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Study: Can Infrared Photos from Webb Support Fractal Cosmology?

Maybe. Let's be careful and explore this as empirically as possible.

The technological wonder as I like to call it, the James Webb Space Telescope, infrared observations are providing valuable data that might influence the field of fractal cosmology.

But, first, what is fractal cosmology?

In short, fractal cosmology is a branch of cosmological theory that proposes the structure of the universe or the distribution of matter within it exhibits a fractal pattern across a wide range of scales. Fractal patterns are geometric shapes that are self-similar; parts of the pattern, when magnified, resemble the whole. Fractal cosmology suggests that on a large range of scales, the universe might exhibit such self-similarity. It remains a minority view, and while it has not been widely adopted by the scientific community, it presents an interesting perspective on the structure of the universe and continues to be an area of theoretical exploration. Despite this, I tend to be optimistic and predict that, in the near future, we may hear fractal jargon being used more commonly amongst the general public.

Self similarity more obvious in infrared?

A galaxy with voids
Highlighting self similar voids

The highlighted areas highlight regions where the interstellar medium within the galaxy is organized into distinct bubbles or voids, with dense, dusty, and gaseous materials surrounding them.

The highlighted voids in the image, while not displaying perfect self-similarity, may suggest a fractal-like pattern. In fractal geometry, such patterns do not have to be exactly identical at every scale, but they do exhibit a family resemblance—a similar arrangement or structure that recurs. The pattern of voids in the galaxy shows regions of less density, which may seem to be distributed in a way that echoes across different scales, albeit not with the precision of a mathematical fractal.

This kind of pattern, where large voids are surrounded by filaments of dust and smaller voids appear to nest within larger ones, can be described as statistically self-similar or quasi-fractal. In the cosmos, these patterns emerge not through a strict mathematical process but through the dynamic physical processes of the universe such as gravitational interactions, the movement of gas and dust, and the lifecycle of stars.

While these voids are not perfect fractals, their fractal-like distribution can be significant in studying the large-scale structure of the universe and understanding the mechanisms that contribute to galaxy formation and evolution.

And in these recent infrared images, it seems that we are able to see fractal-like characteristics more obviously. Then Webb has given us unique studies for fractal cosmology.

Fractal-like category

By having a category of fractals that are not strictly fractal, we are able to gain a greater understanding of the complex puzzle that is the structure of our universe. In other words, we may be able to understand the universe's geometry much better by having a fractal-like category. This can also be a great opportunity for the general public as patterns are universally recognized concepts.

Webb Telescopes view face-on of spiral galaxy NGC 4254.
Webb Telescopes view face-on of spiral galaxy NGC 4254.

I personally think that fractal cosmology should be named fractal-like cosmology to reduce misunderstandings as if you were to Google 'is the universe fractal' it tends to pop up with results that it is not, which is true, but the question isn't whether it is true fractal, but rather fractal-like.

The universe does exhibit complexity and a degree of self-similarity over certain scales, which can be reminiscent of fractal patterns. Therefore, using the term "fractal-like cosmology" could help clarify that that the universe exhibits patterns that are reminiscent of fractals, patterns that do not fulfil the strict mathematical criteria of a fractal, which include infinite self-similarity and non-integer dimensions.

Spiral galaxy NGC 1566 is 60 million light-years away in the constellation Dorado.
Spiral galaxy NGC 1566 is 60 million light-years away in the constellation Dorado.

The concept of fractal-like patterns does not require that the patterns be closely spaced or that they occur within a continuous scale range. Even if these voids are far apart within the galaxy, they could still contribute to a fractal-like structure when considering the galaxy's broader arrangement.

In fractal-like patterns, we look for a repetition of forms or a type of self-affinity, where similar features can be identified across different areas, even if not at steadily decreasing scales. The fact that these voids are spread across the galaxy and show a certain regularity in their distribution can suggest a fractal-like organization in the galaxy's structure.

In a fractal-like context, we look for recurring motifs or structures that echo throughout a system, and this can include both the presence and absence of material, such as the bright filaments and the darker voids respectively.

Also, filaments in a galaxy are typically regions of higher density, often outlining areas of intense star formation and interstellar material. When these filaments surround the less dense voids, they create a contrast that accentuates the pattern.

These voids do not need be adjacent and the filaments may not form a continuous network, their distribution throughout the galaxy can still exhibit a type of self-affinity, where certain structures or forms repeat in a non-uniform but coherent manner. This coherence in the structure, with filaments delineating voids, adds to the fractal-like nature of the galaxy. Although true fractals are infinitely self-similar, natural fractal-like patterns only need to show similarity across a range of scales and areas.

Fluctuations in cosmic microwave background radiation as seen by COBE
Fluctuations in cosmic microwave background radiation as seen by COBE

While the Cosmic Microwave Background itself is not fractal, some theories propose that the temperature fluctuations seen in the CMB might be related to fractal-like structures at the largest scales.

There will be disagreements, however.

How Can fractal cosmology move from a minority view?

For fractal cosmology to move from a minority view to more mainstream acceptance in the scientific community, several things would need to happen:

  • Empirical Evidence: observational data supporting fractal-like structures across a wide range of scales in the universe would need to become more compelling.

  • Theoretical Development: fractal cosmology models would have to make predictions that can be tested and confirmed through observations and experiments.

  • Integration with Current Models: would need to be reconciled with the currently accepted Lambda-CDM model, explaining phenomena already well-understood by this model.

  • Technology Advancements: improvements in telescopes and data analysis methods may reveal more about the universe's structure at various scales, potentially supporting fractal-like theories.

  • Peer Review and Consensus: as with any scientific theory, widespread acceptance requires rigorous peer review and a consensus within the scientific community.

If advancements in these areas were to align with the principles of fractal cosmology, it could gain greater credibility and acceptance among cosmologists and astrophysicists.

We'll be posting more about fractal cosmology in the future. Thanks for reading. Feel free to sign up to the free newsletter for some cosmic ponderings sent straight to your email.

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