident in the third panel down of Fig. 1. Those are the residual noise after subtraction of the filtered numerically modelled waveform from the filtered detector time series signal, i.e. top panel minus second panel waveforms. You can see that that noise is different at the two sites.

richie T., United States, 20 February 2016

I really don't know much about cosmology but doesn't this discovery confirm that the laws of nature are the same everywhere??? and therefore confirms the universe as being fine-tuned???

John Hartnett responds

Yes it does conform that the laws of nature (physics) that we know work out to 1.3 billion light-year distance. But it is not the same thing as saying it proves fine-tuning. Fine-tuning means that those laws are finely balanced such that if they varied even a tiny amount it would change the universe drastically. Well, we know they haven't changed from out there 1.3 billion light-years away to here but evidence of the degree of fine-tuning of some relevant laws is needed to make a fine-tuning argument.

Matthew L., United States, 20 February 2016

What do you propose as a testable experiment to prove or disprove your time dilation theory?

John Hartnett responds

Firstly, one cannot prove any theory, whether in the cosmos or on Earth. Secondly, if you refer to my second cosmology as published in the book Starlight Time and the New Physics, I don't know of any test that could rule it out. However, neither Carmeli nor found a full 5D cosmology for the universe that describes the changes since creation. I intimated in my book that there was one but in it I only gave an outline of what it might look like.

If the weight of evidence accumulated that the universe is not expanding then that would work against it. However, my third cosmology A Biblical Creationist Cosmogony assumes a static or quasi-static universe. It assumes loss of photon energy to the vacuum and I explain a testable criterion in a research paper.

D. V., United States, 19 February 2016

I don't quite believe you present a fair and balanced approach to evaluating the cdk theory. Setterfield (among many others) has produced a whole body of research published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Theoretics, Galilean Electrodynamics, Journal of Vectorial Relativity, even a Natural Philosophy Alliance monograph, etc., which I believe indicates that at least his research should be seriously considered. The nature of Dr. Hartnett's comments above, regardless how well intentioned they may have been, struck me as overly dismissive of a potentially valid theory. I am including the following in my post as further information on gravity waves from a cdk viewpoint: [link deleted per feedback rules]Hartnett_response.html. Wishing all the best (with all due respect), I am, D.V.

John Hartnett responds

Only a few days ago I read the "Hartnett Response" article by Mr Setterfield. I have prepared a response to his response. But also, I have posted on my own website a rebuttal to statements he made on this ZPE theory and cdk on the Chuck Missler show about one year ago. I felt compelled to comment there as there were many errors, overstatements, hand-wavings, and bad physics.

John B., United Kingdom, 19 February 2016

In footnote 1, should "the factional change in length" be "the fractional change in length"? If not, what does "factional" mean in this context?

John Hartnett responds

Yes, "fractional change in length" is correct. That is a typo. Strain is defined as the change in arm 1 minus the change in arm 2 divided by the length of one arm. Thanks.

B. D., Canada, 19 February 2016

Dr. Hartnett, thanks for the great article. This is fascinating!!

I have a couple of questions:

1. A reference was made to GPS clocks requiring correction for relativistic effects. Doesn't the environment and detection method influence the result i.e. gravity will have an effect on the clocks simply because the clocks on earth have to "work harder" against gravity than clocks in space and therefore have more losses?

2. If time speeds up or slows down, light could speed up or slow down at the same rate, and it would be undetectable, wouldn't it?

Thank you!

John Hartnett responds

A1: No. The environmental factors like magnetic fields, electric fields, blackbody radiation etc, properly calibrated for, do not have any affect on an atomic clock. Only changes in gravitational potential and the speed of the clock relative another reference clock moving in the same or in a different gravitational field affect the relative rate which time passes.

A2: It is not so simple. Because we now define the speed of light any putative variation in the speed of light would show up as a clock error. The speed of light is not a fundamental unit but time is. Even length is not fundamental as we derive length from the defined value of c, and time measured by an atomic clock.

Derek W., United Kingdom, 19 February 2016

John - you said based on Carmeli your prediction failed - does that disprove Carmeli or some other assumption you made? That is, how serious a blow is this against your Carmeli-based theory?

John Hartnett responds

No it does not disprove Carmeli. It was my interpretation of the linearized post-Newtonian approximation using Carmeli’s Cosmological General Relativity. It suggested gravitational radiation was evanescent where the matter density was below a critical value, hence it should not travel as waves of spacetime. At most it proves that my interpretation was wrong. Having said that, I am open to the possibility that Carmeli’s cosmology is wrong. There are certain inconsistencies in it, and I have already decided that his Cosmological Special Relativity theory is wrong because it is inconsistent with his General theory. I have commented on this fact before. It is his Cosmological General Relativity theory though that is used on the galaxy rotation curves.

Chris H., Australia, 19 February 2016

I have been reading Barry Setterfield's comments, which appear to provide an encompassing interpretation of how gravity waves may originate, within the Plasma Cosmology model: " On the ZPE model, all that is needed are two mutually orbiting bodies with extremely strong electric and magnetic fields which influence the virtual particles making up the vacuum. Plasma physics provides just such bodies in the form of plasmoids, made up of ions and electrons, in which intense electric and magnetic fields are concentrated."

The central tenet would appear to be that the Zero Point Energy, ZPE, has been strengthening with the *initial* expansion of the universe, and has caused 'constants' such as Planck and c to change with that initial timeframe; such that the red-shift curve of light from distant objects can be used to correct atomic time, which also has varied with increasing ZPE strength, - to orbital time of planetary bodies, which do not change with ZPE field strength. Mathematically, Planck's constant (h) is inversely proportional to the speed of light (c). It is this relationship that is constant, such that as h increased, c decreased, but it is (was) the product hc that remained constant.

This is shown to be compatible with young earth ages, by plotting the 'traditional' atomic time-scale against a universal creation time-line beginning approx 8,000 years ago, via the (approx inverse logarithmic) redshift curve.

This is just a mere sound-bite of Barry Setterfield's extensive explanations.

John Hartnett responds

With respect Chris, I am well aware of Mr Setterfield's conjectures and that is all they are. You are just stating his claims, but state them as if they are facts.

A plasma does not guarantee a net charge. Most plasmas are net neutral even though composed of ions. Even if such a situation developed of two co-orbiting compact objects with a net charge, they would generate an electromagnetic wave, not a quadrupole distortion of spacetime.

Where are the experimental verifications of the effects he claims for the ZPE? I know of the Lamb shift and the Casimir effect, which are very small effects. It is possible though that the bare speed of light is infinite and it is only the absorption and re-emission of those photons as they travel through vacuum that gives them a constant isotropic value, c. But that is highly theoretical and unproven.

Mr Setterfield then supposes all types of systematic concomitant changes in fundamental constants with, as you mention, h.c = constant. Why does that not show up in atomic spectra at high redshifts? Why don't we observe enormous blue-shifts in galaxy light at high redshifts? It is an extreme case of not Occam's razor. Occam's razor says assume as little as possible to explain something. Setterfield has had to assume a complex set of changes occur as a function of time to avoid all types of strange phenomena in physical systems. It is parameter gymnastics. But this black hole binary system and the observed waveform is consistent with General Relativity and the same value of the speed of light in that system when the gravity wave left that system travelling at the speed of light. See also Comment on "Issachar Insight" – Chuck Missler and Barry Setterfield

Ray C., United Kingdom, 19 February 2016

I am a complete novice in this area and may therefore be quite mistaken. However, if I understand correctly, the speed of propagation of gravity differs significantly from the speed of propagation of light could this be expected to affected these detected gravitational waves. If so, does this not still leave the constancy of the speed of light in doubt?

John Hartnett responds

There are some people, like the late Tom Van Flandern, who argued that gravitational waves or gravitons travel much much faster than light in a vacuum. But standard general relativity has gravity waves propagating at the canonical speed of light, c. However, in this article, and my response to the comment by Joseph M., I explain it is the value of c locally (or in the rest frame) of the binary black-hole pair that matters. In the analysis the same value was used as measured today, instead of a value 100 billion times greater as would be needed for the cdk idea. And we can be fairly certain that the event observed came from soon after creation or even during Creation week.

Tommy S., United States, 19 February 2016

@John Hartnett, You state the following:

"It is not always correct to say 'millions' or 'billions of years' is wrong, but to have a model that had God creating the universe about 6000 years ago as measured by Earth clocks. So the argument should not be about the rejection of ‘millions or billions of years’ per se; it is really about the truthfulness of God’s Word."

I believe it "is" always correct to say millions or billions of years is wrong. The idea that it was only 6,000 years ago by earth clocks is simply a way of conforming to secular scientism and still hold to a belief in God. If we accept billions of years then we have opened the door to cosmic evolution as well. You might as well just reject Genesis at that point. I know that Dr. Sarfati does not agree with a billions of years old universe either. Have you ever discussed it with him?

John Hartnett responds

I believe the Creator created the earth and the whole universe only about 6000 years ago. But it is possible that billions of years of time has passed in the cosmos. Time is not an absolute throughout the universe. Read my book Starlight Time and the New Physics. It outlines my second cosmology, which has the creation of all heavenly bodies on Day 4 of Creation week, a 24-hour day as measured by Earth clocks. Dr Humphreys' creationist cosmological models have millions and billions of years pass in the cosmos since creation about 6000 years ago. Dr Sarfati defends Dr Humphreys' white-hole cosmology in his book "Refuting Compromise", so he knows about this idea. That same cosmology has billions of astronomical years pass while only days or years pass on Earth. Read Solutions to the biblical creationist starlight-travel-time problem, and New time dilation helps creation cosmology.

Darryl B., New Zealand, 18 February 2016

How do we know that the waves of two objects colliding, or "merging", are "gravitational waves", instead of just being an impact wave. I see the word coalesce in the description. This suggests the equivalent of two drops of water joining together to form in this case a smaller drop of water. I would be unable to duplicate this with two drops of water. I could duplicate it with two viscous rocks.

John Hartnett responds

The gravitational wave propagates through spacetime in a very distinctive quadrapole mode. The merger is not the same as an impact producing a wave. Watch this simulation of the back holes merging from this particular event and this video with animations explaining how gravity waves propagate.

Edie S., United States, 17 February 2016

I used organization wrong in the sense. I mean he took the water that was there on day one and created his universe from it, not a reorganization, poor choice of my words. I do believe it is only a supernatural event from our perspective. I believe it is not for a supernatural event for God, as he is God and is Lord of creation, so in that sense it is a nature event for him. Sometime before, during or after Creation he put the natural laws governing our universe as they are today. I may have been a little too esoteric in my explanation. Sorry, I do tend to do that where I am not clear in what I am communicating, I live a little to much in my head. Bless CMI.

Keith H., United States, 17 February 2016

I visited the Livingston LIGO last year, prior to this discovery. A very interesting visitor's center explaining various types of waves. I don't begin to understand the science behind this but had two questions come to mind as we were listening to the scientist give the presentation. How many gravity waves did they predict would be detected with this technology and how many had been detected? He didn't give a straight answer about the first question, just said something to the effect that the number should be exponential. The answer to the second part was zero. I think it's interesting that if billions of years really did exist, shouldn't they have detected many more gravity waves already? It has been operating for several years now.

John Hartnett responds

It is true it had been operating for several years, but less than one year ago they finished a 5-year upgrade to what they have now, called advanced LIGO. It was only shortly after turn on for observations that they got this result. To be fair no one really knows the expected detection rate. Out to where they think they are sensitive (1 Gpc = 3.2 billion light-years) they currently estimate 2 to 400 detections per year.

J. P., Australia, 17 February 2016

In the 1990's scientist Dr Russell Humphreys wrote about starlight and time. I think a white hole cosmology or something similiar was detailed. Can you advise if his theories about starlight and time are still relevant to this subject given this recent discovery about gravitational waves?

John Hartnett responds

Since Dr Humphreys uses Einstein's general relativity theory in his cosmologies I would say this discovery adds support to the underlying theory upon which his models are based.

Tommy S., United States, 17 February 2016

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree on any ideas that point to a universe being billions of years old even using time dilation concepts. God created everything in 6 literal days and there was no need for billions of years from any perspective. The fact that we are unable to reconcile light travel problems does not mean that there are any. It simply means that we are incapable of understanding how God did it.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

There is just no reason to think we could ever understand it. But there is absolutely no reason why God needed to have the universe billions of years old. And there are far too many evidences that indicate that it isn't that old.

Don't compromise by trying to find a scientific explanation for a supernatural phenomena. God really is that powerful.

John Hartnett responds

The criteria we should judge from is whether a model describing the universe and its origin conforms to the historical narrative of Genesis? It is not always correct to say 'millions' or 'billions of years' is wrong, but to have a model that had God creating the universe about 6000 years ago as measured by Earth clocks. So the argument should not be about the rejection of ‘millions or billions of years’ per se; it is really about the truthfulness of God’s Word.

The biblical account is written from an Earth-centred perspective, from man's perspective on Earth. So that is what is important. That is why the correct terminology is 'biblical creationist' rather than 'young earth creationist' even though the second follows from the first.

God wants us to use our brains, after all He created them. He also wants us to explore and understand His universe and appreciate Him as its Creator. I think, in principle, we can learn a lot about how this universe was created. This article "Modern science in creationist thinking" outlines my thoughts on this in more detail.

Joseph M., United Kingdom, 17 February 2016

It seems to me that the speed of light change is not the issue. The real issue is the fabric of space. Which postulates a number of points:

1) Operational science has proved light can be transported on the back of other mediums, such as a fingerprint on atoms, which Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, Lene Hau proved when she stopped light in one place then retrieves and speeds it up in a completely separate place.

2) So the question is can the fabric of space or some property within expand faster than the speed of light?

3) The gravitational waves seems to provide more operational evidence that there is something as the 'fabric' of space

If this is the case then the billions of years could be the result of the expansion of the fabric of space during an acceleration/deceleration period during the creation week when light and other things were carried along. Your thoughts?

John Hartnett responds

The speed of light should have been called something like Einstein's constant, c, because sometimes people don't realise it is in everything. It is involved in the local physics of that black hole binary system as much as it is involved in the electronic quantum states of atoms. Some think of it only as the speed which light travels from the cosmos. That is true but also it is the speed gravity waves travel which means the speed the infamous graviton travels. So my comment on the physics relates to the value of that constant back in time.

What we call the canonical value, c, is the vacuum speed of light. The speed of light can be changed when entering a medium. This is what causes deflection of light in a lens etc. It may be greatly slowed even stopped under various experimental conditions in highly dispersive media etc as you mention. But it is the vacuum speed that is this universal constant.

I agree that these gravity waves indicate that there is something there as they propagate through spacetime. I am not so sure though that the fabric of space expands at all. That is not the same thing as the former. I suggest you read "Expansion of space -- a dark science".

Bridget M., United States, 17 February 2016

I've read most of Humphrey's Starlight and Time and many of the articles here on CMI's website concerning the time-light travel problem, and while I find it all fascinating and an amazing example of God's majesty, I admit that a lot of its over my head and is confusing me more than helping, I'm afraid--even what is written in layman's terms! Perhaps you can clarify something for me?

What I thought I had understood was that during the 4th day of Creation, earth was below an event horizon and time was moving much more slowly there than in the cosmos--billions of years of cosmos time took place in a mere 24 hours of earth time, but as the day closed, the earth crossed the horizon, which synced the two clocks, and thus time on earth is approximately ticking at the same speed as the universe now.

I infer from that idea that when we look into the far distant universe, such as at the merger mentioned in this article, that we are looking backwards in time to events that happened at Creation.

But in your reply to Abraão C. above, you stated that this event probably happened soon after Creation week, which is confusing me. If time on the earth after the 4th day now ticks at about the same time as the cosmos, and the speed of light is indeed constant there as well as here, then how can we see something that happened after the Creation week? If the billions of years we see happened during the 24 hours of the 4th day of creation after which the two clocks were fairly synced, would not the light from that event thus need a billion years to get to us at a constant speed of light? In that case, how do we see anything that happened after the close of Creation week? Or is something happening to time in between? Sorry--I'm apparently not understanding something!

John Hartnett responds

I am sorry about the confusion. You describe a cosmological model of Dr Humphreys and it potential solution to the light-travel time problem. Please note that that is only one of several ideas that are potential solutions and the different ideas have different scenarios connected with them. It depends of the details. Here is my lecture "Starlight and time: Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?" I have tried to explain each of these. But please note, there is not one fixed answer to this question yet. So in my response you mentioned I was not speaking in absolute terms.

Generally speaking for all 'time dilation' cosmologies, of either my own design or Dr Humphreys, whatever we see in the distant cosmos must be coming from either Creation week activity or from sometime after Creation week. In those cosmologies the speed of light is constant, c, and does not change. So in astronomical clock time it must take 1.3 billion years for light to traverse the distance of 1.3 billion light-years. Thus my statement in that reply was being general that that light must have left soon after creation. It could even be from Creation week (it depends on the details of the cosmology) but I was not intending to be very specific.

In terms of time dilation cosmologies, they generally work that the more distant the source the closer to Creation week the light is from. In my second cosmology I interpreted that to mean everything we see in the cosmos outside of our Galaxy is from Creation week. In any case, in terms of astronomical time light takes billions of years to get to Earth from the most distant sources. Thus the light that we see now from the most distant sources left much earlier than did light which left from nearby sources. Hence we look back further in time (either towards Creation week or within Creation week) as we look deeper into the cosmos. These notes on my lecture "Starlight and time: Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?" may be of help.

Edie S., United States, 17 February 2016

I may or may not have this right, but from my readings I have come to believe that God Created everything in first six earth days, but as he is outside of time, he created the universe as it was 6000 years ago earth time, billions of years ago his time. I don't mean a mature universe in transit, but the universe is truly both billions of years old, and yet it was made on the fourth earth day 6,000 years ago. I really don't see a contradiction, as our God is the master Creator of the laws governing our universe and put them into place. In a way, I think that Einstein's theory of relativity supports this thought, in the way, space, time and gravity, bend the universe as a ball on a rubber sheet. Close your eyes, picture a water universe, God separating everything to water and not water, with God as the light source, the earth the center of his creation, on 4th day, God is in earth time organizing the rest of the universe that is billions of years from us and also billions of years old. If you think about it, God did not go outside of the natural or a use supernatural event to create the universe, as he created what is natural or/& the laws governing the universe during and after his creation. Thank you CMI for your work.

John Hartnett responds

You may be touching on something I could agree with but it is not clear to me. Time dilation models do posit that the universe is about 6000 years old based on Earth clocks, but could be billions of years old based on astronomical clocks. Maybe you intend to say this? However there is one point I am certain of. God did supernaturally create at least most of the stars hence galaxies -- it was not just a reorganisation. See Stars just don't form naturally and also I suggest my lecture on time dilation possible solutions among others.

Errol B., Australia, 17 February 2016

Thanks for the article, One of my sons was asking me about this before I knew anything about it. With questions like, "does this go against the creation account?" etc.

One point I'm a little confused about is "Their distance, determined from luminosity, is about 1.3 billion light-years"??? They're Black Holes, do they emit radiation in the visible bandwidth? Did the coalescing allow them to emit light temporarily?

John Hartnett responds

Luminosity in this case refers to the intensity of the gravitational waves themselves, which, after travelling a long way through space, decrease in intensity or luminosity as the square of the distance. This is just the same as with visible light or any electromagnetic radiation, which decreases in intensity as a function of distance. Thus to calculate the luminosity distance, cosmology necessarily enters into the calculation, and standard big bang cosmology was used. Nevertheless, even if that assumption introduced an error, it still is at an enormous distance. Note: The gravitational wave astronomers do not exactly know where the source is. They only know it came from a certain (large) region of space. With additional detectors widely spaced on Earth better resolution is expected.

Robert S., United States, 17 February 2016

John,

I have analyzed the many publications and results of this event, and am convinced that it is a simple spoof. When Jessica McIver reported that a telemarketting phone call was creating spurious signals in the system, I knew exactly how it was spoofed. Here's how to do it:

1) Acquire 2 iPhones.

2) Download a sound file from the internet of two 30-mass black holes merging. Several sources can supply them, I found mine at MIT website.

3) Make sure the iPhones are synced up to a time server, and set the alarms to be once-a-week, one ring, on Monday at 2:15 am.

4) Find a reason to be in Hanford and Livingston, and hide said iPhones somewhere in the facility. This will be easier during engineering phase than data phase, so get there before the data phase starts.

Alternatively, get an accomplice to put one phone and you can put the other.

5) Wait for the excitement on Tuesday. Then nonchalantly remove the iPhone before the following Monday.

Now, why do I think this spoof was done? Really, do I need to explain the motivation? Look at all the excitement. Look at the gullibility. It's the prank that just keeps on giving, and giving and giving...

How do I know it wasn't real?

a) It was too perfect a match to known simulation results.

b) It was symmetric BH

c) It was 30-solar-mass BH

d) The perfect match was to simulation codes that set the Maxwell stress-energy tensor to zero, that set the BH charge to zero, that set the non-linearity to 1st order (post-Newtonian approximation), that set the background magnetic field to zero, that had evenly matched super-massive BH---in other words, to a whole series of approximations intended to make the computer code easier, but the astronomy incredibly unlikely. Read the ApJ paper, there's just no way it'll happen.

John Hartnett responds

Robert, there is no way that that scenario would work, even if you had your iPhones set on vibrate and managed to get the signals to go off 10 ms apart at the two sites. The reason is that the LIGO interferometers are set to detect the quadrapole motion of their antennas--one arm lengthens as one arm shortens in quadrature. I think that signature would be impossible to simulate with your iPhones. But even if you could have produced a reasonable signal that caused the interferometer arms to move the right way to simulate a signal it would probably have been detected by one of the many environmental detectors and seismometers. If there was something so simple they would have thought of a way of using it to test the antennas, but instead they modulate a laser signal injected into the interferometer to simulate a test signal. BTW, at the time of this detection there were no environmental sources of noise that could have produced the signal.

Researchers use computer simulations to learn what a waveform should look like. And those approximations all seem reasonable to me. The physics for a pair of coalescing compact objects, in principle, is fairly simple. Nevertheless the inspiral can only be solved numerically, not analytically. BTW, they were not supermassive black holes, but have stellar size masses.

Abraão C., Brazil, 16 February 2016

I was unable to understand how this discovery rules out the cdk, could you give a better explanation? Or could you point me a place to read about this?

Thank you in advance.

John Hartnett responds

This observation has allowed physicists to assess the physics of that local system, ie. the black hole binary coalescing. Einstein's general relativity is used and in that the constant, the speed of light c, is used. I don't mean the speed which it travelled to Earth is directly measured but the speed that light traveled within that local system, within the reference frame of the black holes themselves. And they at a distance of something like 1.3 billion light-years, way out toward the edge of the visible universe.

My reference 27 is a lecture which covers cdk among other potential solutions for the starlight travel time problem. There I discuss the issue in relation to the Hulse-Taylor neutron-star binary at a distance of 28,000 light-years (in the Galaxy) which indicates when light left that source c was the same as it is today. In this binary black-hole merger the distance is 1.3 billion light-years and hence the gravity wave travelling at the speed of light, c, must have left the source even much earlier than light did from the Hulse-Taylor binary. It must have happened soon after the beginning of creation, therefore it gives a measure of the speed of light back at that time, soon after or during Creation week. (The details depend on the cosmology you like to apply.)

Will B., United Kingdom, 16 February 2016

Whenever I read of models that aim to show the plausibility of light travelling to earth in a young creation, one thing that comes to mind is the question of whether we have missed a simple point: God made Adam mature because there was a purpose to having an adult male (and very soon after an adult female); this wasn't about God making the creation look artificially old, but about a purpose in not making something immature.

Could the same principle apply to starlight as applies to fully-grown humans, trees (not seeds or even saplings) and vegetation - created so that the starlight was already visible by God's fiat, because the light from them had a purpose as mentioned in the early verses of Genesis 1.

Again, for the sake of clarity, this is not an issue of God trying to make the universe look old, but that things were created in a mature state, so that the lights seen at first (and even for a long time afterwards) are those created in motion for the purposes He gives.

John Hartnett responds

What you describe is commonly called light 'created in transit'. That is the light beams are all instantly created by God filling the space between the distant galaxies and Earth. But it also means that those beams must carry false information, and we know God is not a deceiver. It would take then millions or billions of years, depending how far away the source is, for the true information to arrive, travelling at the constant speed of light. This idea is discussed in chapter 5, of The Creation Answers book, referenced in the article as ref. 29. This is not the same thing as the creation of mature first adult humans, or mature flora and fauna of Earth, that needed to be fully functioning.

Reed C., United States, 16 February 2016

Will this lead to an update in the creation answers book and if so will the book focus chapter 5 on the time dilation model or will other creation models be included?

John Hartnett responds

The Creation Answers book will be updated as and when necessary, as the need arises, and take into account all the changes in the relevant sciences up to that time. I imagine (but can't predict) that time dilation models and other creation models will be included.

J. S., Canada, 16 February 2016

Does this discovery require one to believe in astronomical evolution for it to be true? And secondly, when can we expect anti-gravity aircraft propulsion systems? =).

John Hartnett responds

No, it does not follow that any evolution of galaxies is true. Calculating the rate at which black hole coalesce in the universe will be based on such considerations, but we'll see if detections are any where expected. Actually the rate at the moment is unknown and estimated to be between 0.5 and 25 per year at a distance of this detection. That means a minumum of 1 every 2 years.

Definitely this does not mean anti-gravity driven spacecraft or aircraft. That would be like saying the discovery of a planet with a light telescope allowed us to travel to the planet. Very different technology is involved.

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