What's Outside The Universe?

Grandson Bailey,

When we last saw you, you asked me what was beyond the edge of the Universe, and I didn't have a very good answer. To be honest, I felt like a baseball player that had practiced and practiced (I've read a lot of books and thought a lot about the same question myself), but suddenly I was standing in the outfield and a high fly ball was headed my way (your question)...and I dropped the ball.

Your question is a really good one and a very hard one to answer because the ideas aren't simple and they aren't easy to understand--even for me. But I've been thinking about what you asked, and I'm really, really glad you did because it made me think hard about the question again too.

Next time we see each other, maybe we can talk about this more, but here's my answer: think about the earth. It's a big ball, and when you look toward the horizon it looks like you can see where the earth stops. But you know from driving and flying that there's no edge. You travel for a while and you see past the horizon. And what do you see? More dirt, more trees, more roads, more mountains. There really isn't an edge at all. What's over the horizon? More of the same. That's the way it is when you look out into space. If you traveled a billion miles (which would only get you to about Saturn, still in our solar system) what would you see? More space, more stars, more galaxies.

But now think of this . . . you're a bug inside a balloon. You can't crawl outside because you can only live inside. A giant is blowing the balloon up, bigger and bigger. As the bug, you can see the inside of the balloon and, smart little bug that you are, you say to yourself, "I wonder what's outside?" Same idea as wondering what's outside the Universe, right?

We're kinda like bugs too, really smart ones. We have satellites and instruments and scientists that have done experiments that show the universe (which is kinda like our balloon) is expanding, and there's nothing outside -- there is no outside. But we can wonder.

Another way to think about this, and I know it's silly, is to ask, "What color is your name?" It doesn't make sense for a name to be a color in the same way it doesn't make sense for there to be something outside the universe. The universe is everything there is, and the idea that there's anything outside it just doesn't make sense.

Mind you, that doesn't mean it's not a good thing to think about and to ask questions about, because it makes us think in different ways. "What if I wrote my name with a red crayon? Wouldn't my name be red?" It sure would! So now we know that there are other ways to look at a question that might let us learn something new.

Think about flying straight north, over Canada, still north past the Arctic Circle, north more to the North Pole. Now ask yourself, can I go further north from here? No, there's no such thing as north of the North Pole. "Ah," you say, "but what if I go straight up?" Brilliant! That's not north, of course, but it does add an interesting new dimension to the problem if you'll pardon the pun.

Another way of thing about the universe might be, "Could there be other universes?" Maybe it doesn't make sense to ask what's outside our universe, but maybe it does make sense to ask if there could be other universes.

In fact, some people today think there are other universes. One idea is that there is an infinite number of other universes. Every time you do something there might be a universe where you don't do it. Did you drop your cookie and the dog got it? Don't worry, in another universe you didn't drop it. And in another universe, you dropped it, but the dog didn't get it so you could eat it anyway. And in another universe the dog got it, but he gave it back to you. In another universe Dr. Schrodinger's cat gobbled it up . . . or not.


Even though we may not know the answer to all this yet, the important thing is that we keep asking questions and we keep looking for answers and we keep doing experiments to see if our ideas make sense. If someone tells you they have the answer to something, anything (sorry Mom and Dad) ask, "Why?" If they can't give you evidence, if they say it's just because they said so—or just because someone else said so—don't accept the answer until you, yourself, are satisfied the answer is right. And be prepared, be willing, to change what you think if new answers come along that show what you used to think is true isn't anymore. That's what learning is all about.

But be careful. There are some people that say we should always reject every answer to every question--but that would be a huge waste of time. There are some things such as gravity, and electromagnetism, and evolution that are so well understood that it's simply a waste of time to argue that they aren't accurate descriptions of reality. It wouldn't make much sense to study the idea that the Earth is held up by turtles instead of gravity, now would it?

I know this isn't a simple (or a short) answer. But you'll find there are very few of those in life.

Grandpa Tom

P.S. Now here's a question for you: you want to go swimming and your Mom say you can go, but you can only go halfway to the pool and then you have to ask again. She promises she'll always say yes. But remember you have to ask again after you get halfway to the pool. Will you ever get to swim? Seems like if you go halfway, and halfway, and halfway, and halfway you'll never get there. What do you think?


Anonymous said…
That is so good :)
Anonymous said…
What a beautiful read.
Anonymous said…
this is awesome.

I've thought a lot about this question and I still do.

as for the pool question...
i've heard that this question has been answered through high level mathematics... i've taken up to calculus I and i've yet to find the answer. Or perhaps the answer was just a solution to another math problem. i don't know.

That's it. I don't know. and im glad i don't...
surely i would die of boredom if i did.

perhaps it's just the creator trying to get to us the message that... we should never stop questioning...
Tom said…
The pool question (if you go half way with each step will you ever get there?) is one of four paradoxes proposed by Zeno, a philosopher who lived around the time of Aristotle (about 2400 years ago).

While some philosopher suggest there is a deep metaphysical issue still undresolved, mathematicians will tell you it's not a paradox at all—you will reach your destination.

Let's say you walk at a constant speed towards the pool. Suppose that it takes you t seconds to reach half way; then it will take only a further time t/2 seconds to reach three-quarters of the way, another t/4 seconds to get to seven-eighths of the way to the bus, and so on. If you add all those freactions for each increment you'll find they add up to 2t seconds. You get there in 2 times the length of time it took you to go the first half of the distance. Assuming you don't stop along the way and continue at the same speed, of course.

You needn't worry about dying of boredom! Without any exception I can think of, new knowledge has only revealed new puzzles. That's not to say what we learned was necessarily wrong, only that it needed to be further refined. Newton's laws of dynamics were refined by Einstein's laws of relativity, etc. Well, maybe some where Wrong, come to think of it—the Earth is not held up by turtles and the stars are not little lights attached to a thin metal sphere.

But why bring the supernatural into this? If you're honest with yourself you won't. See my previous post at Reality Check.
Anonymous said…
Though I agreed with your comment it was unsatisfying only because I need answers. I'm very greedy and I would have at least like a creative, even imaginative, answer.

At the same time I wanted it to be realistic and good hypothesis. I'm just not okay with the idea of there being nothing outside of our ever expanding universe.

Your read did somewhat bring me into further realization you don't always get what you want. So your read did convince me somewhat, or maybe i'm just easily persuaded.

your answer also made me think that humans are full of narcissism. We can not possibly be the only life forms in the universe. That's just stupid to think such a thing, and were not all that savage so maybe other life forms wouldn't be either, or maybe that's just wishful thinking.

I appreciate you answering that question, it really got my good ol' cranium working.

and that probably would be the most realistic answer i'll hear.

normally when i ask such a question (i dont mean to bring religion into this, but i'll do so anyway) i get the answer that there is nothing else because in the bible it doesnt disguss anything else. we are all that there is.

so again thank you.
Tom said…
Thanks for stopping by. You bring up several interesting points—the part about needing answers, for example, and religion.

Needing answers seems to be a common human need, something makes that important for us. We just aren't comfortable saying, "Gee, I dunno."

Some people, fortunately, are bothered enough that they go try to find the answer. Others, unfortunately, are happier with a simple answer, even if it's wrong.

People used to think Thor made thunder and lightning, but we know that's wrong and—as far as I know—there isn't any civilized person that still believes that. (Maybe some savages in a jungle somewhere have a similar idea, but we know that's just because they don‘t know any better.) But the strange part is that many people still cling to ideas that are wrong, simply because they aren't okay with it.

I'm not okay with quantum mechanics, it just seems so weird, but just because it seems incredible to me doesn't make something wrong, especially when a lot of other people worked to make sure that it's right. Anyway. these kinds of things aren't something you 'believe' or not, they're things you understand or not. I don't understand Quantum Theory, but it's been tested and proven to be right over and over, so whether I'm okay with it is irrelevant. It's pretty silly for someone that doesn't know anything about something to say it's wrong, don't you think?

The point is, I guess, we have to keep an open mind. While simple, creative and even imaginative answers may be satisfying they're harmful if they lead us away from reality. I've often pondered where humanity would be now if somewhere back when that "I need an answer even if it's wrong' part of us had been replaced with 'I dunno, let's find out'.

Where the problems come is when someone claims they have all the answers—even when they can't logically defend them—they insist they're right just because someone said so, or because some book says so. That's another strange thing about humans. We're willing to believe a lot about what's in old books because they give us simple, creative and even imaginative answers, even when they're wrong. Stranger still, people are willing to believe that some parts of those books are absolutely, positively right without any chance of error, while ignoring other things in those same books that are, well, inconvenient.

People have known for thousands of years that individually we're pretty bad observers. We see things that aren't there, we remember things that didn't happen, we can't see things that do. Because of that, only a few hundred years ago we developed a really successful method for figuring stuff out. You get an idea, you do some tests to see if you can prove that the idea is wrong, and if you can't you tell everyone everything you did, all the details even things that might disprove your idea, and then you ask them to see if they can figure out if you're wrong. If they can't, then we've all learned something new.

Then someone else comes along and says, "Yeah, we'll, you're right as far as you went, but what about this?" Then the process starts are all over again, and if they're right, then we know even more. You weren't wrong, you just didn't understand the whole process. Then someone else comes along ands says, "Well, what about this?" And off we go again, on an other exciting road to discovery.

Think of it this way. We're on the shore of a little island. That island is made up of things that we know are true, we know are real. We're surround by a sea of uncertainty, things we can't explain. Our job, if we're going to survive, is to find ways to build up the island and push back the sea.

Sadly, sometimes it seems that there are people that would rather just let the waves wash over them because it's easier.
Anonymous said…
My dad thinks there's a scale that measures dairy products outside the universe. He's just as right as you to say there's nothing outside the universe. It's foolish to make a decision yet.

It's irrational to deduce there's nothing outside of the universe just because it's unobservable.

A caveman can only get as close as dirt to the earth, but we now know there are atoms, or smaller even.
Compare geocentric models of the solar system to contemporary knowledge of the solar system.
The history of discovery is the history of concentric observation.

It's safe to assume there is something outside of the universe, it's just beyond our evidence to say what exactly.
Tom Harnish said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Harnish said…
Does your Dad have any evidence to support his view? I think there's a whale 100 miles long in the ocean. Does that make my idea right?

You see, your Dad's dairy scale and my whale are just silly ideas. Everybody has them, and we'd learn nothing if silly ideas were true until someone proves they're not. After all, everyone can have all kinds of silly ideas, but that doesn't make them good ideas.

It's a much better process for someone with an idea to prove it is true, and provide evidence. The person with the idea has to be responsible for convincing other people they're right. And the more amazing the idea, the more convincing the evidence has to be. You're Dad will have to come up with some pretty good evidence, and so would I.

You say it's irrational to deduce there's nothing outside the universe just because it's unobservable. Did you read the part in my original post about 'What's North of the North pole?" Would you say it's irrational to claim there's nothing north of the North Pole too? We've never seen anything north of the North Pole either, after all.

The problem is you can't talk about something being irrational and then use "if I can't see it it must not be true" as your proof. As someone put it, "Don't believe everything you think." We're notoriously bad at 'seeing.'

Over thousands of years, though, we've learned that logic is a useful way of deciding things, and that science is a valuable tool for developing evidence that helps us make decisions. Sure our knowledge expands and is refined as we learn more. But Newton's laws of motion didn't make Copernicus wrong, and Einstein's didn't make Newton wrong.

Copernicus and Newton may have made discoveries about concentric systems, but I think you'll agree that Einstein's discoveries didn't involve "concentric observation," as you put it.

That said, no one will ever prove that there's nothing outside the Universe. We can't use logic and science to prove anything? We can't prove gravity works the same everywhere, but we can say we're pretty darned sure it does. Still it just takes just one proven observation that shows gravity behaves differently somewhere else and we'll have some revising to do.

But we can say with a great deal of certainty that there is no dairy scale outside the Universe in the same way we can say with a great deal of certainty that the Earth isn't held up by turtles.
Anonymous said…
Yeah, this seemed logical. Besides one little thing. There has to be something outside this univeres. I mean comon, once we thought that the Earth was flat, that we were the only planet out there. We were wrong. You have to excuse my spelling because im not even old enough to drink yet :/ but I still have an intresting theory. What if I said that the univeres was a giant human? Every part working together to finish a job. To expand out??? Or to simply wobble and bobble threw out nothing? I will explain that in a little bit. We humans are very courious, about life,sience,reality. If we do not believe then what is the point of trying? I believe (this is my explaining) that there are many universes out there, and they are all part of this human body. This body, like ours, has cells, and these cells have a wall membrane. Am i correct? Could we be living in an even bigger "thing" then we imagine? O.K. Strait down to the fact. I think we are one of many univeres living among others but not effected by them because of our "wall membrane", And this thing thats holding all of the universes are among many like itself hold other universes, so on and so on. So can this really be the answer? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows, we have to understand that we cannot ever get a better answer then before. Well maybe we can, maybe we cant, this is something I can make go on forever, but this is were my vison stops, were my breath ends, were my body comes to a halt. If you dont believe then you cant discover. "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." Albert Einstein.
Anonymous said…
It's me again, the under aged anonymous man :). I have just hade a break threw with my theroy, well maybe it's just another theory. what if we wernt some giant human, maybe we are just one universe. Now imagine this, we are not a giant baloon expanding into something we dont know about. Maybe we are that somthing we dont know about. Maybe we are in all of this space already, its just waiting to be explored. For example, the Earth was once flat with nothing but british dudes running around, then good old Columbus (miss spelled i think) came on his ship and bam, found North America. So maybe this universe of ours is just a big world, we all started from the big band (from cells in Earth talk). Now we are on our journey to the other side? Now what will happen when we meet once again. I do not know but it really is fabulous to wonder huh? Keep Believing, then we start discovering. :)
Anonymous said…
That was a pretty stupid rambling. It did not make concrete sense. It was a lot of indirect inferences (which were illogical).

And as for the P.S. part, of course he will eventually get there, since reality is made of discrete units.
Anonymous said…
it's a paradox we call reality, so keeping it real will make you a casualty of abnormal normality...
Anonymous said…
Great Reading, but whats outside the universe?
is there a well at certain momment and you can go trough it?
Mike Steven James Russell, GBR said…
I loved the way you wrote that, it gives me a whole new way of looking at it.

however about your pool question. i have thought about this aswell but in a whole different concept,

say you had the number 100 and you halfed it each time until to getting to 100 is it possible or would it be infinite?

lets see how it goes 0 50 75 87.5 93.75 96.875 98.4375 99.25 99.640625 99.8359375 99.93359375 99.982421875 100.00683954

so that concludes it, anybody that thinks it would go on forever, i have just proven that there is a limit. you can half it 12 times and it would hit it.
Tom said…
Check you math.
big G said…
what was there before the big bang and why did the big bang happen?
Tom said…
According to the Big Bang model time started with the Bang (which wasn't a bang at all, but that's a different issue). So there is no 'before'.

We're used to thinking in terms of before and after so that idea is hard to grasp. Maybe this image will help: You're sitting in a line of traffic at a stop light. Someone asks, "What's the car before the first one?" There is no car before the first one, the first one is, well, the first one.

Sure, you can speculate about what cars might have been at the light the last time it was red, but that's a different issue too. Indeed, the perpetual inflation or chaotic model suggests the Big Bang was just one of many inflating bubbles in a spacetime foam. Our universe is just another car at the light.

If that bothers you, consider that through the history of Man we've always tried to make ourself the center of the Universe only to discover that we really are only a very insignificant blip in scheme of things. The Earth isn't the center of the solar system, we discovered, the Sun is. The Sun isn't the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius is. Our galaxy isn't the center of the universe (this one will make you stop and think) there isn't one. No matter where you are in the universe, everything is expanding away from you--at an increasing rate, it turns out.

Why was there a Big Bang? Current ideas suggest it was just an accidental excess if matter of antimatter in one spot of the spacetime foam. But lots of very smart people are thinking about that question and trying to come up with experiments to test their ideas.

Where did the foam come from, why is it there, you ask? Right now the answer is we don't know. But that doesn't mean we have to make up a story to answer the question. If the mystery capturers you imagination strongly enough maybe you'll be the one who figures it out.

Don't just sit there! Start reading and studying!
Anonymous said…
You my friend are a superb writer! Fantastically explained ideas in a simple form! Thank you for opening my eyes, you are an inspiration sir.
Anonymous said…
i could be wrong but the only thing i can comprehend is that it loops

you go left...you come out right
you go up...you come out from underneeth
Anonymous said…
The world exist in a solar system...the solar system in a galaxy...the galaxy in a universe...

from that... im thinking that maybe the universe exitss in something else

But probably that something else would be in something else also, so where would it stop?

However if the universe is where it all stop, where is the universe located? Is it like just floathing in nothing?? lol, we just don't know...yet...... or maybe we won't.
Unknown said…
ok i think i understand but i think u can go more north u go up directly from the north pole u go outside the earths atmosphere and keep going up also if the universe is the shape of a donut say we were able to go round it y count we face are space plane outwoulds from the doughnut and travel of it like we can do the earth sorry for any spelling mistakes as im a 13 year old dislexic im also caled sam if u have an anser im sam.milne166@hotmail.com ty
Stew said…

I ran into the article and found it interesting, but what really captured me is the question you've posed about the pool.

I've messed around with the idea of infinity before and usually dismiss it I can't hold it in my mind. That said, I added a twist to your question that led me down a fun road.

Let's propose that Mom says you can go to the pool, but must step on each halfway point along the way, eliminating the need to stop and ask her for permission again, but keeping with the original theme of the question.

Now lets imagine that you (the son/daughter) are silly fast (60mph full tilt let's say), never ever get tired and the pool is only a mile away

so you run half way at 60mph and then, without stopping, run to the next half way point and the next and so on and so forth... again you'd never get there, very very close yes, but never there. What boggles my mind is that you're moving at a constant rate of speed towards a defined and unchanging destination, but never get there. What would that look like to an observer?!

I'm tempted to setup a computer model or even a computer control physical model, but I'm afraid I'd create a black hole or a time warp or something cataclysmic.

I hope you're still checking in the blog... I could hardly fall asleep last night pondering this.
Tommy G. said…
he/she[[i dont kno their gender]] said the universe is expanding.It was also said that there is nothing outside of the universe. Then where is the universe expanding to if everything outside it is 'nothing' meaning...NOTHING exist.
Anonymous said…
Big Bang...

2 theories.
1. Our current understanding of the universe...
it's expanding. The gravitational pull of everything will cause all matter to begin to collapse. When everything collapses upon itself, Big Bang again, and we relive the existance of the universe again (and again, and again). We cycle our existance each time.

2. The big bang was the formation of a black hole in another universe.
Anonymous said…
so, really you didn't answer any question, and just explained how rediculous asking the question was.

Is it not possible, in the infinite space that is and isn't our universe, that there was another big bang? or a rock? or something? We're talking about something which is as big as the dimensions that we live in, something impossible for our minds to comprehend. We can't even see the edge of our universe yet you think it stupid to believe that there's anything beyond it?

There's a limit to theoretical science in that it's simply theoretical.

Speculating isn't a crime.
Anonymous said…
Nothing is something so what if there is an item or something called nothing that we don't know of. If If there is nothing outside our universe there is something because nothing exists right? So there is something just has not matter, no color. We probably couldn't even conceive or look at what's outside of our universe because our tiny human brains couldn't even take it.
Anonymous said…
if our solar system was an atom,our galaxy would be molecule.so what are we?are we living in an atom?what's outside the universe?giant creatures like us?
Anonymous said…
Perhaps outside of the universe is not real. "Nothing is real until it has been observed" is an implication of the Copenhagen Interpretation.
superq said…
God is the answer.
Now lets use that knowledge to ensure our time on this tiny spec in the universe has some point
Anonymous said…
the concept of time is man made. pool question, he'll get there eventually, its fixed stationary location
Anonymous said…
Very interesting.
I believe that outside of the universe is simply nothing.
The universe its itself, full of matter, and leaving the universe will result in you becoming your own universe. This is because you, as matter attached to this universe, add yourself to nothing, making it something.
This subject is completely mind blowing.


nothing is no color, no shade not even black, no matter, no space......JUST NOTHING

which is impossible to imagine since this universe does not have nothing, it has something all the time. We are something, are thoughts are something so our thoughts cants possibly imagine nothing. We cannot comprehend the complexity of nothing!!!! We are to attached to this universe. So in some way, it is impossible to leave this universe until we detach from it. O

If there are other universes, and if they were expanding, we would never expand into them or even ever reach them, because the nothing is not space, we are just simply expanding. We are there.

This is so confusing I myself am sweating just thinking about nothing. OMG LOLZ
iSwaggPunx2 said…
This answered most but not all of my questions. How is there 'nothing' outside of the universe? if your saying nothing is outside of it, your saying nothing is something, but if nothing is something, then it isnt nothing, its something.
iSwaggPunx2 said…
this answered most but not all of my questions. how is there nothing outside of the universe? saying that theres nothing is saying that nothing is something because nothing is impossible. if nothing is something than there is something outside of the universe.
kevin said…
i believe that there is something outside our universe. but its too big for us to see it. everything you see is a universe. look at your hand for example. your hand is a universe with lots of bacteria living on it. bacteria is a living creature so that now becomes another universe. then there will be millions of something else living on that and then 1 of them become a universe and so on. its the same the other way. our universe is huge. whos to say that our universe isnt sitting on another living being thats so big we cant see it. our universe could be so small to this creature that they could only see our universe the same way we see bacteria under a microscope. this might sound crazy but how can i possibly be wrong?
Devon Budd said…
My name is Devon, i just found this an interesting read and while scrolling through the comments noticed someone stating this was a good read but they wanted a true answer. I know this is REALLY late, but the true answer is actually already there. He stated our universe is ever-expanding... so if this is 100% true and we CAN in fact see our universe expanding forever, then eventually if there WERE other universes we would collide with them, and this could cause something as traumatic as a black hole... so it makes sense in a way that there would be no other universe for ours to collide in if it is EVER-expanding...
Geselman said…
Eventually you will be within touching distance of the pool, in which case you will grab the edge of it and pull yourself in, provided your mass does not change at each interval.
F.XAMA said…
the big bang ball..... where was it
...............there is something outside of this universe something means nothing nothing means something
Beau said…
Excellent stuff!

We have come along way in thought since the dawn of mankind and even now i feel we have not come far enough as a human race to be able to give the answer yet! What does that mean?

At some point on earth man would have stepped into the sea not knowing of other country's or a north let alone other races. He would of had first sensations of wet and cold. This might of got him to think why is it like that, evolution and brain power later he decides to build a vessel to fish in? Or to get to a small island in view, with courage and logical engineering he achieves his goal in getting to a close by island, there is no one there except the same trees and animals that live on his own island, he wonders why but thinks bigger Now the view of the big ocean, it's vast, and looks like the horizon is the edge of the world, bigger vessels many attempts and much more evolution. Man makes first contact with another race another country who aren't as advanced. Just proving with evolution and the desire to ask the question means that we will find an answer. And as already mentioned it could be one of us right here who stumbles across it.

"Foolish are those so young in thought ©

I believe something lies beyond the universe. How could our universe expand otherwise if that is what it's actually doing and not curving say like a spiralling galaxy and if that is so it needs to be somewhere for it to spiral. It's just contemplating what is, is the hard bit to imagine.
Think of the universe a drop of ink being dropped into water ie, a cup, a bath an ocean, it will spread out.
If we are to believe the big bang theory then I say there was something before the big bang, something made it bang, cause and effect. How about this??

Some of you may know about the Large hadron collider attempting to look for the god particle by smashing to atoms together at vast speeds in a underground ring main that is miles and miles long! That Particle the god particle is supposedly evident something like 1 billionth of a micro second atfer the big bang started. Disregard the god particle but think about the experiment, what's to say that we are not in something like a collider, 2 atoms of thousands being smashed together, something that it's over in micro seconds for those running the test but with years worth of data, for us it's a whole life and death of our so called universe a trillion of years. Many universes contained by control. We have run tests in our lhc still looking for answers we may have been gods and created life but not even known it as yet.

There is also the inner space theory as touched on, we the humans living on a planet that could be a cell like function inside a living organism. Does that make us a virus suffocating the cell we live on draing all of its resources?

As for comfort in answers I believe that it is because we think the question, if thought prematurely without the logical wisdom to explain it can all seem scary to think something is beyond our understanding, in the past century's what we did not understand we feared or slayed. As time progresses and scientific and mathematical brains advance we are able to understand much more through technology and logic. We must never stop asking questions or the desire to work things out, that's really livIng.

Keep it comming. :)
Beau said…
Just to add...

If we were inside say someone else's experiment time outside our universe I'd suspect would be on another
Scale, let's just say our universe is black which is expanding into a whiteness of what seems nothing, the eldest & furtherst of our time is being written as our universe expands into the white void, now just imagine getting out into the white void and there's No point of reference to measure time, ie how long it would take to travel to the nearest star. If a total white out it would be hard to measure our time there. This got me thinking if our universe is expanding into the white void and you saw it on coming it wouldn't be how old it is anymore but how new it is, a t-minus count down until it reachs. And if we really are that small say to those who are responsible for the experiment 100 billion years to us could be as long as a micro second to them making the white void seem like there's nothing there. Apart from another time measure we haven't even contemplated yet.

I have no scientific qualifications, so excuse me if I ask this and the answer already obvious but do atoms have atoms within them? I know of the nucleus proton and neutrons etc, so it might be a silly question.

These are just my thoughts and just a possible workaround way of trying to make sense of something so wonderful,
I'm probably way off, yet it makes sense to me :)

I love to hear your thoughts?
Tom said…

Yes, protons and neutrons are comprised of smaller particles. Take a look for a great overview in just under 3 minutes of video.

Tom said…
Forgot to mention...

I know it's a hard concept to grasp, but there is nothing outside outside, no out there out there, as far as we know. When the universe expanded, it didn't expand >into< anything. It just got bigger. That's a tough concept for us because all of our experience suggests otherwise.

But the most important concept in this who discussion is to not 'believe' something is so just because it feels good. We're much better off to simple say, " I don't understand."

Evolution isn't something you believe or not, for example. It's something you understand or not. The same is true of cosmological inflation. There's excellent evidence from a number of sources that explain how our universe expanded.

If you don't understand inflation, don't make up your own ideas. Learn about it, or be willing to say I don't know. What seems right, common sense, is a remarkably bad judge of reality.
Beau said…
@ Tom

Sorry I wasn't trying to sell my ideas, just add different angles to see if anyone else thought differently to whats already known, your absolutely right in saying common sense can be a bad sense of judgement, i am only fascinated with anything relating to space, I would love to have a knowledge more in depth about it all and the time to study it. One thing I'm sure about is curiosity will always have man following it, hopefully one day it will lead us to the very answers we all want to know.

I will read up about universe inflation as at this point now in my logistical way of thinking, grasping the concept of the universe getting bigger but not having a place to get bigger into hurts my brain. As nothing surely is something, isnt just we choose not to measure it, or have no way of measuring nothing at our stage in evolution.
Tom said…
No criticism intended, Beau, just reinforcement. I like the way you think, and I certainly have no claim to special knowledge. Just a great deal of curiosity like your own.

But, as happenstance would have it, I recently watched a talk on YouTube by a particle physicist turned cosmologist who addresses the very topic of how you get a whole universe from nothing. Or as he puts it, nothing isn't nothing anymore.

Tom said…
Oops, wrong link. Go here
Anonymous said…
nice read !!! well talking about the universe outside it there is just empty space .... our universe just keeps on expanding e.g we take time ...from quantums to atoms to matters everything is related to some energy which is not visible.. there is just some type of energy which we can only feel or sense but cant do experiments on it just for e.g we take soul ... and i dont think there exists another universe if it does might be very very very far away just like for e.g we say infinity exists between 2 numbers but we still go on writing 1 2 3 4 we dont know how far is 1 from 2 but we surely know the distance is infinity ...
Tom Harnish said…
Here's another way to think about this whole issue, one I just heard explained by a Stanford professor in an iTunes U lecture: the confusion comes between the observable universe and the whole Universe (with a capital U). The Universe is infinite (and just to confuse the issue, it's becoming more infinite). Our observable universe is expanding into the infinite Universe.

This feels a bit like we're just trading the conceptual problem of what the observable universe is expanding into for the conceptual problem of what an infinite Universe is--but does seem to make more sense to me.

But I have to say, the idea of one infinity being larger than another still boggles my mind. If you've read all the way down to here I'd say you're a curious person...I mean intellectually and in a nice way. If that's the case, rummage around and read about the curious case of infinity.
Beau said…
Physics suggest that the universe will eventually die, all mass, atoms evaporated until everything incl black holes are gone, leaving nothing, pure empty nothingness!
This just leaves a big empty space, no gravity, no light, nothing just one big 0 degree open space!

This maybe a little off course but this being a fundamental rule of physics does it rule out any possibility of time travel?
For how could travel into a place that cannot support matter, or mass/ atoms etc?

Also the theory of multiple universes, would they be neighbours like distant galaxies or do they theoretically
Exist in a incomprehensible place that we cannot fathom
In thought?
Tom said…
Some provocative concepts there, Beau!

Empty open space is brain twister, gonna have to ponder that one. I'm not sure an infinitely expanded universe necessarily means everything disappears, it just means its density is infinitely low. But infinities confuse the heck out me. How, for example can one infinity be "longer" than another (they can)?

And the idea of time travel in a Universe that has expanded to infinity raises the thorny question of what, exactly, is time?

As for visualizing other universes, the concept that works for me is to think of a tub full of bath bubbles where each bubble is a universe.

A friend poses this question: if infinite other universes might have different rules of physics, could some have different rules of logic? What does that mean for our ability to even decide what that means?
Beau said…
Well I guess everything must have a start point and guess that goes for infinities too, some start after others making one longer than another if we look at it on a clock/ time spectrum which is man made, i know it isn't the logical way to measure infinities but surely it's connected to its creation point what,where ever that may be.

As for other universes having different physics I guess some would with illogical understandings, these are the ones I think we will never see without the aide of undiscovered knowledge or some form of vessel.
I like the bubble bath theory :)

Victor said…
Your analogies do not make much sense and yes there is a north relative to the North pole which is called the south. The answer to what was before and what is outside of the universe is simple: we do not know and it bothers me that you pretend you do. Science shows that the universe has a certain age therefore a timeline and you accept the timeline from the big bang point and refuse to acknowledge what was before. If there is a universe timeline there is something before and after... The science is trying to make sense of an infinite phenomena using finite terms such as the beginning , the big gang, the end of the universe, etc. The same reasoning is with the outside of the universe in that we accept that the universe expands but you seem to refuse to belive that what we're expanding into exists before the expansion takes place... In conclusion your beliefs and theories go against science itself but you seem to believe science
Tom said…
You lost me in the first sentence, Victor. Can you explain what you mean when you write that what's north of the north pole is called south? In my view what's south of north pole is called south, not north. Don't see how it can be both.

Take a look at http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=274 for more on the expanding universe and see if it makes more sense to you than my description.
Victor said…
North and south are opposites to give you an analogy it is like a circular function and the north and south are the extremities of that function. For example sin(x) has two extremities 1 and -1. As for the link, it is not established and scientifically proven that the universe itself is infinite and the expansion of the matter is happening within. Science has only been able to verify the expansion movement by analyzing the redshift but to state that the universe is infinite and there is nothing beside it is wrong. These are only theories which haven't been verified just as the parallel universes. It could very well be that there is an infinite frame within which there are multiple universes.... but that cannot be verified.
Tom said…
Yes, sin(x) goes indeed go from -1 to 1. But the value of tan(∏/2)is a better example. It's undefined, and that was the point.

As for proving the universe is infinite...no one can prove a scientific hypothesis. But when there's a lot of evidence to support an idea and we haven't found a contradiction, then we call it a theory, such as Gravitation, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and so forth.

Neither the infinite universe idea or the parallel universe idea is anywhere near being a theory, and I was careful to make that clear. But there's a lot of evidence to support the concept. See for example http://arxiv.org/pdf/1104.0015.pdf which concludes an infinite universe is compatible with the data at a confidence level of 2 x 10^-5.

Victor said…
Depends, I view north or south as a direction you view north and south as two places. Travelling in the north direction(from south pole to north pole) or south direction(from north pole to south pole) infinitely will yield a sin function.

Gravitation, Relativity and Quantum Mechanicsm have been verified through experiments. Could you tell me of any experiments which conclude that the universe is infinite or that it is paralel?

These theories have evolved to satisfy the voids for which scientists have no answers for...
Beau said…

I understand your points but you seem adamant that just because it isn't proven at this time ( maybe it never will be )
it shouldn't be up for debate. We all know many of great thinkers theory's were never proven till once they had died or were burned by the church for Hersey.
Science is barely a toddler in an ancient universe.
with out a doubt science still has the ability to fall down in places where we thought we had firm standings, but it will always get back up and keep being curious and that in itself keeps my fire burning.

Sooner or later there will be away it can be tested as its already thought about widely. It's just the verdict we are unsure about.
Unknown said…
I don't think a scientist or Philosopher could have said it better.... thanks for this, we need more brains like you in this liberal world we live in.
Jim said…
What is outside the universe is ocean-like life.
Anonymous said…
If we draw a 2 dimensional cirkel and within 2 dimensional trees and bushes, then we put a 2 dimensional cat in it. The cat has Been living in his/hers 2 dimensional world for all his/hers life and been wondering what's outside the world.. he can't go left or right because he only ends up at same spot as before... only way to understand what's on the other side is to become the other side. To become a 3 dimensional cat blobbing out from the 2 dimensional world... / Mr.bob
Tom said…
Great idea, your 2D world. And there's a wonderful book that looks at the issue just as your suggest, and ponder is the 2D creatures can under stand 3D worlds. It's called Flatland. Read it online at http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~banchoff/Flatland/
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the post, it is interisting, not aging. A few questions about your assumptions, I'm still struggeling:

"You can't crawl outside because you can only live inside." What is meant by this? What hinders the bug to get/be outside the baloon?

"A giant is blowing the balloon up, bigger and bigger." What giant, and where does this balloon expand into? What happens when it bursts?

Just two. Are analogies even possible?
Tom said…
You ask, "Are analogies even possible?" Good point. Someone said, "All generalizations are bad, including this one." Same goes for analogies, I think we can agree.

The bug analogy fails because you ask the perfectly reasonable question, "why can't the bug get/be outside?" As far as the bug and balloon analogy goes it seems like the critter could burrow through and be outside. The problem is there isn't any outside, the balloon idea is inaccurate unless you have the uncanny ability to ignore the idea of "outside." The idea of something expanding into nothing is such a foreign concept to us humans that it seems illogical, unrealistic, impossible. But all the evidence to date backs up the idea that space is infinite and expanding. But then that brings in the mind boggling idea of infinities, and I find that's just as hard to get my mind around. And if the idea that something goes forever doesn't make your head spin consider that some infinities are greater than others. Shees!

The giant blowing up the balloon, of course, is another analogy that fails if you take it too literally, but it is a useful, if inaccurate, metaphor for the idea that bubbling energy in empty space is pushing things apart. That's based on an even weirder concept: the galaxies actually aren't moving apart they have fixed coordinates, the space between them is getting larger. That 'expansion' is described by something called a 'metric tensor,' which describes the distances between coordinates. It's the metric tensor that's changing and that's why the universe is expanding even though the galaxies technically aren't moving. Sounds contradictory, doesn't it!

The problem for us mere mortals is it's impossible to adequately describe what's going on without getting deep in the math. If I had the opportunity for a lifetime "do over" I'd sure like to be able to understand how it really works. Of course, that suggests I have the smarts to do the math and so far I've done a good job of proving I don't. So inaccurate analogies are the best I can do.

If all this is confusing that's a good thing. The first step towards learning is usually confusion. As long as we're willing to say, "Boy I'm confused; let's find out what's really going on" we'll continue discovering more about reality. Sure, we'll make mistakes. Sure some ideas will have to be abandoned or revised. But as long as we don't refuse to accept new ideas we can expand the beachhead of knowledge we've created in the sea of ignorance.

Popular posts from this blog

Your DNA would reach the moon

Earth's Core is Hotter Than the Sun