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The Shape of the Universe

Unfortunately, because I am not an academic, when I read things that are important to me, although I file them away in my memory, I do not jot them down so that I can remember the source and author.  Thus I must work from a lot of unquoted sources and I apologize to the cited authors and to readers who are skeptical of such sources.

At any rate, many years ago I remember reading an article in the newspaper (I believe the L.A. Times) that said some scientists had observed that the earth seemed to be the center of the universe.  By using dopler shifts in light waves from distant stars they could see how fast these stars were traveling away from the earth, and it appeared that all the stars of similar ages were traveling at the same speed away from the earth.  Of course there are stars that we cannot see, but even within the visible universe this observation is quite puzzling and in my mind has a lot of ramifications.

First of all, what are the chances that the earth or any given point inthe universe would be the center of the universe?  It would be much more rational to assume that if one were to peer out into the universe from any given point, one would see the same thing: it would appear that given point was the center of the universe and all stars equadistant would be traveling away from that point at the same speed.  Actually this is not surprising for anyone who is acquainted with simple explanations of Einstein’s conception of the universe.  I think most of us have seen the inflated balloon metaphor in which the surface of the balloon represents a simplistic concept of Einstein’s curved universe, and as the balloon inflates, any point on its periphery would appear (if one were only viewing the balloon’s periphery–think Flatland) to be the center of expansion.

As I thought about this conception of the universe further, however, I began to wonder where exactly the periphery of the universe was.  It seemed logical to me to assume that if all points were the center then if the universe were to have any periphery at all, it must also be at all points.  As difficult as it is to conceive of all points in the universe being both the center and the periphery, it is not at all difficult to think of these two assumptions separately.  The balloon metaphor gives us a good example of all points appearing to be the center of an expanding universe.  And it is also an almost childish and hardwired conception that the way the universe creates space is by matter flying away from the center of the universe and that the outward-traveling matter at the periphery of the universe is expanding the envelope of space. 

So we can just imagine that all of the matter we see traveling around us, let’s take the solar system for example, is at the periphery of the universe creating space.  In other words, matter in motion creates space.  That’s a little more difficult, but not impossible to imagine.  It requires some mathematical equations that I’m not sure have been calculated before and are definitely beyond my abilities to calculate.  But conceptually it is within the grasp of most of our imaginations.  When you think about it, most of us have assumed that matter traveling outward at the periphery of the universe was expanding the envelope of space, so we’ve kind of assumed that matter in motion created space.  Only we’ve thought about it way out there, not here in our own backyard, so to speak.

Now this next notion I will throw out, however, is a bit more difficult to conceive of.  Above, I more or less logically came to the conclusion that all points in the universe are both at the center and the periphery the universe.  That means that matter in motion must not only be traveing outward creating space, but also traveling inward!  In other words, if all points are both the center and the periphery of space, then all motion must also be toward the center as well as the periphery.  I must admit that this notion raises a few questions which are far more difficult to conceive of and deal with than the notion of matter traveling outward and creating outer space.  The only conclusion I can come to is that matter in motion creates both outer and inner space. 

Before I get to inner space, however, I’d like to talk a bit more about the expanding universe.  As far as I know, everyone assumes the universe is expanding.  Complex theories and mathematical proofs talk about the universe expanding at various rates at different times in the universe’s history.  How the universe got to be the size and shape it is in the 15 or so billion years since the Big Bang is still a mystery.  Yet the universe that we can perceive seems to be expanding at a constant rate.  The doppler shifts from more distant stars indicate that they are traveling away from us faster than closer stars. 

Where exactly is the expansion of the universe taking place?  Out there at the outer edges (wherever they are) or everywhere?  If it is supposed to be expanding like a loaf of bread that is being baked, then the expansion should be taking place everywhere.  I have never heard of calculations that include the expansion of space as a variable.  Is it so minute that it does not matter when we calculate the trajectory of space ships or comets or the orbits of the planets around the solar system?  Or is it factored in some other way?  By gravitational forces, for example?  Einstein said that gravity is the result of curved space.  Does the curvature of space also somehow include its expansion? 

Before I return to inner space, which I know seems more like science fiction than the outer expansion of space, I’d first like to talk a little more about the movement of matter creating space.  If the movement of matter does not create space, why exaclty is the universe expanding?  If the envelope of space is not being expanded by outwardly traveling matter, does space then exist independent of matter?  Or is the periphery of the universe expanding into space that is already there?  Does space exist independent of energy and matter?  Or is the existence of space tied to the existence of matter and energy?  I am going to assume that the existence of space is one with the existence of matter and energy.  In other words, prior to the Big Bang, space did not exist.

So energetic matter (or perhaps simply energy itself, if energy can exist in a universe without the existence of matter) creates space.  Now if all matter is both at the center and the periphery of the universe, when matter becomes energetic and travels through space it is traveling outward, away from the center, but isn’t it also traveling inward toward the center?  Very difficult to imagine, I know, but it seems logically true.  So when energetic matter creates outer space, might we not also assume it creates inner space? 

Let’s imagine the Big Bang.  Very compressed matter becomes energetic and travels outward, away from the center of the universe.  But if the universe has no center, is all one big center, like an expanded singularity, couldn’t matter also implode, creating inner space?  What would that be?  A parallel universe?  An anti-universe?  That would also make sense.  If at the Big Bang space, energy and matter were created in an “outer” dimension, and anti-space, anti-energy and anti-matter in an “inner” dimension, then the sum of both universes would equal nothing.  And that is how many scientists describe the Big Bang, something coming out of nothing.

Einstein gave us the formula E = MC sqaured… (can’t do sqaured short hand on this blog), which gives us the concept of energy being created out of matter.  I, however, have never seen a formula for the creation of space.  Is it not considered a “thing?”  Is it simply an adjunct, an ether in which the heavenly bodies play?  Einstein did not seem to think so.  Space accounted for gravity.  Matter curves space and this causes other matter to be attracted.  So space is a “thing” to Einstein.  It can move worlds. 

I wonder, though, if Einstein ever thought about whether his gravitational theory of curved space applied to matter not in motion?  As far as we know, all matter is in motion, so that could only be a thought problem.  Yet, since I opened up the can of worms about matter in motion creating space, and there seems to be no evidence of space being created in our celestial neighborhood, I threw out the thought that perhaps newly created space was tied into the concept of gravity.  And since matter not in motion (whatever that might be) would not create space, perhaps it would neither have a gravitational field.

However, Einstein also said that space (and time) are relative to conscious perception.  On earth, we would perceive a distant rocket ship going very fast (near the speed of light) to be traveling through more space (and taking more time for the journey) than those on the spaceship would perceive themselves to be.  Thus the twin theory, where a twin aboard the spaceship would return to earth younger than his other twin.  Thus, not only does the velocity of matter have to do with the creation of space, but consciousness does too.

If we were to fashion some sort of crude (very crude) formula for the creation of space it would include: Matter, Velocity (or energy) and Conscious Perception.  Something like Matter (times) Velocity (divided by) Conscious Perception = Space.  What I find most fascinating about the question of space (besides the fact that it seems to be overlooked by most physicists) is that it is subject to consciousness.  As if the universe requires consciousness to inflate space.

Metaphysically, the requirement of consciousness to inflate the universe is not a new or unusual concept.  God created the universe in a thought and if he stops thinking that thought the universe will disappear.  So metaphysically speaking, the universe (and space) are dependant on God’s consciousness.  I sometimes imagine the universe as a point (which has no dimension and in fact is nothing) being inflated by God’s thought the way a cartoon bubble blows up due to a cartoon character’s thoughts.

But if like me you do not believe in that old Biblical God, then we can substitute attributes of man for God.  And it seems to be accepted science that man’s consciousness can affect spatial measurments.  What happens then when a man stops thinking about space?  Let’s say, for example, someone dies.  At least for them wouldn’t space and time disappear?  This is fairly easy to imagine, because when we go to sleep time definitely disappears for us.  We fall asleep one moment and wake the next, as far as we’re concerned.  True, time did affect our body as we slept, we aged and various other bodily processes can be proven to have taken place.  Still, from a consciousness viewpoint, time did not exist.

The question about time and space is whether man’s conscious perception seems to be a real factor or just an imagined one.  In the theory of the twin experiment it is real.  Man’s relative perception (dependant upon where one is in the universe) affects time and space.  So if one were to die, wouldn’t time and space also be affected from a relativistic point of view?  Basically, space and time would collapse.   If that dead person were to come to life again, say in a parallel universe, after a few rounds of the univere’s collapse and a few Big Bangs, it would seem to that person as if no time had passed. 

This harkens back to that old question of Descarte’s, what is real?  If I die and the universe, space and time, collapse to nothing, does it still exist for others?  Or is that question old thinking?  Do we need a new way to look at conscious perception in regards to the universe?

I have been watching on TV Robert Lawernce Kuhn’s “Closer to Truth.”  He gets into the question of physics vs. metaphysics, and how the boundaries are now beginning to blur.  The subject has been brought up numerous times on whether the universe has a plan or purpose, which of course harkens back hundreds of years to writers like St. Thomas Acquinas.  In my other blog on “Intelligent Design,’ I suggest that the universe might follow certain patterns.  Kuhn and a number of the scientists and philosophers he interviewed agreed that the universe seems fine tuned (to find out how fine tuned, it is necessary to read physics books, but the tuning is so miraculous that the odds against it are astronomical) for life. 

If the universe does have some grand design, perhaps the human species will die out before it is completed, if it even includes the notion of completion, which might be a human concept, not a universal one.  Yet our consciousness might be an integral part of the universe’s existence.  To get away from existential complications–if I cease to exist, does the entire creation cease to exist?–let us simply accept the possibility that multiple consciousnesses exist.  If I die the universe will die from my point-of-view (which might have more of a universal affect than we now think), but it will continue to exist in the consciousnesses of others.  If all consciousness died, however, (and perhaps there are more consciousnesses than those on our planet earth), then then all “subjective” aspects of the universe, which include at least time and space, would also die, and in effect, the universe would cease to exist.

In other words, until consciousness was created, time and space did not exist.  It would be interesting if God were not the consciousness “behind” the universe, the “Grand Mover,” but we are part of the inherint consciousness within the universe that needed to be activitated and it was activiated by the creation of consciousness on earth.  In other words, when they say that God created the earth (or universe) in a Word (which implies consciousness), that means that God was not complete until the consciousness that was inherint in the patterning of the universe came to fruition.  We are not simply a creation of God’s plan, we help to create God’s plan and make it possible.  The moral and ethical ramifications make the mind spin!

If we were to return to Descartes, “I think therefore I am,” he proves that at least he exists.  In other words, we can all prove our own existences, but proving someone else’s is more problematic.  For Descartes, the point of this exercise was to prove that if he existed therefore God exists, and that God is good.  I won’t go into his logic; beyond the point of “I think therefore I am,” I never quite got it.  For me, Descartes seemed to have a preconceived outcome.  There was no way the man was going to prove that God did not exist or that he was a bad God.

I am proposing something a bit different: I exist (via Descartes’ logic) therefore I am in some sense, or to some degree, God.  In other words, without consciousness of some sort, the universe would collapse.  How can I explain this so that it seems more understandable, even to myself, who can barely grasp it from a logical context?  Let’s consider that each of us possess the only consciousness in the universe; this at least is all we can prove.  If that consciousness were to die, then time and space would become inconsequential without any consciousness to grasp it.  For example, let’s say that you were the only consciousness and you fell asleep for 100 billion years and woke up after, say, another Big Bang/Big Crunch cycle.  Since there was no consciousness to perceive the passage of time, would it not be as if it happened in an instant?

So, if consciousness “informs” the universe (with a large emphasis on “informs”), and each of us can only prove that our own consciousness exists, are we not, logically and philosophically, responsible for the shape of the universe?  True, the universe has shaped us, but we have been shaped to perceive and judge.  Call it a reflexive or symbiotic relationship.  If we are twisted is not the universe also twisted?

What is the meaning of “twisted” in this context, though, you might ask, as well I might ask myself.  Certainly feeling “twisted,” anxiety ridden, guilty would qualify.  We could argue, as many have, that it is those around us that cause us to be twisted.  But if we are each individually responsible for the universe, as far as we know all of those others are also our own creations.  And even if they are not, we all share in the harmonious informing of the universe; without our consciousnesses, it will die in an instant.  This is pretty much a cosmological-existential definition of morality.  Really, pretty much the definition we all go by, whether we know we’ve been influenced by the existentialists or not.  Sartre’s big question was: “What would the world be like if everybody acted the way I am acting?”  (Paraphrased)

However, it might be interesting to consider a wider cosmologically induced definition of morality.  Let’s say that the universe is pre-programmed, prepped, hardwired, whatever term you might like to use here yourself, to create consciousness.  I think a strong argument could be made in that favor.  (Please refer to my blog on “Intelligent Design.”)  Consciousness is either the end goal, or one of the goals toward the final end goal (if in fact it exists) of a purposeful universe.  Whose purpose?  Let’s just say that I don’t think anybody in history has been conscious enough to intelligently answer that question.  I don’t know that I see the need to answer it in order to continue on this inquiry.

It is a symbiotic relationship, though, the universe has created conscious beings for it to be fulfilled or informed or inflated or whatever term you want to put here.  So what is its responsibility to us and our responsibility to its gift of possessing consciousness, if in fact any responsibility at all?  If it is true, then we conscious beings possess one of the attributes that has always been associated with God, Divine Grace: the universe was created by God’s thought and if he did not continue to think it, the universe would vanish.  And yet, if we consider our consciousness as a creation of the universe and we’ve always thought of God as the creator, well then, the whole question of responsibility and morality gets much more complex.  

I’ll have to think on all of this for a while and try to see what sort of morality I come up with.   However, I would hate to be like Descartes and simply prove that the morality I already possess is the true morality… simply prove the existential version that most of us in the so-called Western World believe is true.   However, I wouldn’t be very happy about proving the opposite, either.  Until later…

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{ 1 } Comments

  1. derekpm | July 12, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Rather interesting. Has few times re-read for this purpose to remember. Thanks for interesting article. Waiting for trackback

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