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Expanding Universe? Hogwash!(?) — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback:Friends of the Vatican Observatory

  2. Very well written and nicely “dumbed down” for us non-astrophysicists. Our miniscule finiteness compared to the universe’s longevity can be frustrating for the curious among us who want to see and be present.

    Question 1: In an earlier blog entry, it was pointed out that the universe is expanding away from every observer, no matter where that observer is within the universe. I get that. But is relational mathematics able to reduce the movement of the galaxies to identify the “center” of the universe–which would appear to be the source of the big bang?

    Question 2: What do astronomers/astrophysicists say existed before the big bang? “Nothing” is not acceptable since there does not appear to be true nothingness. The universe is expanding into something, so there must have been something before the bang. Of course, seminarians can answer the question, but what do scientists say?

    Thank you for the dialogue!


  3. Thanks for the questions, Steven.

    The usual method of visualizing this is to imagine an under-inflated rubber playground ball on which a kid has stuck stickers. The kid pumps the ball up further, causing it to expand. As the ball expands, each sticker on the ball is carried further away from every other sticker.

    Each sticker sees the others moving away from it, so each sticker sees itself as being at the center of the expansion. In fact none of them are the center of expansion, because it is the ball itself that is expanding.

    This is how astronomers view the galaxies and the universe: like the ball and the stickers. The universe is like the ball: expanding. The galaxies in the universe are like the stickers: they are carried along in the expansion. The rubber of the ball is like the “fabric of space”. Each galaxy sees itself as being the center of the expansion, but in reality none of them are the center of the expansion, because it is the universe itself that is expanding.

    So if you imagined little 2-D sticker people living in one of the 2-D sticker galaxies, confined to a 2-D space (the rubber), they might imagine they could find the center point of the expansion. But the center point is not on the surface of the ball. It is not in the rubber; not in their “space”. It is elsewhere (namely, in the center of the ball).

    Likewise, there is not necessarily any “center point” to be found in the universe. Keep with the image of the ball to consider what the universe is “expanding into” — the stickers on the ball are not expanding into anything that is on the surface of the ball.

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