What is the Universe Expanding into
The universe is growing or expanding at an increasing speed. Think about how a person grows from a baby to an adult and then to old age. First there is a birth and a growing stage, next the young adult is ready to master the universe. The final stage involves some expanding or growing to a full size adult. Since the only constant in the universe is change, what is the universe expanding into.
Let me begin by saying that "expanding" isn't really the best word to describe what is happening to the universe, although that is the word that is often used.
A more accurate word for what the universe is doing might be growing. Growing bigger as energy changes into higher vibrations.
Nikola Tesla said “To understand the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibrations.”
The difference between "expanding" and "growing", for me at least, is that an "expanding universe" brings up an image where there are a bunch of galaxies moving through space.
Growing is more like an evolutionary phase in the life of the Universe.
The galaxies started at some center point (Big bang) and are now moving away from that point at very fast speeds.
Therefore, the galaxies and the "universe" is expanding, and it’s fair to ask what are the galaxies expanding into? I like to think that the universe is growing into adulthood.
The current theories of the universe, however, tell us that this is not the picture we should have in mind at all.
Instead, the galaxies are in some sense stationary and they do not move through space the way that a plane moves through the air.
The galaxies simply stay together. However, as time goes on, the space between the galaxies "expands". Kind of like what happens when you take a balloon with two marks on it and blow it up.
The galaxies haven't moved through space at all, they just get farther away from each other as the balloon gets bigger.
Of course, when we think of space in everyday life, we don't think of it as something which is capable of growing.
Space, to us, just seems like something which is there, with everything else in the universe. People say things like, the universe is everything and nothing is outside of the universe.
But according to Einstein's theory of general relativity space and time are tangible. The new picture of space isn't really as simple as our common sense tells us.
If we want to understand the actual way that the universe functions, we need to find some way to incorporate Einstein's ideas into our mental picture. Try to imagine space capable of doing things like "bending" and "growing".
To help us imagine space, a lot of people have come up with analogies for the universe in which space is represented by something more tangible.
For example, there is an analogy with a balloon that I mentioned above. Another analogy, involves imagining the universe as a gigantic blob of dough.
Embedded in the dough are a bunch of raisins, spread throughout. The dough represents space, and the raisins represent the galaxies.
This analogy was perhaps proposed by Martin Gardner in his 1962 book Relativity for the Million but I found it used in “Ask an Astronomer”.
We have no idea how big the dough is at this point, all we know is that it is very big and we are sitting on one raisin somewhere inside it.
We are so far away from the "edge" that the edge can't possibly have any effect on us or on what we see.
Now, when the dough is in the oven it begins to expand. The raisins move apart from each other, but relative to the dough they don't move at all. The same particles of dough that start off near a particular raisin will always be next to that raisin.
That is what I meant when I said that the galaxies aren't really moving through space as the universe expands.
The raisins aren't moving through the dough, but the distance between the raisins is still getting farther.
This new picture of the universe is different from the old picture. Before, the galaxies are all moving through space away from some point at the center.
A lot of concepts and definitions that seem simple to us in the old picture are much more complicated now. For example:
In the old picture, this is an easy question to answer by measuring the red shift of the light source from stars.
In our new picture of the universe, however, with the raisins and the dough, It is unclear whether the universe as a whole is really "expanding",
What it seems like is that we measure a bigger space growing between each pair of galaxies.
As galaxies move away from each other the universe must have more space or more dough to grow.
In the old picture, it is easy to imagine the center of the universe. It's the point in space that all the galaxies are moving away from.
In the new picture, though, this isn't so clear. Remember, the galaxies aren't moving, the raisins are sitting still but space is expanding.
Let's go back to the dough analogy, you can imagine that even if the dough is really really big, it has some point within it which is the geometric center.
But this definition is not very useful. Since the dough represents the space that we live in, we have no way to see "outside" of the dough. We can’t get a sense of the entire shape of the dough and figure out where the center is.
So if you are stuck inside the dough, you have no way to see anything except the dough. And if you are so far from the "edge" of the dough that you can't see it, then it has no effect on you.
Consider, what difference do you notice between the point where you're at and the point that is actually at the geometric center of the entire blob of dough?
The answer is that there is no difference, right. The concept of the "center of the universe" loses all meaning, so we don't even think about it. It doesn’t matter where you are in the dough it would all look the same from everywhere.
The only way you can define the center is to mark out the edges and find the point that's equally in between all of them. That’s impossible...
Since the universe is really big and we see no edges, then we can’t begin to find a center.
Finally, we can return to the original question, what does the universe expand into. In our old picture of the universe, the answer would be simple, although very unsatisfying. Space just gets bigger...
The collection of galaxies that make up the universe is moving through space. Therefore, the universe is expanding into even more space than it already encompassed.
In our new picture, though, the galaxies are just raisins spread throughout the dough. Where the galaxies are situated is largely irrelevant to the question of the universe's expansion.
What we really care about is the dough, and whether or not it has a boundary.
If the dough does have a boundary, then it is legitimate to ask what is beyond the boundary that the dough expands "into".
But for our new universe, that is a very complicated question to ask! The boundary at the edge of the dough represents the "edge" of space.
By definition, we exist within space (in the dough) and have no way to leave it! So we don't have any way to observe or measure what is beyond our universe.
It would be really weird to imagine reaching the "end" of space. What would it look like?
If you have been following my blog posts then you know that I believe there are other higher energy levels (dimensions) that make up a Universe.
We might not even know which level we are in currently because when you are inside one level you have no reference or comparison of other levels (dimensions).
Can you imagine the universe growing bigger? Perhaps Black holes move matter into higher energy levels. Maybe dark matter and dark energy is in a higher dimension, kind of like in a bigger balloon?
Where is the boundary of space? These are the questions that we have no way of giving a scientific answer to. The simple answer is that we don't know!
All we do know is that based on our current understanding of theoretical cosmology, the universe does not have a boundary. A boundary is either meaningless or it wraps around itself in some way.
Observations seem to agree with these predictions in the sense that if the universe does have a boundary it isn’t visible. A boundary is so far away from us that we can't see it and it doesn't seem to have any effect on us.
Finally, I should point out that not everything in the universe is "expanding" or "growing" in the way that the spaces between faraway galaxies grow.
For example, you and I aren't expanding, the Earth isn't expanding, the sun isn't expanding, even the entire Milky Way galaxy isn't expanding.
That's because on these relatively small scales, the effect of the universe's expansion is completely overwhelmed by other forces.
For instance, the galaxy's gravity, the sun's gravity, the Earth's gravity, and the atomic forces which hold people's bodies together stays constant.
It is only when we look across far enough distances in the universe that the effect of the universe's growth becomes noticeable. In our galaxy the effects of local gravity and other forces tend to hold things together.
Is the growth of the universe related to some kind of evolution that moves matter into higher levels of energy? Is the universe in the middle age of its growth?
Where is the universe moving? Is the Universe a thing or more like a thought and what is the consciousness behind that thought?These are all interesting questions for us to ponder. I want to end by saying perhaps we are growing along with the universe. Imagine your journey and find your own truth. Thanks for being here and as always be well. https://lovinthings.com
Erik has a BSc degree and is a retired professional photographer who is now a published Author of many books. His passion is understanding how life and the universe works. He is currently blogging about the science of the Big Bang and the science of cosmology. Erik is helping his tribe with questions about the universe. His goal is to help find a theory of everything (TOE). In order to do that, he is trying to prove light has mass and that the fabric of spacetime is a false theory. We are welcoming questions and answers that you might have about the universe.