10 Things About The Universe that nobody can Underestimate

  


The universe is a very strange place full of mysteries and odd possibilities that, while scientists ceaselessly try to figure them out, may remain complete unknowns forever no matter how advanced our civilization and our science becomes. So here are ten bizarre possibilities regarding the universe that we may never understand. 

10. We May Never Know What Gravity Is One of the biggest mysteries in science is the nature of gravity. For something that we interact with constantly, we really don’t know that much about it. Newton tried to tackle the issue but only came up with a general way of expressing how it behaves, but not what it is. And even then, Newton was very slightly off. Einstein took that further, but he himself spent his last decades trying to figure out just what gravity is, but again to no avail. Today, scientists know how gravity behaves in the framework of space and time and can predict it very accurately, but what the force itself actually remains an unknown. Ideas on this range from the existence of an elementary particle, known as the graviton, that mediates the force of gravity. Trouble is, gravitons have never been found, and there is doubt that they even exist. Another take on it is how Einstein described gravity, as a warp in space-time, or an inherent acceleration towards massive objects. The Trouble is this is an incomplete view, and again simply describes how it behaves. Not what it is. Perhaps the most strange aspect of gravity is that as far as a force of nature goes, it’s incredibly, incredibly weak. Look around you. Just to hold you to the ground, you need the entire mass of planet earth to generate enough gravity to do it. Yet, we routinely defeat the force of gravity when we launch space probes. Why it’s so weak adds to the mystery, and recent work to determine if gravity is weak because it’s mostly leaking into other dimensions that came up negative. So gravity remains a great mystery, and while we may someday understand it’s nature completely, there’s also a chance that we never will. 

9. Is the Universe Infinite? We live in a sort of bubble within the universe. We call it the observable universe, and beyond it lies more of the universe that we can’t observe. This is a matter of the speed of light, objects beyond a certain point cannot be seen because the universe hasn’t existed long enough for the light from them to reach us. One open question within cosmology is how much more universe there is beyond what we can see. Some think it’s not that much, yet others think it could be substantial. But there is another idea, that it is infinite and if that’s the case it introduces some very strange possibilities. In an infinite universe, it becomes plausible that if you travel far enough you will run into another earth, slightly different, with another you living on it. Still further and you may find another, against lightly different, and so on leading to a kind of physical, real alternate reality all existing within the same universe. Given that we will never be able to observe the entire universe due to the expansion of the universe, this question may remain forever open. 

8. The Double Slit Experiment This strange aspect of our universe is one of those kinds of things that make sense when expressed in the mathematical terms of physics but appears counterintuitive to a human. But the double-slit experiment always yields the same result, having been performed thousands of times. It has to do with the dual nature of particles as both waves and particles. The idea is that you fire particles, say electrons, at a baffle with two slits cut into it. Behind the baffle is a wall. You will see on the wall as the electrons pass through the slits an interference pattern, indicating that the particle is behaving as a wave, much like an ocean wave passing under a pier. However, when you put detectors on the other side of the baffle and observe the particles the interference pattern on the wall disappears and becomes two slits indicating that the particle is acting like a particle, not a wave. In short, for all intents and purposes, the act of merely observing it changes the outcome of the experiment. 

7. Will the universe someday cease to exist? A great unknown within cosmology is what’s eventually going to happen to the universe. In one view, it will simply go on forever until literally all stars burn out, black holes evaporate, iron stars form and all goes dark at some point but continue infinitely. This in itself opens up very bizarre possibilities of chance and infinite time, such as the formation of a Boltzmann brain, where random fluctuations, if given enough time will cause some kind of a consciousness to randomly appear in the dead universe out of nowhere. But it could alternatively be that the universe will someday meet an end. This debate is not settled within cosmology, and there have been many potential ends of the universe advanced, but two possibilities stand out. The first is if the proton is capable of decay. This is an unknown, but if they indeed do decay the universe will effectively end when they do, given that all matter in the universe will simply dissolve. Another possibility is that the universe itself is somewhat unstable in that it doesn’t exist at its true vacuum state. If something were to happen within the universe that pushed some part of it to the true vacuum, the results would be disastrous. Expanding at the speed of light, the entire universe would be ripped apart as it moved to the true vacuum. This could dramatically alter how the universe works, such as how gravity functions, or how matter is structured. The universe as we knew it at least, would no longer exist and we very likely wouldn’t survive it. Thankfully, the time frames for this to happen are very likely far longer than our species can exist within the universe. 

6. What set off the big bang? Regarding the big bang, generally, the earlier you go in that process, the less it is understood by current science. Known as the Planck Epoch, when applied to the first moments of the big bang, the theories that physicists rely on to describe the universe, particularly Einstein’s General Relativity, no longer predict what exactly happened. What can be done is somewhat informed speculation based on evidence of the Big Bang, such as the cosmic microwave background radiation, and there exist several scenarios that might someday prove to explain what exactly happened. One possibility comes from string theory and its variants, where the universe is suspended on a kind of membrane. When this membrane collided with another membrane, that impact set off the big bang. Others include that the whole thing was set off as a result of quantum fluctuations, or that the universe is one of many in a kind of multiverse where universes bud-like flowers on a tree off of other universes. Also, suggestions have been made that the universe is the other side of a black hole, known as a white hole where matter leaves the black hole. Whatever the case may be, because we have no way of seeing what happened during the Planck Epoch, it’s entirely possible we may never fully understand what exactly happened. 

5. Spooky Action at a Distance We often view the universe as a place of immense distance. Any two objects can be separated by almost unfathomable distances, so distant that they can’t ever even observe each other. But that absolute concept of separation is not necessarily set in stone in the quantum mechanical world. In fact, separated particles can be connected to each other through a phenomenon of quantum mechanics over vast distances and influence each other instantaneously, so long as they had some physical interaction in the past that entangled them. Einstein called it spooky action at a distance and absolutely hated the idea, but the phenomenon of quantum entanglement is real and has been experimentally proven. Put simply, if one particle changes behavior such as its spin, the other reacts instantaneously, no matter how far away it is. Unfortunately, this behavior cannot be predicted, meaning that it can’t be used to convey information, the universe does not allow information to propagate faster than light. Exactly how this occurs depends on what interpretation one holds of quantum mechanics, though ultimately we may never know exactly how particles do this. Just simply that they do. 

4. 11 Dimensions of Space and Time Regarding our last entry, one of the ways quantum entanglement might work is that particles might not be connected spatially in the dimensions we perceive, but might be closely connected in another dimension that we can’t perceive. While it’s still very much up in the air whether other dimensions exist, or how many there could be, there are hypothetical possibilities, particularly within the realm of string theory. One interpretation involves 11 dimensions, ten of space, and one of time. The reason we do not see these other dimensions of space is that they are curled up, and thus imperceptible to us. But at the very first moments of the big bang, they may not have been and may have played a role. Whether this is the case or not, or whether other dimensions even exist at all, could remain open forever. 

3. Time Travel Is Possible At Least in one Direction Is time travel possible? The arguments against traveling to the past are numerous, especially because it would violate causality. It’s the old what happens if you go back in time and kill your own grandfather scenario. Would you cease to exist? But that’s only part of the story of time travel, and it may not be as set in stone as you might think. Now travel to the future is easy, it’s literally built into the universe and you’re doing it right now as the clock ticks. Because of relativity, however, very high accelerations can affect time in a process called time dilation, that allows you, in your frame of reference, to travel into the future simply by accelerating. This is exemplified by the twin paradox, where one twin stays on earth, and another twin travels through space at relativistic speeds and when he gets back, he’s no longer the same age as his twin. Even on smaller scales, satellites in orbit have to be corrected for minute amounts of time dilation. So, in short, if you go extremely fast in space, you will travel forward in time at a different rate than someone sitting hereon earth. Trouble is, if you go 500 years into the future, you have no way of ever getting back to your own time. Or do you? The answer is maybe, but it wouldn’t be easy, and in all practicality is likely impossible. But this may not mean that backward time travel is strictly impossible in the universe. Hypotheses exist that under very special conditions, such as if you had a rotating cylinder of infinite length, or under certain conditions involving traversing a black hole or wormhole not through space, but time, might allow you to at least in principle travel backward. But, that we do not appear to see time travelers from the future visiting suggests we will never figure out backward time travel, or it’s illegal, or we simply go extinct before we figure it out. 

2. The Universe Will Someday Be Mostly Invisible In this option, we actually do understand what’s happening, or least parts of it. But in the very far future, anyone that might exist very well may not understand the vast majority of the universe in the way we do. This is because as the universe ages and continues its expansion, everything but your local group of galaxies will be so distant that light cannot travel fast enough to make up for the expansion of the universe in between. Essentially a civilization existing in the old age of the universe will have no idea that countless other galaxies exist in the universe because they will be invisible. They may not even be able to determine that a big bang ever happened, or know anything about the universe as it is today. They may be able to study their local group of galaxies and glean some clues about the nature of the universe, but even worse an isolated rogue star system in the intergalactic medium might not even have that option available to them. They would essentially be marooned on their world until the effective end of the universe itself, never knowing very much about it at all. One. The Many Worlds Interpretation It’s possible to take a completely different approach to the concept of parallel universes; different from the concept of a multiverse. In the 1950s Hugh Everett hypothesized that other universes could exist hovering, for lack of a better term, alongside our own, constantly splitting off from each other and that events in those universes may all have different outcomes. This leads to some strange ideas, such as that in a parallel universe the dinosaurs did not undergo a mass extinction event, and humans never evolved as a result leading to modern earth still dominated by dinosaurs, perhaps even intelligent ones. Other possibilities are well explored in science fiction, from everything from what might have happened if the allies had been defeated in world war II to evil alternate universe Spock with a beard. This may seem far fetched, and it is, but not the underlying reasons why Everett hypothesized the possibility. 

1. Within Quantum mechanics is a question, one related to the double-slit experiment. Why does quantum matter behave so strangely? Why do particles take different forms? Niels Bohr hypothesized that these particles don’t actually exist in any one state at all, but all possible states and that observing the particle forces it to pick a state. But that’s only one take on it. In Everett’s interpretation, when a particle chooses a state it actually causes a split in the universe itself, creating an entirely new universe branching off from another, explaining why particles can be measured in different states because they exist in all possible states spread across parallel universes. In the world of the big above the quantum level, this means that there could be universes in which you are dead or a very different person. Whether these parallel universes exist or not is an open question, and probably will never be answered as it doesn’t seem possible we could ever detect or measure these other timelines. But this concept of collapsing wave functions can be taken to an even more profound level. Some have asked the question does the entire universe have a wave function? Would it even exist if it weren’t being observed? It’s hard to believe that would be the case, but it is a question, by its nature, we probably cannot ever answer for sure. 

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