The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

I am confused (yet again)

Yes, I am confused, and it concerns the size and age of the Universe. Maybe it's because I am a simple man with little understanding. Or maybe the math really doesn't add up.

  • A light year is the distance that light travels in one year.
  • Theoretically, nothing can travel faster than light.
  • The Universe is approximately 13.75 Billion years old.
  • The Universe is approximately 156 Billion light years in size.

Excuse me for being ignorant and stupid but how can matter have traveled more than ten times farther than the age of the Universe would suggest it could?

Correction: The radius (distance from the center to the edge) of the Universe is 76.5 Billion light years (or thereabouts). Still... that's 5.564 times the size it should be.

16 comments:

Charlotte Ann said...

I'm still trying to figure out how to turn the bluetooth to the on position on my cell.

Douglas said...

Charlotte, I am a little bit of a geek and I have trouble figuring out how to speed dial.

andreaskluth.org said...

Fascinating brain teaser. I have no idea, but....

... might this have to do with Einstein's General Relativity?

Ie: It's possible that "matter did not have travel" all that way in order for the universe to expand.

That's because light still travels in space and time ("spacetime") and THAT is what has expanded.

Michael said...

I laughed out loud at Charlotte's comment.

What Andreas said is what I was thinking too. We go forward in time linearally, but the radius of the universe grows exponentially.

(I have no idea. Just trying to sound smart.)

Douglas said...

Andreas, I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw. A scientist (assumed) is standing in front of a whiteboard. On the whiteboard is schematic drawing ending in a box which says "something magic happens here" followed by the word "output." Yes, perhaps matter just "happened" out that far.

Michael, and well done too.

HektikLyfe said...

Perhaps the universe, much like life, did not start from one single solitary point but instead bubbled and merged with others as it grew. Just like solar systems and planets did. The universe could be a microcosm of everything.

Douglas said...

HektikLyfe, wouldn't that be more accurately described as a "macrocosm?"

iamyouasheisme said...

... might this have to do with Einstein's General Relativity?

This seems close.

Your statement posits the beginning of the universe at a point within an infinite space that is homogenous in all directions, a Newtonian space. This amounts to creating a second universe to act as a container in which the first one expands.

The theory is that the universe expands from a point, and space expands with it. The universe creates space. So as space expands, the smaller spaces are 'stretched', getting around your difficulty.

You may ask what is "outside" the space that is created by the universe, but then you are back to your original formulation. Don't go there. Science only desribes the things it can describe. Everything else is left for the future.

Douglas said...

iamyouasheisme, therein lies the problem... if science cannot explain it, it should not pretend it can. Unfortunately, it too often does. And then demands that we accept these explanations as "true" in light of a lack of current alternate explanations. Thereby causing me great confusion.

Lichanos said...

...if science cannot explain it, it should not pretend it can.

Examples, please? Not that there aren't individual scientists that go too far out on an intellectual limb, but they are only human.

The scientist, unlike the prophet or believer, is not afraid to say, "I don't know."

This cosmology stuff is so bizarre, so far removed from our ingrained concepts that it is hard to grasp it. The temptation when explaining, whether by scientists or laymen, and especially journalists, is to reach for the easy, familiar, metaphor or simile, and that's usually just plain wrong.

Douglas said...

Lichanos, I could give you a couple of quick examples:
1 - What we "knew" about nutrition in the 50's and what we "know" today.
2- Salt: good for me in the 60's (prevent dehydration), bad for me today (in regards to high blood pressure)

I could also say you agree with me as evidenced by your last sentence.

Today the argument might be about global warming and what is causing it. Tomorrow the answers might be different than today's.

Aspirin: good then bad then good again (in small dosage) and maybe not so good.

Douglas said...

Oh, forgot to mention... we really don't even know if the "Universe" is really a single thing. It could be one of many such things.

Lichanos said...

Well, it's a long way from cosmology to the half-baked ideas on nutrition that get bandied about in the press. Some would dispute the label of "science" for nutrition "studies."

So, there are fads, more or less intellectual sometimes. That's not what science is about. Personally, I think the upset about global warming is a fad. We'll know in 15 or 20 years for sure.

My point was simply that we try to grasp cosmological theories by treating them the way we treat other scientific notions, but we cannot. The theories are, as well, only intended to explain certain limited observations - not to "explain" everything. They are surrounded by a sort of fog of ignorance. We just have to live with that and hope the fog diminishes, doing the best we can with what we think we know now.

Douglas said...

Lichanos, you are being much more reasonable than I, of course. But I believe you might consider William Fletcher and those who followed in his footsteps scientists. You are correct, it is theory that certain quarters then claim as "fact" that bugs me. We know so little. We presume so much. Perhaps I watch too much of the science-oriented channels on TV.

Lichanos said...

I find that my understanding of the world increases the less I watch TV and read magazines.

Douglas said...

Lichanos, I could give you a couple of quick examples:
1 - What we "knew" about nutrition in the 50's and what we "know" today.
2- Salt: good for me in the 60's (prevent dehydration), bad for me today (in regards to high blood pressure)

I could also say you agree with me as evidenced by your last sentence.

Today the argument might be about global warming and what is causing it. Tomorrow the answers might be different than today's.

Aspirin: good then bad then good again (in small dosage) and maybe not so good.