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Astronomers Discover a Group of Quasars 4 Billion Light Years Across

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the 4.8-million-years-at-warp-9 dept.

Space 106

New submitter mal0rd writes "NewScientist reports a 'collection of galaxies that is a whopping four billion light years long is the biggest cosmic structure ever seen. The group is roughly one-twentieth the diameter of the observable universe – big enough to challenge a principle dating back to Einstein, that, on large scales, the universe looks the same in every direction.' For reference, Andromeda is only 2.5 million light years away."

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106 comments

GET OUT (-1)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568379)

No fucking way. For real?

Re:GET OUT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568469)

Way.

Stupid (but serious) Question (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568395)

What exactly makes this "a structure"? All linked gravitationally or what?

Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (4, Interesting)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568475)

From the sounds of it this is a case of proximity rather than being gravitationally bound:

Since 1982 it has been know that quasars tend to group together in clumps or ‘structures’ of surprisingly large sizes, forming large quasar groups or LQGs.

Most things in space tend to cluster together - dust around stars forms planets, stars group together in galaxies, there's a hierarchy of galactic clusters and super clusters, and some of the largest scale structures can contain tens of thousands of galaxies. These large scale structures aren't caused by gravity pulling galaxies together, it's more of an inbuild clustering effect which originates in slight density fluctuations in the very early universe.

Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568747)

I think what people are missing is the laws of probability. When Einstein said it looked the same in every direction, what he meant was that it's all governed by the same laws. There's no local variations in the laws of physics. But the probability of something is never either 1 or 0, but some value in between, which means that if you do it enough times (observe) you're eventually going to stumble across something highly improbable. It does not mean that the universe still isn't mostly homogenous -- it just means that there are local defects, in the same way that when you're stirring pudding every now and then you get a lump in it.

I don't find this find to be particularly interesting by itself. Science starts with "That's odd" more often than not, and this certainly is odd, but it doesn't prove anything. Not yet.

Central limit theorem (5, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570691)

When Einstein said it looked the same in every direction, what he meant was that it's all governed by the same laws.

Actually it's more than that, it's also about the distribution of matter and energy on a large scale. It's assumed that matter is homogenous throughout the universe, homogenous literally means "no lumps" (above a certain size defined as "local" in your post). It's like an ideal gas, at the microscopic level you have all sorts of random "pressure" (kinetic energy of the individual atoms), at the macroscopic level there is just one pressure that is the same no matter what part of the gas you measure. This is because the macroscopic measurements are an average of all the individual microscopic pressures, the central limit theorem of statistics says that that the average of a big enough sample from a large population will always be very close to the real population average.

In other words the reason it's "odd" is that statistics says the observation can't be brushed aside as a fluke, if the distribution of quasars is lumpy then either the basic assumption of large scale homogeneity is wrong, or the observation is flawed. The OP's stupid question is by far the most insightful thing I've read about it so far, how are they defining the word "structure".

Re:Central limit theorem (3, Insightful)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570775)

homogenous literally means "no lumps"

No, it literally means "same kind". Homo genos, the Greek words for 'same' and 'kind or type.'

Re:Central limit theorem (5, Funny)

sco08y (615665) | about a year and a half ago | (#42571455)

homogenous literally means "no lumps"

No, it literally means "same kind". Homo genos, the Greek words for 'same' and 'kind or type.'

You're using the literal meaning of literally, which is the one that literally no one uses.

Re:Central limit theorem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42573733)

You're using the literal meaning of literally, which is the one that literally no one uses.

He does.

Re:Central limit theorem (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42574295)

It's assumed that matter is homogenous throughout the universe, homogenous literally means "no lumps"

Homogenous doesn't mean exempt from the laws of probability. Even though the size of this is massive, this "lump" has only been observed once. Everywhere else you look in the sky conforms to the existing understanding and expectation of the uniformity of the universe. The central limit theorem hasn't been broken -- it may however require a redefinition of what "local" is. There's all kinds of weird one-offs that we've observed -- things that seem highly unlikely (certain celestial configurations of orbiting masses for example) have been seen, but they remain very rare (Einstein believed that "god does not throw dice". This has been proven wrong a long time now -- there is randomness in the universe, which means that things like this can and will be observed. It does not mean new physics.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42570709)

You fail to understand that all the physics says is that this 4 billion size should and can't exist because of the way einstein said things should be.
THUS einstein may appear to have been wrong and its another nail in the head for inflation.

Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569791)

Bullshit. It's caused by gravity not some mysterious "inbuild clustering". Is that a new name for gravity?

Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (3, Interesting)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570667)

Fair call, I should clarify: Yes, the clustering happens because of gravity, but not because they were all spread out and gravity pulled them into a structure. The density fluctuations which cause a "structure" were there in the first few moments of the universe, what gravity does is amplify the effect and make the structure more obvious. If there was no gravity these would still be "structures", but they'd be identifiable as fractionally denser areas of matter rather than big, obvious, visible-from-billions-of-light-years-away structures. The structure is caused by the initial state of the universe, gravity makes it even more obvious.

Descriptive entropy (4, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568707)

Consider all the entities [stars, galaxies, or whatnot] in your study as points in 3-space. The descriptive length of the data is the total number of bits that describes the location of all points in your study.

If all points are random and evenly distributed, then the total number of bits required is (number of points)x(number of bits for 1 location).

Suppose you notice a clumping of points. Is this a structure or random variation?

Rework your data description as follows: for any point, use the first bit to determine whether a point is a member of the clump or not, and subsequent bits to complete the description, depending on whether the point is in the clump.

For this description, the total number of bits required is 1x(total number of points) + (number of points in clump)x(number of bits for location relative to clump) + (number of points not in clump)x(number of bits for general location).

If the 2nd description is shorter than the 1st description, then by Occam's razor the second description is more likely correct.

In fact, the number of bits directly tells the probability that the 2nd description is correct: if the 2nd description requires 10 fewer bits (total) than the 1st, then the 2nd description is more likely to be correct by a factor of 1024. Alternately, there is a 1/1024 chance that the 2nd description is *not* the correct description of the data.

If you have lots of data, it's not unusual for a descriptive length to be thousands of bits shorter than the baseline description; meaning, that it's virtually certain that the new description is correct and that the new structure does not arise from random variation.

I haven't seen the data, but I assume that describing all galaxies in the universe using the newly described "clump" as a categorical structure gives a smaller descriptive entropy than describing all galaxies without the extra category of "clump".

Re:Descriptive entropy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569003)

"...then by Occam's razor the second description is more likely correct."

No. Occam's Razor says nothing about the probability of being correct. It says which of two otherwise-equivalent models should be used as a practical conceptual matter.

Re:Descriptive entropy (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569079)

Assigning some numbering system to perceived localized concentrations in a random universe is sort of like throwing more money in a Vegas Slot Machine on the theory that some supposed law of averages suggests you are bound to start winning any minute now.

Clumps of anything in a random universe are not rare.

It seem just as likely that the clump is simply a term used by astronomers to refer to that group we were talking about during coffee break.
The word "structure" seems a bit of a stretch here, when you consider that the perceived organization may depend on where the observer sits, or what numbers one assigns to the things being counted.

Left unanswered are questions like:
Are these all moving in the same direction away from some common origin?
Are they all moving at approximately the same speed?
Do they all exhibit similar spectra?

Re:Descriptive entropy (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42574919)

> Assigning some numbering system to perceived localized concentrations in a random universe is sort of like throwing more money in a Vegas Slot Machine on the theory that some supposed law of averages suggests you are bound to start winning any minute now.

It's hard to tell if that's wrong, or just meaningless. It parses as English, but it doesn't seem to actually be countering the post to which you responded. I'll try to mimic you:
"Claiming clumps in a random universe aren't rare is sort of like pouring custard into an empty tortoise shell."
You see, it parses, but it contains two almost entirely unconnected things in the same sentence, with no logic inference or deductive process connecting them.

If you were to try to perform the transformation suggested - in 1D if you prefer, as that would let you use fruit-machine winnings as your source data you would see that you cannot create a more compact representation of the data. The grandparent post was one of the most lucid explanations of the concept I've seen in a long time, and it seems to have gone right over your head.

Re:Descriptive entropy (1)

AnilJ (1342025) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576305)

In other words, is it the size of this clump which causes the excitement?

Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568713)

What makes the molecules that is your body different to the molecules in the "air" or "walls" around you?

For a long time scientists has tried to make the universe simple:
From stars in the heavens to just a bunch of galaxies spread around.
Then it was superclusters, and so and and so on.
Now the scale is broken again, and the old assumptions will need to be revised again.

In the end, we'll probably have to accept there is no limit to the universe, and at NO scale is _everything_ homogenous.
It makes things more complicated. Fractal chaos is more needed than simple linear models, but then again, we're dealing with reality here, not one perfect spheroid marble on a diagonal plane.

Captcha: repeated

Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (-1, Offtopic)

cuiagaha (2814257) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569163)

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Re:Stupid (but serious) Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572287)

You'r mama's soo big.... astronomers thought she shouldn't exist!

"A" reference point, sure... (1)

gubon13 (2695335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568459)

Andromeda is perpendicular to the visible sky from Earth. This new collection of galaxies is parallel to the visible sky from Earth.

Using one as a reference point for the other in four-dimensional space makes little sense to me.

Re:"A" reference point, sure... (3, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568615)

The new collection is four billion light years long. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away. This means the collection is 1600 times the distance to Andromeda in length. What's wrong with that? (apart from the fact that either distance is pretty close to unimaginable for us day-to-day Earth-bound humans)

Using one as a reference point for the other in four-dimensional space makes little sense to me.

It's being used as a reference distance.

Re:"A" reference point, sure... (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569113)

Andromeda is perpendicular to the visible sky from Earth. This new collection of galaxies is parallel to the visible sky from Earth.

The concept of parallel makes no sense when referring the the "visible sky" which is roughly a half sphere, and a half sphere that varies according to one's position on the earth. The geocentric model of the universe has fallen into disfavor recently. You may want to consider some more modern conceptual models.

Re:"A" reference point, sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42570597)

It makes perfect sense - for a sphere parallel is synonymous with tangential, and perpendicular is precisely that. The "visible sky" as defined really means the two-sphere of points in projective space radiating from the earth.

Perhaps you may want to consider some more understanding of geometry, or at least not being a rude prick without cause to someone who's trying to discuss things on the internet?

Re:"A" reference point, sure... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570687)

Perhaps, then,, in your wisdom, you can explain the GP's original sentence:

Andromeda is perpendicular to the visible sky from Earth. This new collection of galaxies is parallel to the visible sky from Earth.

There is precisely zero difference between Andromeda and the new Cluster when viewed from some generic place on earth. That it is tangential at one point on earth and perpendicular at another seems completely lost on the GP, and you. Both are totally useless terms of reference. That you can't see this suggests you too suffer from a pre-Copernican conceptual model of the universe.

Re:"A" reference point, sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42571803)

Tangential at one point and perpendicular at another? FFS, you really are clueless aren't you? Your head is approximately a sphere. Have you really never seen something edge on?

Here's a clue: Take a pencil. Hold one end in each hand, out at arms length, hands separated as far as you can whilst still holding it. That is perpendicular to the sphere of vision you have. Now let go of one end and rotate the pencil so that the point lies directly between your eye and the hand holding it. It is now perpendicular to your vision.

Consider doing the same with a plate: You hold it one way and see a circle, hold it another an it's almost a line. That's what the OP is talking about. The Earth is essentially a point on these scales.

Here's another one. Grab that crayon you have and a piece of paper (that's ok, if you don't have paper you can draw on the floor for now). Now draw a point, and at a distance two lines: One going straight away from the point, one going at right angles to the first starting at one of the ends. Consider that you are standing at the point, and think about what you might see in both cases. Now wipe the drool from your face, and keep thinking hard. It'll come to you eventually.

That's the best I can do for you. For anyone else reading this: The visible sky is a section of the real projective space RP^2 (it's 2 sections really, one for each eye, but for these purposes we'll assume that distances are large enough that the eye separation can be neglected, as my eyes are closer together than I am to the Andromeda galaxy). Now Andromeda forms a line segment in RP^2, as does the structure discussed in the article, however in the case of Andromeda it is because the equivalence used to project from a space diffeomorphic to R^3 to RP^2 has collapsed a physical dimension of the galaxy, whereas for the LQC-Huge structure this is assumed to not be the case.

Re:"A" reference point, sure... (1)

Meyaht (2729603) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570681)

Hold a paper plate out at arms length in a way that you can only see the edge of it. Now imagine its "crazy" far away and"holy shit" big. That's what they're saying, except its not a plate, its WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DISCUSS WHILE YOU ARE BEING.... kindof a dick.

Is it aligned with the Cosmic Axis of Evil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568537)

Really... now that we know the Universe has a 'rough' alignment, which is giving the theoreticians fits, is this quasar structure aligned with the so-called Cosmic Axis of Evil?

Einstein's theory intact, universe bigger (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568591)

I tend to disagree with the assumption the article makes that this really disputes Einstein's cosmological theory. It just indicates that the large-scale sameness he calculated is at much larger scales - the observable universe turns out to be a tiny part of a much larger reality.

So, now we know we know less than we thought. This seems to be a trend :D

Re:Einstein's theory intact, universe bigger (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568687)

Well, the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

Re:Einstein's theory intact, universe bigger (2)

Patch86 (1465427) | about a year and a half ago | (#42573437)

If the "sameness" holds, presumably this pattern of clustered quasars should have similar relations in other parts of the sky.

(IANAPh)

My understanding of the concept of cosmological sameness is that you pick any patch of sky and the contents should be more or less the same- the same material content, the same patterns (or lack of patterns), etc. If there are corners of the universe which are substantially different from other corners, then that implies that our theories governing the early universe (which should produce a nice even, lumpless modern universe) aren't correct.

This observation implies that 1/20th of the universe is substantially different from the other 19/20ths. That's a lot of lumpiness. Unless further observations show that the rest of the universe contains similar arrangements, then early-universe theories would need to explain how 5% of the universe came to be different to the rest.

Big (4, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568625)

Based on the map in the linked article, it appears that this Quasar has an angular diameter of about 10 degrees. The moon is about 0.5 degrees. So if the magnitude was high enough to be visible, this structure would be the size of a constellation. Of course, if it was that bright, it would have fried most of the observable universe.

Heaven (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568641)

Heaven is for Real!

And what's a quasar to do with all this? (1)

somegeekynick (1011759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568731)

Come on, UCLan? Really, a quasar [eso.org] is 4 Gly long?

Re:And what's a quasar to do with all this? (2)

somegeekynick (1011759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568951)

Okay, what I meant was: what has a single quasar got to do with all this? It was not an appropriate image to use in this context.

moD up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568767)

users. BSD/OS become an unwanted wall: *BSD facEs a sales and so on,

Same structure in a different direction (2)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568769)

Wouldn't it be interesting if we could see the same structure in a different direction! Then we would know we could see to the end of the universe.

Aliens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568803)

Maybe aliens made this structure?

Re:Aliens? (1)

surveyork (1505897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569323)

Ancient aliens did it.
"Is such a thing even possible? Yes, it is." ~The crazy guy with the crazy hairdo.

inflation ok here? (3, Interesting)

vistapwns (1103935) | about a year and a half ago | (#42568805)

Curious question for you physicists or arm-chair physicists, does this have any implications for inflation? I've read here and there that inflation would be problematic if there were large structures in the universe, because nothing would have had time to propagate the distance in the time required to be compatible with inflation, so does this bump up against that limit or break it?

Re:inflation ok here? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569583)

I think that would depend a lot more on the exact definition of "structure" used by astronomer and the causal connection between the parts of the structure. If the structure were more of just a coincidence, a bunch of stuff that happens to line up, it would mean no change to inflation or the scales previous found for homogenization of structure in the universe. And given the nature of stuff in the universe to form around kind a foam shape, it wouldn't surprise me that you could find long strings where it seems things lined up. Although a quantitative approach would be needed instead, to see exactly what the chances of something they label as a structure appearing that much larger than the scale structures "should stop."

If on the other hand, there is some sort of connection between the parts of the structure, such that it is clearly forming due to gravitational interaction between long distances part of it or due to some much earlier interaction at some point, that could change things. But that would be much harder to demonstrate than just seeing a bunch of dots lining up in a map.

Re:inflation ok here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569607)

A lot of recent discoveries are breaking down General Relativity. Just too much you can't explain without getting rid of the whole no faster than light junk you've always heard. We astronomers wish the physicists would just leave our shit alone. Look up Superluminal Motion sometime. You can't get anything recognized or published unless you bend it to Einstein's will.

Re:inflation ok here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569929)

A lot of recent discoveries are breaking down General Relativity.

By which you mean almost zero? Not that hasn't stopped many physicists from trying their hardest to find an alternative that can better explain observations, and I wish them the best of luck because that could lead to some cool things. But so far, all attempts have disagreed with observations and don't come as close to other observations as GR based models. There are plenty of things that would suggest, "Gee, maybe this would be easier without GR." but so far, everyone going down that path is finding what amounts to, "ugh, this is even messier and less effective."

Re:inflation ok here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42571817)

IANAP but it looks like general relativiy's nothing faster than light works similarly to working with 32 bit integer arithmetic: having a bounded range simplifies a lot of operations and results in elegant solutions while making many other operations very difficult or seemingly impossible to solve; Floating point arithmetic is more complex and introduces all classes of headaches but solves more things.

Re:inflation ok here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572173)

If by simplifies things, you mean explains a large number and variety of observations, including some precise quantitative predictions... then yes, it does that as any physical theory should strive to do. And if trying to allude to there being a more complex, and difficult theory out there that does better, it is possible, but there are no hints of that at the moment. Attempts at making more complex theories not only make them more difficult, but also more wrong... And it is not about just there being a speed limit, there are far more parts and implications of relativity, and connections to other heavily tested theories that cause the speed limit to pop out, almost more as a consequence than a prerequisite, with almost no major suggestions of being wrong at this point.

Re:inflation ok here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572185)

As an astronomer that has made many observations, I can say that I've had to manipulate data from direct observations as to show that particles and radiation were moving slower than light. We normally say that we're looking at it at a different angle, or that it is an illusion. If we don't do so to make our observations match up with GR, the data will be thrown out as garbage by the guys upstairs.

Re:inflation ok here? (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569947)

I heard kind of the opposite: the large-scale structures now (e.g. superclusters, membranes, ...) are remnants of tiny quantum fluctuations early on in the big bang. If these fluctuations were early enough, then inflation will make them huge.

Re:inflation ok here? (4, Informative)

bjorniac (836863) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570491)

It's a good question. I think you've gotten things a little backwards, though, with regars to the problem of propagation - inflation is a proposed explanation for propagation in the sense that it allows otherwise separate regions of the sky to have been in causal contact in the past. But this certainly does have impact upon the current inflationary paradigm in the following sense:

If there were large structures or large inhomogeneities in the early universe (before inflation) then it would be hard to get inflation going. The basic models of inflation contain a field whose energy can be decomposed (and I'm playing very fast and loose here) into three parts: Potential, Kinetic and fluctuations. From these parts, we say that if the potential is large enough, the inflaton undergoes a "slow roll" down the potential during which our regular inflation happens. Fluctuations are treated as perturbations on this background, and it's from these that we expect to see the everyday structure in the universe. A warning though: We don't know the physics that causes these fluctuations to stop being quantum fluctuations and become classical perturbations in matter on this background.

Now, if the fluctuations are too big, this model breaks down - the inflaton can't be high enough up its potential, and so slow roll can't happen. Hence before inflation we have to assume that the universe is largely homogeneous and isotropic, and fluctuations begin very small (technically in the "Bunch-Davies vacuum state).

A big inhomogeneity AFTER inflation isn't too bad - it could well be that this is just the result of one of the longer wavelength fluctuations. Of course, one would then have to explain /why/ this wave in particular had such a large amplitude, but this really doesn't contravene inflationary models, it merely adds a new question about the initial conditions.

Now, if we had been dealing with a serious overdensity (tons of quasars in the same spot) rather than a large strung-out structure, we would certainly have a problem with inflation, but so far as I know this isn't too big of an issue.

Disclaimer: I work on the mathematical structure end of things, not the computation or observation, so there are certainly people more qualified than I, to whom I would happily defer if they want to post!

Re:inflation ok here? (1)

vistapwns (1103935) | about a year and a half ago | (#42572713)

Ah, yes that's what I was kind of (clumsily) trying to get at, thanks for the great informative post, that's exactly what I wanted to know and I know that kind of answer does not come easy. :)

What??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42568901)

"For reference, Andromeda is only 2.5 million light years AWAY"

How is this related to a structure that's 4 billions light years LONG?

The Cosmological principle will still hold. (5, Insightful)

Braintrust (449843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569155)

All this observation really implies is that the true and full size of the universe is much larger than what has been documented so far.

Currently, we can observe a bubble of space around us to a radius of about 13.5 billion light years. That's as far as we can see. This may well be analogous to being at the center of a water balloon, submerged in a swimming pool of much greater volume.

We can currently see to the inner surface of that balloon, but the far greater mass of water outside of it remains hidden for now to our instrumentation.

Complex systems will always tend to appear homogenous, given enough subjective distance.

Fun fact: The rotational period of the Milky Way is approximately 200-250 million years.

The universe we currently observe is approximately 13.5 billion years old --- there is no way a spiral of such definition could form after only 50-odd rotations, and yet still be so topographically distinct from other such bodies.

That's simply not enough time.

2c

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0, Troll)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569563)

I've been wondering about that for some time. I can't tell if some astronomers really are clueless or if the disconnect is entirely at the level of the press trying to translate what an astronomer is saying. I've about come to the conclusion that many astronomers are very confused. They say "the early universe" as a matter of course, as if the distance the Hubble telescope can see is somehow relevant to the age of the universe. As you so succinctly point out, the universe can not possibly be a mere 13.5 billion years old. That's far far too little time to form what we see in our own backyard, let alone what we see in the little bubble Hubble can observe.

This quasar cluster, for example. Quasars are supposed to be super-massive black holes at the center of galaxies. That is, black holes of galactic mass. The articles haven't said very clearly just how far away the cluster is from us, but let's take the best case and say the Milky Way sits right on the edge of it. That makes the farthest reaches of it 4 billion light years away. Are they seriously claiming that a black hole on the far rim of the cluster from us could have absorbed an entire galaxy worth of mass in a mere 9.5 billion years? And that's just a bare minimum. Most probably the whole structure is much farther away from us than that, and therefore we're seeing it even farther in the past.

So this phrase we hear constantly is just nonsense. "The early universe." We haven't SEEN the early universe. Not even close. That 13.5 billion years is simply the lowest possible lower bound for the age of the universe. We understand precisely nothing about the cosmic background radiation that allegedly provides us with the most accurate current estimate. That estimate is based on a model that was force-fitted to previous guesses. It's crap.

Someday we'll have huge telescopes, far bigger than Hubble, orbiting in handy places like the Trojan points of Neptune and Saturn, and we'll be able to make some really USEFUL parallax measurements, and start clearing up some of the mess astronomers have accumulated by guessing too much with too little data.

"Standard candle" novas. Oh please...

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569905)

That 13.5 billion years is simply the lowest possible lower bound for the age of the universe.

The 13.7 billion year estimate is NOT a lower bound, but an actual estimate of time since the early part of the Big Bang, with its own error bars above and below that value. It is one thing to reject the theories that lead to that estimate, but if you do so, you can't treat it suddenly as a lower bound, you would have to reject it outright.

We understand precisely nothing about the cosmic background radiation that allegedly provides us with the most accurate current estimate. That estimate is based on a model that was force-fitted to previous guesses.

This seems to suggest you understand nothing about the models and theories applied to get those estimates, and what they take into account besides just the CMB.

Are they seriously claiming that a black hole on the far rim of the cluster from us could have absorbed an entire galaxy worth of mass in a mere 9.5 billion years?

No, because most estimates of quasar sizes range from a million to a billion solar masses, which would put it at a fraction of a less than 0.1% to almost a millionth of the mass of the Milky Way. So no one has claimed they absorbed a whole galaxy worth of mass when they are considered to be much less massive than full sized galaxies, and smaller than many dwarf galaxies even.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

nu1x (992092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569959)

Absolutely agree.

Guesstimating the age of the universe while being limited in resolution department of measuring insruments is just bad science, it should not even be considered science. Also, in my opinion, estimating AOU based on red-shift is also flawed, because there is only GUESS that red-shift is caused by acceleration of bodies from each other (extremely counter-intuitive and fitting only a very primitive, and very suspicious-looking, model of universe). You could say that space intrinsically robs EM radiation of energy over huge distances and be just as correct.

Also consider that speed of light is almost the same as standing still, even by galactic perspective (speed of light is really slow), and everything as we see it, happens at most in speed of light, which gives not enough time for sequential phenomena (that gives birth to observable universe) to play out.

The problem with modern scientist is that he is very competent in the concrete, but not at all in abstract. being unable to integrate knowledge to a coherent whole. We need new sciences (metasciences ?) that would do nothing but rewiew existing sciences just to see if far branches make sense at all in the grand scheme of things. You could say that is existing scientific method, but that is only (mostly) intra-discipline, not inter-discipline.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42570031)

You could say that space intrinsically robs EM radiation of energy over huge distances and be just as correct.

It would have to do so in a very specific, wavelength-independent way. Additionally, it would have to do so with quite a bit of variation to allow for observations of relative motions of galaxies, and/or turn off on large but not very large scales where we can more directly look for energy loss. And if you want it to not allow measurements of distances, it would have to deviate from being a function of distance. It is not impossible, but seems like it would be a rather convoluted model, and would require hypothesizing something new exists out there in space, which would at least seem unpopular with the armchair-cosmologists...

Also, in my opinion, estimating AOU based on red-shift is also flawed, because there is only GUESS that red-shift is caused by acceleration of bodies from each other (extremely counter-intuitive and fitting only a very primitive, and very suspicious-looking, model of universe).

For age of universe estimates, at least rough ones, red shift doesn't factor much into it very much and there are many other factors that are more important for the big picture, rough estimate. Also, to be more precise, the red-shift is caused by a velocity, as is easily observed in a lab setting, and even doesn't require any acceleration at all to get the rough estimates. Modeling the acceleration or change in such velocities in time matters more for refining the estimates down, but is not needed to get something easily within a factor of 2.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

nu1x (992092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570991)

Thanks for a well written and informative reply; I know most of this stuff, what I was trying to get at is that there exists a rigid thinking that takes existing notions (dogma ?) as granted. I still, steadfastly think, that reality is much more interesting than even our best models and approximations.

There needs to be more new thinking, but I can personally attest that new thinking is hard, because otherwise I myself would have actual proposals, and I am just wildly flailing around.

Maybe someday even I could cobble something together out of vacation time and caffeine. :D

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42572633)

I will continue to flail wildly with you. I eat up everything I hear about 'physics' the universe, and everything (TM) and end up flailing for hours coming up with way to many un-provable but viable and fun ideas.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year and a half ago | (#42577089)

They've already compensated for the mass of the objects around the light. They've already calculated the amount of red-shift expected from source galaxies and have come up with values that were within 99.9% of the measured value. They are VERY confidant about light over long distance and gravity's effect on it.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

yusing (216625) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570137)

I'd mod everything you just said way up. There are potential problems with "Big Bang", with "black holes", with redshift, with ancient stars with low metallicity ... a lot of these (necessary but immature) models are unravelling as we see the impact of all the investment we've made in observations in recent decades. The observations are knuckling our skulls. The center cannot hold, and the paradigms they are a-changin.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572435)

impact of all the investment we've made in observations in recent decades

That investment is paying off, although it is quite daunting considering how much effort it takes to keep up on the data when paid to do so at work, and when spending a lot of free time keeping read up on it too. So at least it would be paying off for astronomers. Random posters on the internet however seem to have not been exposed to large portions of that data and what experimental evidence is out there. In some lucky cases you come across people who have had more than just a wikipedia introduction to the theory, but very little exposure evidence, experiments and observations related to said theories. Some even get combative when you try to expose them to simple observation work that has already been done.

That said, it appears the poster you replied to is missing basic examples and observations that would be covered in an introduction course at a university. Are we supposed to assume that posters like that are having their skulls knocked by the mass of observations discussed in the professional world? Apparently it is ok to accuse professional astronomers of ignoring large parts of evidence, but when armchair astronomers demonstrate ignoring a vast majority of work and evidence, they deserve to be modded up instead.

The paradigms are changing. I remember when it used to be the science enthusiast that was open to learning anything they can about such fields, and the professionals got stuck in their ways over ego-based arguments. Now I'm finding coworkers and other scientists being far more open because they are trying to just keep up with things, while enthusiast are spending more time just dismissing things with little to no reasoning or evidence because of some ego issues.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

Nolas (942934) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570291)

There is so much bad science in this post, i don't even know where to stat, you dont even know what a dang quasar is.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42570387)

Please go and read some fucking books then. Do you REALLY think we haven't thought about this? Do you honestly believe that of the tens of thousands of professional physicists/cosmologists/astronomers we really didn't know this?

The early universe is exactly that - we can tell in terms of temperature of the CMB for example - a point beyond which the universe is not permissive to light passing. This isn't some random bullshit that some armchair philosopher reading slashdot came up with - it's a tested prediction of our models.

So basically FUCK YOU. Just because you don't understand something, don't claim that we don't know what we're doing. You're a fucking idiot.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (2)

Gil-galad55 (707960) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570393)

Thanks for your armchair dismissal of many life works. Fwiw, I'm an astrophysicist and I'll take the time to correct one point. Supermassive black holes weigh in around 10^9 solar masses. Galaxy masses are >10^12 solar masses. Furthermore, when accreting at the maximum (Eddington) rate, black holes grow exponentially. It's not difficult to grow a 10^9 solar mass black hole in 10^9 years. Really the only hard part is getting the gas close enough to the BH to accrete; this problem and the hierarchical merger of black holes are active research areas.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (-1, Troll)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42571179)

It's not difficult to grow a 10^9 solar mass black hole in 10^9 years. Really the only hard part is getting the gas close enough to the BH to accrete; this problem and the hierarchical merger of black holes are active research areas.

Didn't you just make my point for me? "The only hard part." The only hard part is all the matter in a spiral galaxy spinning around its central black hole exactly once in 200 million years, without getting a helluva lot closer in all that time. And it appears from looking at the universe that that's the usual pattern. We don't see giant waterfalls of matter falling into black holes (at least not on galactic scales; on personal scales, just one star falling in is a giant waterfall; but I digress). We see loooong orbital falls. Really long, if the estimate of Sol's orbital period here in the Milky Way is even close to correct. So congratulations to Eddington for calculating an upper bound that is a very very long way from the actual average.

So how did the black hole get that massive to begin with? First it had to form. One black hole formation theory is the collapse of a super massive star. We'll dismiss that option, since it just makes the timeframe even longer—first you have to accrete a huge star, then it has to ignite, then it has to busily fuse hydrogen for umpty-ump million years, then it has to supernova and collapse. So we'll go with the other theory, that the Big Bang itself caused the formation of quantum black holes, right at the beginning, and those are what started galaxies, since they were first, and therefore got to suck up matter from the very beginning. Is there any reason to believe gravity behaved any differently in the early universe? No? Then those quantum black holes accreted matter the same way we see it happening today, damn slowly, with matter leisurely orbiting its way in. And since I'm feeling generous, we'll ignore the most recent math that shows there probably are no quantum black holes at all because it takes such a ridiculously long time for something that tiny to attract enough matter to grow that instead, it shrinks and ultimately evaporates, by Hawking Radiation. (Good thing for you the lifespan of a supermassive star is likely to be something deserve to be dismissed. For crying out loud, I'm sitting here wondering if your 10^12 solar masses number includes the alleged dark matter or not. The dark matter that should have been named Kludge Factor, because it's the label astrophysicists assigned for all the gravitationally interacting yet otherwise invisible "stuff" required to make one of your spiral galaxy simulations work. Meanwhile particle physicists wonder what the hell you're on about. Matter is baryonic or nothing. There is no magical Gravity Kludge Matter that fixes the model. There's something wrong with the model. There's something wrong with the last 100 years of astrophysics. Too much math done on far too little data.

And there's something wrong with guessing 13.75 billion years for the age of the universe.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42571225)

Hell. Thank you slashdot for eating the center of my text.

That was supposed to read (Good thing for you the lifespan of a supermassive star is likely to be <<1^9 years.)

And then there's a whole paragraph missing and the beginning of a sentence missing.

That was supposed to read "I'm sorry if I sound dismissive of many lives of work, but until the numbers pass a smell test, they deserve to be dismissed."

Other than that, it doesn't read too badly with the paragraph gone, so I guess I was just being wordy.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42571273)

Read up on the original dark matter model some time - you'll learn how Uranus was found. A "Kludge" factor that worked, remarkably well.

Of course, something tells me YOU probably couldn't find it...

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572387)

How in depth and quantitative of you on such accords, that astronomers must have never tried to put actual numbers to instead of saying things like "We'll dismiss that option, since it just makes the timeframe even longer."

Extremely large, early population stars, not that different than what is observed in many dense star forming regions that popup from various conditions in more recent times, have lifetimes in the 10s to couple 100 million years, which is plenty quick enough to help seed black holes that could become supermassive ones, especially in dense, fertile environments.

those are what started galaxies, since they were first, and therefore got to suck up matter from the very beginning.

Black holes are not required for galaxy formation and there is evidence of galaxies that may have formed without one. There may be some connection between density fluctuations in the early universe that lead to galaxy formation and the formation of primordial black holes, but it isn't necessary. Additionally, primordial black holes could easily have been much larger than the "quantum black holes" that you discuss having problems with gaining mass before evaporating.

accreted matter the same way we see it happening today, damn slowly, with matter leisurely orbiting its way in.

How about some actual numbers instead of just "damn slowly?" Estimates of active galactic nuclei in relatively recent/local areas of the universe show accretion rates of 0.00001 to 0.1 solar masses a year. A large portion of that range would be enough to get the masses seen in earlier black holes, if we simply assumed things work the same now as then. However, considering that early galaxies would be more gas and star dense, much like star forming regions appear in some more recent times, it would be expected to be higher. And estimates directly from quasars suggest accretion rates of 10-1000 solar masses a year, which would be way more than enough to allow such things to grow.

And this is just using the two more boring black hole formations you tried to introduce, and not some of the more interesting possibilities that would work with denser gas clouds or larger, supermassive stars.

Too much math done on far too little data.

Your approach seems to be no math, on even less data... and this is supposed to be more insightful and trustworthy?

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569693)

Fun fact: The rotational period of the Milky Way is approximately 200-250 million years.

The universe we currently observe is approximately 13.5 billion years old --- there is no way a spiral of such definition could form after only 50-odd rotations, and yet still be so topographically distinct from other such bodies.

The problem with galaxy formation theories has historically been not that they take too long, but instead that they would be undone too quickly. Spiral formation takes less than a few rotations, so 50+ rotations is way more than enough. We see spiral galaxies much younger than the Milky Way. The hard part was coming up with models where the arms formed, and didn't quickly get smeared out or destroyed on those long time scales.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (2)

ath1901 (1570281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570995)

Fortunately, there are scientists studying these things. Here is a simulation of the formation of the milky way (it took 8 months to create it).
http://youtu.be/VQBzdcFkB7w [youtu.be]

So, way. A spiral of such definition can be created in 13.5 billion years.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

Reziac (43301) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575515)

Amazing. Who knew it took so long to flush the cosmic toilet? ;)

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42576091)

That looked more like a simulation lasting more than 200 times the rotation rate of an outer spiral arm of the final galaxy, not 50.

And why was there a constant stream of galaxies flinging themselves in our general direction? I thought the universe was expanding, so things should be thinning out?

What force? (2)

vuo (156163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42571401)

What force? That's the difficult question here, and the problem with your argument (an argument from ignorance). Of the four fundamental forces in nature, gravity has the longest range. But, structures larger than a supercluster are too large for gravity, because the metric expansion of the universe is a stronger "force" at that scale or larger, and necessarily tears apart any larger structures. That implies larger structures must have formed in process of the Big Bang.

The only known mechanism for creating large cosmic structures, baryon acoustic oscillations, is based on gravity. It tends to produce voids of 490 million light-years or smaller. The trouble is that you run out of possible fundamental forces when explaining the formation of larger structures. You literally need new physics to construct an object ten times larger than the limit given by known physics.

By the way, the size of the observable universe is 46.6 Mly, since the universe has expanded since then; the age of light and the current distance of its emitter are not interchangeable at cosmic distances.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42572393)

But if you keep zooming out then they break apart again. They complex systems are fractal.

This supports super symmetry.

But none-the-less until we zoom out one set of the fractal we just don't know and cannot say for sure. This puts allot of doubt on the cosmological principle. It is also not the only thing that does so, as pointed out by the article.

Anyway its really nice to see good articles posted to /. in this regard. This is a gem of one for me.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572459)

This supports super symmetry.

This has nothing to do with supersymmetry unless you are using the term to refer to your own idea instead of the standard meaning.

They complex systems are fractal.

To a degree. Most real world systems that have fractal structure have limits at both the upper and lower end, at least when talking about physical structure and not something more abstract.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42572599)

Hey I just wanted to say thanks AC for correcting me.

I was thinking of something entirely different when it comes to what I called super symmetry totally wrong term for it. See: Star of David, Merkaba, or Hexagram. Mathematically they can form the vertices's of a star of life pattern or fractal. So TOTALLY different and the idea I was thinking of was not a scientific concept at all.

I always assumed from a philosophical point of view that a unified mathematical system for the universe would be fractal like I described.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42573711)

Life, the universe, and everything are just the "petri dish" of a fractal computation man. We aren't even, like, a proper simulation. /puffs a doobie

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42575457)

Hehe your reply made me chuckle, nice to see a nerd who gets the finer points ;p

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42575455)

You would probably have to spell that out quite a bit in future references, as you might have already seen, supersymmetry refers to something rather specific in physics, with some overlap in cosmology. Even with what you've written, it is hard to tell if you mean some sort of philosophical symmetry, or are just using the actual hexagram shape as a physical example. In the latter case, that might be more just vanilla "symmetry" than "super symmetry," but I'm guessing that is not what you are trying to get at.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42578977)

Yes, I was trying to use the hexagram to philosophically illustrate an idea. Which I think I failed at. I realize what I posted may not make much sense. The idea, is that the all the observable processes in the universe are governed by a universal force (I know thats cliche). I will try and elaborate.

To a degree. Most real world systems that have fractal structure have limits at both the upper and lower end, at least when talking about physical structure and not something more abstract.

I agree. However, there may be evidence of a neural map like structure to cosmic radiation. The evidence comes from computer simulations, observations from the Chandra-X-ray observatory, and Hubble Space Telescope. Much like a donut and tire share the same shape. The cosmos and the neural maps of our brains may share some very close similarities after all. Though two structures that are similar may be shaped by entirely different processes. I would say that if there is a universal theory of everything or unified theory, that it would underlie all the more complex processes we view. So two dissimilar processes could be indirectly influenced to produce similar results. This is because both processes obey the same rules of the universe. A good example would be dripping water freezing into icicles and a dripping minerals solution accumulating into stalactites. I suppose this would actually support the idea of The Cosmological Principle. Of course I cannot cite any direct evidence of such a force or physics model. But I would like to point out an article from chandra.harvard.edu Dark Energy Found Stifling Growth in Universe [harvard.edu] which illustrates the neural net like structure of the universe. This is originally were I got this idea. As above so below.

I don't want to loose you in theological or pseudo-scientific debate, but the simplest article I can give that explains this philosophical idea I was trying to get at is this page: http://www.2012spiritual.info/star-tetrahedron-merkaba.html [2012spiritual.info] . The idea that some universal force permeates the universe is a very old one. There are more complex arguments for the holographic nature of the universe, but I really cannot even begin to fathom debating them.

Thank you very much for your reply. I hope I was able to make more sense.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572491)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe#Misconceptions

We can observe around 46 billion light years. It's way more complicated then just the speed of light when you add expansion.

Other then that, yea, the universe is probably huge beyond reason and unknownable because of speed of light issues.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42573371)

2c

I'm sorry, but that's not possible.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42573669)

"there is no way a spiral of such definition could form after only 50-odd rotations"

Do you think that, or do you know that based on theory and observation?

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42573697)

"The universe we currently observe is approximately 13.5 billion years old --- there is no way a spiral of such definition could form after only 50-odd rotations, and yet still be so topographically distinct from other such bodies.

That's simply not enough time."

That's assuming the Milky Way has been at a constant rate of rotation throughout its lifespan, which is incorrect.

Re:The Cosmological principle will still hold. (1)

ByteSlicer (735276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42573847)

All this observation really implies is that the true and full size of the universe is much larger than what has been documented so far.

There is no reason to believe the universe would just stop at its observable boundaries. The Big Bang theory implies that our observable universe once was many magnitudes smaller. It is often depicted as a point expanding to a sphere, but in reality it was a certain volume of which each point expanded to its own sphere.

A galaxy near the border of our universe will be at the center of its own expanding observable universe, and see galaxies that we can never see.

We can currently see to the inner surface of that balloon, but the far greater mass of water outside of it remains hidden for now to our instrumentation.

Not only for now, but forever. Signals from outside our observable universe can never reach us, because that boundary is defined by the speed of light and the metric expansion of space. We can't even observe effects (gravity, light, whatever) that "outside" galaxies have on "inside" galaxies, because the effect would move at light speed but metric expansion of space causes the boundaries to move at light speed relative to us.

As a consequence, galaxies we can now observe at the boundaries will in time become unobservable to us because they start moving faster than c (apparent speed, relativity allows this since we can't observe it).

Complex systems will always tend to appear homogenous, given enough subjective distance.

Not true. Fractals are complex systems, some of which keep a non-homogenous structure at all scales. There are some indications that the universe has a fractal structure.

there is no way a spiral of such definition could form after only 50-odd rotations, and yet still be so topographically distinct from other such bodies.

Because you say so? Apparently there is, because it did.

Even if there is space-time outside of the observable universe, we know that 13.5 billion years ago the universe was in a hot condensed state that didn't allow for normal matter to exist. The universe was so dense that soundwaves are thought to be the cause of the largest structures we see in the universe. No galaxies then, even if you think that's not enough time.

Motorola (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569249)

Wow...that's a lot of televisions. [youtube.com]

(Whenever I hear about "Quasars", I always mentally add in "...by Motorola." Yes, I'm that old...)

Re:Motorola (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about a year and a half ago | (#42571849)

They were sold to Matsushita not too long after that, and slowly merged with, and were augmented by the Panasonic line over the following 30 years. My father, and later myself, sold and serviced the Quasar line for almost that entire period. On the whole, they were good performing, reliable equipment at a good value. Matsushita brought some interesting technology as well, such as early RGB monitors and teletext units, the "Great time machine" VX video recorders which preceded VHS and Beta in the U.S., checkbook-size pocket computers, excellent sensor cook microwave and micro/convection ovens, and plenty of advanced engineering, such as wide use of efficient switched-mode power supplies (like are ubiquitous in PCs and, well, everything now) well before their competitors.

not logical (1)

jovius (974690) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569413)

If the universe is infinite then how would this single structure challenge the principle of the universe being same in every direction... Observable universe is in any case rather small take of the totality.

Original paper (what billion?) (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569637)

Original paper: http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/01/07/mnras.sts497.full.pdf+html [oxfordjournals.org]

A pity that original submitter didn't include original research paper.

Are we talking billion=10^9 or 10^12 ? It depends on the country of origin of researchers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_scale [wikipedia.org]
So I checked in the original paper, and it is 1240 Mpc=4.04*10^9 ly, so it is 4 billions ly on short scale. BTW, I hate that we have two different scales - billion is ambigious.

Re:Original paper (what billion?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569979)

In my experience, scientific publications and communications for quite some time have standardized on short scale. Maybe I have a biased view having grown up in some place that uses short scale, but I've never seen an ambiguity come up at conferences and collaborations, even with ones where the majority involved were from long scale countries. Although I had gotten the impression long scale was dying out in some places too, like the UK government and BBC switching to short scale some decades ago.

Stop and Think (1)

PacRim Jim (812876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569651)

In fact, the biggest cosmic structure ever seen is the universe itself. Obviously.

Re:Stop and Think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42570057)

Wrong, because we haven't seen the universe yet. Only a tiny part, apparently. ;)

Yuo Fa1l It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42569667)

New core is going And mortifying OpenBSD wanker Theo everyday...Redefine FUCKING USELEES iRc.easynews.com future. Even

Thought on size and distance (4, Interesting)

Zorpheus (857617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569771)

With a redshift of 1.3 this quasar group is probably close to the edge of the observable universe. What we see is from a time maybe some million years after the big bang. But at this time the universe was much smaller, so these quasars were much closer together than they are now. They are flying away from us since then into slightly different directions, and flying away from each other.
What I think this means is: We can not calculate the size of this group from the angular diameter and its distance, it has nothing to do with reality. The angular diameter comes from different directions that the individual quasars are flying away from us, not from actually being this large. We can only see this quasar group as it was billion years ago, and at that time it was much smaller. We don't know what it looks like now. Also our perception of the form of this group would be distorted if the directions that its components are flying is not just caused by a homogeneous expansion of the universe.

Re:Thought on size and distance (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569989)

I mean this group can not be larger than a few light years since the universe had a size of only a few million light years at the time where we see these quasars.

Re:Thought on size and distance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42576081)

Cosmological redshift has a nice relation to the size of the universe at the time the light was emitted. 1+z=Size_now/Size_then. So stuff from a z=1 was when the universe was half the present size, and for 1.3, it would be about 43% current size.

Perspective (2)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42569795)

If you look at something that is very far away, you may see 'structures' that look like they are associated, but in fact it just looks that way to you, and some parts of it may be a lot closer than others. A good example of this is the so called constellations, which civilizations in the past identified as animal shapes, but in reality the stars forming them were in no way related, and once astronomers were able to detirmine the actual distance to some of the stars they found that some were much further away.
How far away (and long ago) is this 'group' of quasars? maybe its so far away (and long ago) that the universe hasn't expanded much, and we are seeing most of it.
Maybe our line of sight is being distorted by the gravity of the black holes involved.

Maybe its part of a giant sign (being constructed by the Magrateans) that says "This way to MilliWays"

I need to get some sleep.

What is space ? (1)

Direshot (2814307) | about a year and a half ago | (#42570733)

At the moment we don't even know what exactly are we measuring. Yes we might measure distance in terms of time taken by light to cover it but then what is time ? The concept of Scale might not be as easy to understand as it appears. A whole (alternate ? Micro ?) universe might actually exist inside a bacteria crawling under the tip of my fingers as I write this ? Can you prove that it doesn't ?

Re:What is space ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42572545)

Can you prove that it doesn't ?

Various measurements of the lack of any structure to things like electrons, and good agreement about structure models for things of protons to some rather small sizes?

Although ultimately, yes, you can't disprove it in an absolute sense that there isn't something hiding on a small enough scale, not capable of interacting with anything else, in the same way you can't disprove hats are not inhabited by invisible pink unicorns that don't interact with any currently known technology or phenomenon.

Expansion! (1)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42577637)

My question is; what affect did the expansion of the universe have on this "structure" over the 4 billion years that the light from them have been traveling to our little corner of the universe. It would seem to me that when that light originated the galaxys producing it should have been quite bit closer together. By my reconing, the distance between them would have been reduced by a factor of 4. Thus, the really would only span a distance equal to 5% of the width of the universe. Please, someone with more knowledge and expereince in the matters, tell me where my hypothesis is wrong.
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