The Shape of the Universe

I have had more free time than usual at work and during that time I was reading more about the Doomsday Argument, when I came across the theories and ideas of Richard Gott who is a Princeton professor. I found his theories fascinating and wanted to learn more so I emailed him some questions. Still waiting on a response…

The thing I like about Gott right off the bat is that he likes time travel, and has a few theories how it could be possible to travel to the past and states that theoretically it is possible. I think most physicists don’t really like talking about that subject, but he seems to have a very real and genuine interest in it. He also has a very interesting theory about how the universe came into being. Below is what he says:

Since Gott believes that time travel is not cosmologically excluded, he has presented the possibility that the Universe was created out of itself (at a later time). This controversial suggestion was published with Li-Xin Lin, and it was described by Gott as “it would be like having one branch of a tree circle around and grow up to be the trunk. In that way, the universe could be its own mother.”


While I think I understand this argument, I am having trouble wrapping my head around it. The problem I am having is that knowing what I think I know about the universe how can this happen? The universe is expanding, that is a fact, so in doing so everything is getting farther and farther apart, so how will that expansion result in the universe creating itself. Also here is another brain buster, if this theory is correct, is that new universe a copy of the old one, or an entirely new one? I think either way would be cool, but I think it would be beyond interesting if it was a copy of itself. So the universe is infinite and you have done what you are currently doing an infinite amount of times. Pretty nuts to think about and opens a plethora of philosophical arguments and what not. But I think the bigger question there is how would it copy itself exactly? I would think that it could be a near carbon copy, maybe with slight variances. The issue is that in dealing with physics even the slightest variance can create some major changes on the cosmological scale.

Also here is the other thing I was thinking about. Again Gott says that the universe may have created itself at a later date. I think Einstein said space time is curved, now I will say that I am not 100% sure if these ideas have anything to do with Gott’s theory, but I was thinking that if it is curved and potentially infinite that logically there would have to be a point where it would curve back on itself. Like if you have infinite paper and drew a line that had a slight curve, and I mean the smallest curve imaginable., eventually that curve would make a circle right? A straight line has no curve, so no matter how much paper you had the two ends will never meet. So my question, and this is what I asked Gott, is what happens if space is curved, and if it is, what happens if it curves back on its self?

Well I now realize the errors of my theory. I found this article and subsequently realize that it seems that scientist have more or less proved that the universe is indeed flat based on the Cosmic Background Radiation. Again I know these individuals are smarter than me, but the theory says that the wiggles, yes that is the scientific term, appear as they should, not smaller or lager that would suggest a saddle or spherical shape. My question is how can you tell when something like that is distorted? I am not saying they are wrong by any means, but I am just wondering how, or what logic they follow to know that what they are looking at is not distorted. So that pokes a major hole in my idea, BUT, there is an idea that the universe could be flat and still curve back on itself if it were rolled up like a tube.

This is a fairly simple idea, take a piece of paper and roll it up, this basically explains the theory. I like this idea, even though there are some problems with it and we will get to those, because it seems bizarre and I think that the universe should have some really bizarre shape and or layout so it makes me feel better. Saying that the universe is just a flat plane, is BOOOOORRRRING!!! The article even states that the universe is probably not even infinite as well, just really really big. I guess I am ok with that, don’t really have a choice, but just makes me a little less excited about the idea of the universe and all its mysteries. They also say that it could be similar to a Pac Man video game where you go off one side of the screen and reappear on the other side. I am not sure what shape this would be, I think a plane, but I would think this would be along the lines of the tube theory. Although now that I think about it I remember seeing an illustration in The Fabric of the Cosmos where the universe was a flat plane and when you “fell off” one edge you reappeared on the opposite edge. That is pretty bizarre if true, and not sure it that is something we could ever figure out.

The problem with the flat universe that is rolled up in a tube is that at the point where the universe meets itself there would or should be an overlap of the galaxies and such. So when looking at the sky there should be some copies or a more or less repetitive pattern at that point where it crosses. But again I would say why couldn’t the two ends mess perfectly where no overlap occurs? Or what if they converge on a point and keep going beyond the intersection, I don’t think we could see beyond the intersection and it would appear the universe ends at the intersection. I really need to hire a physicist to my staff who I can ask all these questions to.

I have always felt this mystery and intrigue, this sort of scientific romance with the universe and its many theories, my courtship with it was always fun and exciting. Now that scientists are figuring out more and more about it, it does take away a little of the sexiness of it not going to lie. It’s like when you figure out the thing you looked up to is a fake or perhaps not longer as exciting was it once was. The truth hurts I suppose…


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