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Research interests of Matthew Edwards

Page history last edited by Matt Edwards 15 years, 5 months ago



This page is to provide information on my research interests and publications, as well as a little bit about myself. I was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1952. I graduated with a BSc. in biology from York University in 1977. Since 1983 I have worked at the Gerstein Science Information Centre at the University of Toronto. Over the years I have made theoretical contributions in five areas: origins of life, geophysics, astrophysics, gravitation physics and cosmology.

Origins of life


For many years the origins of life field was dominated by the idea that the first biomolecular assemblies arose through chance association in a 'prebiotic soup'. This idea presupposed that organic molecules were bountiful on the primitive Earth, as seemed to be suggested in some simulation experiments. More recently, the idea of an organic soup has fallen out of favour and many researchers now think that life most likely evolved on mineral surfaces.


I have argued that this process is most easily visualized if we suppose that the initial biomolecules arose autotrophically in situ on such surfaces. I have termed the ancestral metabolic complexes "molecular embryos", since each catalyst and biomolecule appears sequentially in the complex at specific sites. The most suitable mineral surface for such a process could well have been pyrite. Pyrite not only was abundant on the planet surface, but also possesses iron-sulfur clusters which would have been key to early biosyntheses. Whereas Gunter Wachtershauser has notably proposed that the process was chemoautorophic, driven by the formation of pyrite itself, I proposed that the process was most likely photoautotrophic, i.e., light-driven. A light-driven origin of life can be envisaged on rock surfaces in calm, shallow waters and would be consistent with the evidence of ancient fossil stromatolites.  Helmut Tributsch and colleagues at the Hahn-Meitner Institut in Berlin have studied the phototransducing properties of pyrite for many years. In 2003, they demonstrated that a light-driven autotrophic sequence on pyrite was sustainable, in a manner consistent with my model, whereas the chemoautotrophic model was not. Their work and mine was discussed in a 2004 article in Astrobiology Magazine.



  • From a soup or a seed? Pyritic metabolic complexes in the origin of life, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 178-181, 1998.
  • Metabolite channeling in the origin of life, Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol. 179, no. 4, pp. 313-322, 1996.
  • A possible origin of RNA catalysis in multienzyme complexes, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 69-72, 1989.

Related story in Astrobiology Magazine  



It is usually only in history of geology courses that one hears of the expanding Earth theory. Yet this theory of Earth's evolution vied closely with the plate tectonics model in the 1960s and 1970s and was only finally pushed aside with the discovery of subduction. Despite the apparent fatal blow, the theory is still being studied by researchers in many countries. Among the theory's attractions is its ability to neatly explain the division of the Earth into raised-up continents and sunken ocean basins.


From the earliest days, a basic problem with expansion theories has concerned the cause of expansion. In the 1960s, the main candidate was thought to be a decrease in the gravitational constant G associated with a theory by Dirac. Such a decrease would cause a very slow expansion of the Earth less than 1 mm/year. Other evidence for such an effect could not be found, however, and so this idea faded from view. More recently, an increase of Earth's mass possibly causing a fast (greater than 1 cm/yr expansion) has been the subject of much speculation. Mass increase is unlikely, however, since this would have caused the Earth's rotation to have slowed down over time much more than it apparently has.


Recently, I proposed that the phenomenon underlying Earth expansion is a gradual recycling of the gravitational potential energy in specific interactions between masses. This idea was linked to the "tired light" concept in cosmological models of a static, i.e. non expanding, universe. Specifically, in my model the gravitons binding a system together degrade slowly over time to long wavelength photons, which in turn tend to both heat the system and to drive the components of the system apart. The rate of graviton decay is proportional to the Hubble constant, H. New gravitons at the same time are being reconstituted within the system, but this does not cancel the repulsive influence of the first effect. Most notably, G itself stays approximately constant over time. The central equation in the model is


dE/dt = -UH,


where U is the internal gravitational potential energy. I have shown that the excess heat which is radiated away from planets is about 5-10 per cent of what this equation predicts. More significantly, the remaining 90-95 per cent of energy derived in this way is sufficient to have driven a slow Earth expansion of about 0.5 mm/yr starting from a radius about 60 per cent of the present one.





The graviton recycling model outlined in the previous section can also be applied to stars at the end of their fusion cycles, such as white dwarfs, or to stars too small to sustain fusion, such as some brown dwarfs. Adequate data for brown dwarfs are not yet available; however, I have recently shown that the model predicts white dwarf luminosities quite well. This is despite some theoretical constraints relating specifically to white dwarfs which might render them as less desirable test objects. In particular, any excess heat generated within white dwarfs via the model process, according to conventional theory, would simply raise degenerate electrons to higher energy levels, thus permitting no excess heat emission to be observed. At the same time, white dwarf radii are assumed to be determined solely by the white dwarf mass-radius relationship; this would seemingly imply that graviton decay could not drive expansion in these stars. The two considerations can be seen to potentially offset each other to some extent.


In my study, a sample of 21 white dwarfs was used for whom the mass and radius have been determined independently, i.e., without using the mass-radius relationship. Using this sample, the model predicts the white dwarf luminosity, well within an order of magnitude, for the 16 hotter DA white dwarfs. For the five cooler white dwarfs in the sample (Teff < 12,000 K), only 1-10 per cent of the model luminosity is observed. However, once very recent findings concerning these five stars are factored in, most of the discrepancies are either reduced or eliminated.



Gravitation physics


While Einstein's General Relativity improved on Newtonian gravity in its ability to make certain predictions, it has not as yet given us a good idea of what lies fundamentally at the root of gravity. For that some researchers have taken a fresh look at the older theory of Georges-Louis Le Sage. In the 18th century, Le Sage proposed that gravity is caused by tiny particles filling space. These particles impinge on material objects from all directions, with a very small fraction of them being absorbed. Due to this absorption, two bodies will cast a shadow on each other and will consequently be pushed together. The general idea has been termed push gravity or pushing gravity. In many modern versions, Le Sage's particles are replaced with electromagnetic waves. In 2002 I had the wonderful experience of editing a collection of historical and theoretical papers on Le Sage's theory in the book Pushing gravity: new perspectives on Le Sage's theory of gravitation (C. Roy Keys, Inc., Montreal).


Since 2002, much new information on Le Sage gravity has come to light. In 2007, I proposed a newer model of gravitation based on the graviton recycling mechanism already discussed in the Geophysics and Astrophysics sections. In this model, we first take note of the fact that the great majority of the gravitational potential energy that is connected with any single body resides in its interactions with the most distant matter in the visible universe. Supposing that the gravitons associated with this energy are likewise being recycled to photons over time, we then have a background of radio photons being generated evenly at every point in space. These photons are in turn reabsorbed into the graviton lattices of masses, imparting momentum in the process. In systems of many bodies, the resulting shading effects can then give rise to Le Sage-type attractive forces.


Articles in Pushing Gravity 

  • Preface
  • Le Sage’s theory of gravity: the revival by Kelvin and some later developments, pp. 65-78.
  • Induction of gravitation in moving bodies, pp. 137-154.

Article on graviton recycling and gravitation 



If the Earth is expanding, then why not the universe? Indeed, there are some proponents of the expanding Earth who link the expansion precisely to universal expansion. The Big Bang theory is ultimately premised on some pretty questionable science, however. For example, it sets aside the cornerstone of modern science, the principle of conservation of energy. As the universe expands in the Big Bang model, the energy of the photons diminishes. Where does the energy go? Apparently, it goes nowhere and so energy is not conserved in the Big Bang model. This point is conceded by cosmologists, but is thought not to be a problem!


This is just one of the many disquieting aspects of the Big Bang model. Note that most evidence for the theory is obtained from observations made at great distances. At high z, the observations are subject to numerous effects, most significantly a pronounced time dilation. (Time dilation is taken to be a proof of expansion, but it can potentially be incorporated in a "tired light" model as well.) As I and many others have shown, observations made at closer distances, such as star formation rates, are more supportive of a static model.



Contact info


Matthew Edwards, Gerstein Science Information Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3K3


e-mail: matt.edwards@utoronto.ca


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