The search for an answer to one of humanity’s most intriguing questions, “what lies beyond the known limits of the universe,” says astrophysicist Dr. Paul M. Sutter, can give you a headache.
University Professor, Podcast Presenter Ask an astronaut (Something like “Ask a spaceman”) and author of books Your place in the universe NS How do you die in space? (“Your Place in the Universe” and “How to Die in Space,” with free translation), he published an article explaining some concepts in an effort to understand what, if any, exists outside the universe.
“To answer the question of what is outside the universe, we first need to define exactly what we mean by universe,” says Sutter. He explains, “If you understand that it literally means all things that can exist in all space and time, then there can be nothing outside. Even if you imagine that it has a finite size, what is outside is also part of the universe.”
But the universe can also be infinite in size. In this case, we don’t have to worry about this puzzle: the universe, being everything that exists, is infinitely large and has no edge, so there is no outside until we talk about it.
Sutter, of course, remembers that there is a part outside the expanse of the universe that can be observed: “The universe is very old, and light travels very fast. So, in the history of the universe, we have not received light from all galaxies.” The current width of the visible universe is about 90 billion light-years.
Cosmologists aren’t sure if the universe is infinitely large, or just too big. To measure its size, they look at curvature. “If the universe is perfectly geometrically flat, it can be infinite. If it’s curved, like the Earth’s surface, it has a finite size,” says Ph.D.
Current measurements indicate that the universe is almost completely flat. Will it be infinite? It’s not so simple: “Even in the case of a flat universe, the universe does not have to be infinitely large. Consider, for example, the surface of a cylinder. It is geometrically flat, because the lines drawn on the surface remain parallel, however, have a volume Limited,” the author explains. So the universe could be completely flat, but closed in on itself.
The bigger question, in fact, is whether it exists abroad. “Even if the universe is finite, it doesn’t necessarily have an edge or an outside. Our 3D universe may be embedded in some much larger multidimensional construction,” explains Sutter. This would be perfectly reasonable in some exotic model of physics, but there is currently no way to test it.
“I know it’s a headache, but even if the universe has a finite size, it doesn’t need to be an integral part of something,” the researcher says in the article.
When imagining the universe, it is possible to think of a giant sphere filled with stars, galaxies and all kinds of interesting astrophysical objects, which may lead to the question of what it would look like from the outside – the way an astronaut observes Earth from afar. . But, according to the author, the universe does not need to have this external perspective.
“It is entirely consistent from a mathematical point of view to define a three-dimensional universe without the need for an external appearance of that universe,” Sutter says in the text. It’s as if when we imagine the universe as a ball floating in the middle of nowhere, we’re playing a trick on ourselves that math doesn’t require.
He concludes, “It may seem impossible to have a finite universe without anything outside of it, but it isn’t.” But calm down: it’s also possible that our being really has an “external”, there’s nothing in mathematics that says it’s necessary.
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