A Brief History of Time

Posted by Eyecu2 7 years, 7 months ago to Books
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I have been reading Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" and seem to understand most of it or at least I think that I do. I am unsure if I should attribute this understanding to my intelligence or more likely to Hawking's brilliance in making thick subject matter understandable. In any case here goes with the point that is on my mind.

In order to describe the expansion of the universe Hawking uses an analogy of a balloon with dots on it while it is being inflated. The dots all move away from each other and the ones furthest from each other move away from each other faster as the balloon inflates more and more. Now I like this analogy but it brings a question to my mind. Assuming that the entire universe started from a singularity at some point in the far distant past and exploded outward and expanded over the course of time to its present state, I find the analogy of a balloon fitting. However, running a bit further with this analogy it seems that the skin of the balloon is where all of everything should be located. The thickness of this "skin" might be a galaxy or even several galaxies wide but in any case everything no matter if it is on this side of the universe or the opposite side would be in this "skin." That means to my mind at least that there should be whatever we can see inside our area of this "skin" as fairly close but that anything we are looking at in the "skin" of the universe on the opposite side of the universal balloon should be vastly far away. Moreover there should be a VAST area of apparent emptiness between our side of this balloon and the other side of this balloon. Additionally, if we were to look away from the "balloon" there should also be an endless emptiness. Obviously we may be within the "skin" of this balloon and see things fairly close and finding the right direction to look will pose some minor challenge but this suggests a direction to look towards the very boundaries of the universe, which brings these two questions to my mind. What is beyond the edge of the universe? What if anything is in the "air" area of this universal balloon?

Most likely these questions are readily answerable by Physicists or other intelligent persons, and I have just run too far with the balloon analogy Mr. Hawking posed but this has got me wondering.


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  • Posted by $ Maphesdus 7 years, 7 months ago
    My guess is that the actual universe is three-dimensional, rather than two-dimensional like the surface of a balloon. In other words, there's still matter and galaxies in the interior area. I think the balloon analogy was just to demonstrate how multiple points can all move away from each other while speeding up, and wasn't meant to imply that the universe is actually shaped like a balloon.
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    • Posted by Rozar 7 years, 7 months ago
      Agreed on most parts. If you imagine the expanding matter leaving the center, they are going to start clumping together and slowing down. They won't all accelerate at the same time. Still there would probably be fewer traces of matter in the most interior areas.

      Beyond the edge of the universe is a contradiction based on my understanding of the word universe. From my understanding the world universe defines the world we inhabit stretching out to infinity. Using that definition the "universe" doesn't have a boundary nor does it exist in material reality. It's just a word to relay the message of, "everything".
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    • Posted by 7 years, 7 months ago
      An inflated balloon is a three dimensional construction; however, based on Hawking's analogy EVERYTHING is moving outward from the point of singularity at which the Big Bang happened. He was using a balloon analogy to demonstrate how everything is moving away from everything else and the further away things are the faster they are moving away. I may have taken the analogy too far by asking my question. Yet, at the same time if everything did come from a single point in the distant past then everything should have moved away from that point leaving that area basically empty. Thereby supporting the reason for my question.

      As to beyond the edge of the Universe. I concede your point; yet, I also stand by my question. If everything began from a single point at the Big Bang. Then everything beyond the edge of the things that have expanded from that initial bang would be outside the edge of the Universe. Yes the Universe is constantly expanding and therefore the material is always moving further and further. I still ask what is beyond that point?
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      • Posted by $ Maphesdus 7 years, 7 months ago
        Yes, the balloon as a whole is a three-dimensional object, but its surface is only two-dimensional, meaning that you only need two coordinates to pin-point any location on the balloon's surface. Now if you wanted to specify a floating point inside the balloon, then you would need a third coordinate, or dimension. But if you're just going along the surface, then you only need two dimensions (latitude and longitude). Stephen Hawking explains this concept in one of his other books, "The Grand Design."

        And yes, everything does move away from the center of the Big Bang, but not all at the same speed. Some stars and galaxies move away from the center quickly, and others move away slowly. This is why I pointed out that the actual universe is three-dimensional, while the surface of the balloon is two-dimensional. With the balloon, the dots are technically only expanding across the first two dimensions, latitude and longitude, while in the actual universe, matter expands across three dimensions: latitude, longitude, and altitude.

        Basically you just need to take the same concept of expanding points that you're applying to the surface of the balloon, and imagine that there are also fixed points floating inside the balloon as well, and that these points also move away from each other as the balloon expands.

        Here's some pictures that might help you visualize the concept:

        Floating balls:
        http://www.vrouwen.nl/files/0/0/0/1/0001...
        http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Vyv_ImhXSBw/Ti...

        Particle spheres:
        http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/863/262/8632620...
        http://www.rectangleworld.com/demos/Dust...

        As for what's outside the universe, who knows? Other universes, maybe? Some scientists believe that it wasn't just matter that originated with the Big Bang, but also time and space itself. If that's true, then question of what's outside the universe would be sort of like asking what's north of the north pole. The concept stops having any relevant meaning at that point.
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  • Posted by jbaker 7 years, 7 months ago
    I read this book when it first came out way back in 1988. I loved it and, from what I remember, I still think it is a great book.

    Going off topic ... not commenting on the balloon analogy ... I have read many popular science books over the years. I almost always enjoy them. In the last 10 years or so I have not read as much popular science because I sort of feel like if you are not going to sit down and do the math, then you can't really understand it anyway so the understanding one does get is somewhat hollow and not very useful. Am I the only one that thinks like this? What do others think?

    I am not trying to say popular science books are completely without value. Not everything has to be utilitarian. I too read fiction just for fun. I am just not as into them as I used to be. I feel like I have to be more selective with my reading as the limited time available is so precious. Of course this is a personal choice and the determination of what to select will differ from individual to individual.

    A good example from recent news might be the Higgs boson. Am I interested - yes. I read a few articles. But I am not going to read a book on the Higgs boson because the whole subject is really not approachable by me because I do not have the particle physics background. I am interested in any comments on this way of thinking / approach.
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    • Posted by 7 years, 7 months ago
      I understand you approach and while I have to admit that the math is beyond me. I do have the ability to handle a good portion of the math (only an engineer not quite a physicist) I can follow most things. Due to my profession I have quite a bit of time and read voraciously from nearly all areas of writing, Eventually I will get around to reading on the Higgs boson but at this time I have other books in the queue.

      Speaking of other books in the queue you might want to have a look at the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. Mr. Goodkind is one of the ronly writer that I have read that from the fantasy genera to support Randyian values.
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      • Posted by jbaker 7 years, 7 months ago
        Right, I wasn't really speaking to whether one *could* do the math. I also have a math heavy background. In fact, that may be a significant reason why my thinking is going in this direction. The point I was trying to get at is that most popular science books don't have any (or much) math in them. And further, and this is *really* the point, that many of these subjects cannot really be understood without doing the math. So, for me, it is sort of like I feel that instead of reading James Gleick, I just have to go read Mandelbrot.

        But regardless, thanks for bringing up A Brief History of Time. That brings back memories - what a great book!
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 7 years, 7 months ago
    Aahhh; THE great mystery of astro-physics and cosmology. Interesting that the concept originated with a Catholic Priest/astronomist, Georges Lemaitre (1924): who told us, after becoming familiar with Hubble's first work, (which he himself abandoned as false 5 years after first publishing) that fiery creation issued forth from what he euphemistically described as a "primordial atom", which somehow exploded and drove the galaxies apart. (See 'The Static Universe' by Hilton Ratcliffe). Hubble wrote in a paper for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1947 (some 20 years after his discovery), "It seems likely that red-shifts may not be due to an expanding Universe, and much of the speculation on the structure of the universe may require re-examination."

    The Big Bang Theory, now called the Lambda-Cold Dark Matter Model, at this time, based on improved observation means and methods has to rely on some 96% combination of Cold Energy and Dark Matter in order to work in physics as presently known. That has been the history of the theory, observations that don't fit the model have to be adopted to fit or the theory has to be adapted or some supernatural, non-visible, non-measurable thing has to be invented in order to maintain belief in the theory.

    But to Hawking's explanation of expansion. What he's trying to explain is that the galaxies aren't actually moving apart, but rather that the space-time (the balloon's surface) between the galaxies is expanding in all directions and everywhere (except locally), and that the expansion rate is increasing with time. Two and three dimensional examples are hard enough to mentally manage, but he's actually looking at a 4 dimensional universe of X, Y, Z and time. He's also looking at a universe that is supposedly 13.8 billion years old, primarily based on observations made by the Hubble Telescope Deep Field observation, and that has a finite origination (that has been permanently lost due to the expansion) and size that is increasing. Expansion has to have something to expand into, but that is essentially ignored by theoretical physicists, cosmologist, and other math types.

    If you find it difficult to comprehend, don't worry too much. It's normal to encounter difficulty in understanding nonsense.
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    • Posted by Mitch 7 years, 7 months ago
      Seems like a perfect forum to ask a nagging question in regards to Hubble’s hypothesis. I’m very interested in cosmology but strictly from the arm chair.

      The way I understand the theory is that galaxies observed further away from our own have a greater red shift in the light observed, hence the galaxies further away are moving away from us faster than near galaxies; or the whole universe is expanding…

      I have never heard of anyone including or accounting for time…

      The light observed from the further galaxy is older light, meaning it was moving away at a faster pace in the past. The light from the closer galaxy is not as old and isn’t moving away quite as fast. This seems to me as though the expansion of the universe is slowing down. We are not only comparing the red shift from two different galaxies at different distances but also in different times in the history of the universe. In actuality, the observation seem to conclude that we live in a closed universe and gravity will win in a big crunch.

      Can someone please tell me I’m way off base and don’t understand what the hell I’m talking about because this is bugging the shit out of me and I can’t find anything that examines the age or the light being observed?
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 7 years, 7 months ago
        Mitch: No you're not way off base. In fact it's been a matter of dispute in the cosmology community, whether the Universe, (as understood in LCD model) will end in cold as the universe expands or will it reverse under gravity and crunch back into a singularity in one giganormous (sic) massive black hole..

        But Hubble and many others in argument against the red-shift = speed moving away modeling conclude, that the age of the light arriving at Earth now has been shifted by age, gravitational lensing, and any number of other conditions in it's travels to us.

        An interesting thought experiment: considering the Hubble Deep Space Survey determination of galaxies at a distance of 13.8 billion light years and concurrent Big Bang calculations of an age essentially the same is: How did that galaxy light get out there, 13.8 light years if the Big Bang from a singularity happened at or near the same time?

        As I mentioned earlier in this thread, a couple of books by an Objective observational cosmologist, Hilton Ratcliffe, The Virtue of Heresy and The Static Universe are excellent in describing a fairly solid foundation written in lay language (as much as possible), though in opposition to the expanding or collapsing universe theories. There are many other references, for, against, and neutral, in his books for further reading.

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        • Posted by Mitch 7 years, 7 months ago
          Awesome, thanks… Ordering both books now!!!

          Every time I have tried to explain the faults in the observations to people, they ether don’t get it to dismiss it with a statement “I’m sure someone thought of that”. You’re the first person I spoke to that has helped me with my sanity. Thank you very much.
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    • Posted by 7 years, 7 months ago
      I understand everything you went over. In fact I listed most of it. You did not touch on my 2 questions.
      1. What is beyond the edge (the balloon) of the universe?
      2. What if anything is in the "air" area of this universal balloon?
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 7 years, 7 months ago
        1. What is beyond the edge (the balloon) of the universe?

        It's ignored in the model. There's no there there.

        2. What if anything is in the "air" area of this universal balloon?

        Space-time is in the space between galaxies and it is expanding. It's also of the 3rd dimension, which doesn't exist in the balloon analogy which is a 2 dimensional device. Keep in mind that it's a mathematical model, not a real world thing.
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  • Posted by Hiraghm 7 years, 7 months ago
    "Moreover there should be a VAST area of apparent emptiness between our side of this balloon and the other side of this balloon. "

    No, because there is no universe in that vast area, according to his analogy.
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