Since the discovery of enormous, extinct dinosaurs, scientists have been perplexed as to what caused them to go. Although there are some ideas that claim that a series of volcanic explosions smothered the planet and rendered it inhospitable for these giants, the prevailing opinion holds that they were wiped out by an asteroid impact.
But what if—and this is a big if—another factor was at play? One physicist, however, has put forth the intriguing but “out there” notion that the demise of the dinosaurs may have been caused by something much more fundamental: a change in the fundamental principles of physics.
The Hubble Constant, which measures the universe’s rate of expansion, determines everything. We can estimate the distance and speed of neighboring galaxies, quasars, and supernovae in order to determine the rate of the universe’s expansion. Examining the cosmic microwave background, which displays the expansion rate in the early universe and allows us to extrapolate to the present, is another method of calculating the rate of expansion.
Naturally, physics decides to be a jerk about this, and the methods yield drastically different outcomes. If there isn’t some inaccuracy we haven’t yet detected, the universe looks to be expanding at an increasing rate. This gap needs to be explained by new hypotheses, such dark energy, which have so far proven to be insufficient.
So yet, nothing dinosaur-like has happened. Professor Leandros Perivolaropoulos of the University of Ioannina in Greece has a theory, though, that he thinks explains the disparities in the expansion rates discovered using each measuring technique and, as an added bonus, exterminates dinosaurs.
In an article titled “Is the Hubble crisis associated with the extinction of dinosaurs?” that was posted on the pre-print platform Arxiv, Perivolaropoulos hypothesizes that a 10 percent increase in gravity’s force occurred over 100 million years and ended 50 million years ago.
According to his unpublished paper, which has not yet undergone peer review, “Physical mechanisms that could induce an ultra-late gravitational transition include a first order scalar tensor theory phase transition from an early false vacuum corresponding to the measured value of the cosmological constant to a new vacuum with lower or zero vacuum energy.”
The concept of a false vacuum is both intriguing and potentially dangerous since, in principle, it could mean that the entire universe will collapse on itself, taking everything with it, from olives to supernovae.
Every object in the cosmos seeks stability, which is achieved by having as little energy as feasible. Since vacuums have the least amount of energy, they are the most stable. However, there is a fictitious concept called a “false vacuum.” These are local vacuums that, despite their appearance, do not have the lowest energy. The fake vacuum, which behaves like a local bubble for a while, would seem stable but may deflate upon coming into touch with a true vacuum as it descended to the lower energy state.
Imagine a shallow valley in front of you that hides a deeper valley underneath it. The smaller valley represents the illusory vacuum, but if the thin surface is pierced, the wider valley below represents the genuine vacuum. However, according to Perivolaropoulos’ idea, this may have already occurred to our local false-vacuum bubble, changing the intensity of gravity as it did. In the worst-case scenario, this may result in the collapse of our entire universe.
The inconsistencies between measurements of the early cosmos and observations of expansion today, he contends, can be explained by the alteration in the value of gravity, which would also affect the attributes of supernovae (and all things in the observable universe, in fact).
We are now at the dinosaur-killing stage. According to the paper, a 10% rise in gravity would cause the Oort cloud, a large bubble of billions or trillions of frozen objects at the outside of our solar system, to disintegrate and send more debris our way. Which, in his opinion, can be seen in the geological record.
He wrote in the paper that “a sudden increase of the gravitational constant by about 10% occurring less than 100 million years ago can justify the observed rate of impactors on the Earth and Moon surfaces which appears increased by a factor of two to three during the last 100 million years and may be connected with the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction event eliminating 75% of life on Earth (including dinosaurs)”
The impact flow of objects larger than a kilometer increased over the past 100 million years by at least a factor of two in comparison to the long-term average, the author continues.
Despite the fact that the hypothesis is undoubtedly intriguing and, let’s face it, quite cool as a concept, it does have the air of trying to bend the truth to match the theory.
According to astronomer Ben Montet of the University of New South Wales in Australia, “in theory, a change in gravity would affect the dynamics of the Oort Cloud, leading to collisions between comets that could then put some of them on trajectories towards the inner solar system.” If this were the case, we would be able to observe the effects of the orbital change on planets as well as geological impacts on Earth, Mars, and Venus.
The Chicxulub impact with Earth that wiped out the dinosaurs was an asteroid, not an icy comet as you would expect from a body sent our way from the Oort cloud, where only one in every 25 objects is expected to be an asteroid. “There is no geological evidence to believe this is the case,” he concluded.
Although Perivolaropoulos is aware that the notion lacks evidence, he still thinks there may be a method to confirm or disprove it.
“The sun luminosity and the value of [gravity] substantially depend on the temperature of Earth,” he says in his conclusion. “Therefore, a rise in [gravity] would cause a corresponding rise in Earth’s temperature. As a result, a thorough investigation of the Earth’s unaccounted-for temperature swings during the past 150 million years may either place strong limitations on the gravitational transition concept or discover potential signs of such an event.”
He thinks we could learn if the dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid that was thrown our way by a fundamental change to the strength of gravity in our local universe through this or by carefully examining the rotation of nearby galaxies.