It turns out that the Universe is flat. It also turns out that the more we gaze into space in the hope of learning more, the less we really know. In language that left us nodding our heads in a kind of ‘of course I know what you are talking about but please don’t ask me questions’ way, the scientists at the University of Portsmouth have analysed all sorts of data that say this is the case.
While this does not exactly change our lives, tiny specks as we are, it does demonstrate how unimaginably vast the universe is and how unimaginably little we know about it and how it works.
For instance, other scientists have ‘proved’ that the early Universe was spinning. And not just spinning, but spinning ‘all over the place.’
According to one Lior Shamir, the Kansas State Astronomer (great job title), “We have two different sky surveys showing the exact same patterns, even when the galaxies are completely different.”
What is weird is that the Universe was not spinning on one axis but a complex series of axes. This they know because, as Shamir said at a recent event, “more galaxies spun counterclockwise when looking up from the Earth’s poles and the opposite was true when looking from the equator.”
So, in the beginning the universe was flat and spinning, rather like someone throwing a frisbee into a vacuum to see what would happen. Wait, maybe…or maybe not.
While this is fascinating to many, it may be that in time we realise that the universe is not flat after all but rather a deca-rhomboid helix (yes, we made that up).
The question is how on earth – or anywhere else – do we even dream of travelling into something we know less than nothing about.
Even closer to home, the questions outweigh logical answers by quite a number. Scientists are now ‘sure’ that our own Milky Way was shrunk by about 30% by magnetic fields early in the formation of the universe. This might explain things such as why our black holes seem to grow faster than other galaxies’ black holes.
Closer still, it seems that one of Saturn’s moons, Titan, is drifting away from the planet, but we don’t know why. Oh, and Mars probably had rings at some point. And a moon or two.
Thinking about these things makes Mars look really close and our mission there very mundane. But on our way, if it turns out that the universe really is flat, what happens if we fall off the bottom.
Meanwhile, here is a trip from our planet to the end of space.