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Feb28-11, 09:09 AM
P: 334
Quote Quote by QuantumJG View Post
Ok so me and a few of my physics (& Maths) friends were arguing this.

I argued that it must be finite in size, since the universe contains a finite amount of matter and since no space is truly empty, how could the universe be finite.

My friend who's a mathematician said that in her geometry subject this question was actually brought up. She said that the universe may be a 3-manifold (3D surface?) and it depends on the curvature (negative or positive) as to whether the universe is finite or not.

I just want to know what the consensus is.

I personally have always considered anything infinite or boundless as impossible because anything that exists appears to require bounderies or a perimeter to delineate or give substance to it's existence. A building of infinite foors-for example would have no shape unless it has bounderies. No bounderies =no shape =no building. Unless of course we simply add floors or cause bounderies to expand forever. But bounderies of course are incompatible with infinity.

Here is part of an article dealing with the concept of infinity in relation to reality in harmony with what I just said.



Naturally in mathematics we can have infinity, numbers go on for ever, but numbers are not real, they are abstract. I cannot imagine anything 'real' that we could apply an infinite number to. The only thing I can imagine that could be really infinite is nothing, the 'nothing' I described earlier in Where did the universe come from? and we have no idea if that exists.

The concept of infinity is a puzzling one. For example: imagine a standard pack of playing cards that consists of just one of each card but two jokers. Imagine that the packs of playing cards are infinite in number (A thought exercise only of course). We therefore have more jokers than any other card in each pack, so do we have more jokers in total? You could reply that as the packs are infinite in number they can't be counted so it would be impossible to know. However, as the ratio of jokers to other cards in each pack is fixed, then at any number of packs there will always be more jokers. This would appear to indicate, that mathematically, we can have degrees of infinity. Sounds odd doesn't it? It is a valid mathematical argument though.

We have a theory for black holes that describes infinite density. See Exploding Black Holes? What does it mean, other than an unresolvable equation that occurs in mathematics? Exactly what is infinite density? Taking a rather simplistic view it could be argued that if one black hole has infinite density then nothing else can have ANY density. Clearly though in this sense we can have lots of infinite density, so the term obviously carries a meaning in mathematics that does not have the same meaning outside of it. Is the term used in the theory only because that is the way the sums work out, regardless as to its significance in the real world, or is it real?

Strictly speaking, according to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, a singularity does not contain anything that is actually infinite, only things that MOVE MATHEMATICALLY TOWARDS infinity. A black hole is formed when large stars collapse and their mass has been compressed down to a very small size and the powerful gravitational field so formed prevents anything, even light, from escaping from it. A black hole therefore forms a singularity at its centre from the concentrated mass of the collapsed star itself and from the accumulated mass that is sucked into it. A singularity's mass is therefore finite, the 'infinity' refers only to the maths.
Can we have an infinite universe for example? The answer is no, the universe is finite. Stephen Hawking in 'A Brief History of Time' (1989 page 44) describes the universe as being "finite but unbounded".

The simplest answer is that as the universe is known to be expanding, it cannot possibly be infinite. To be precise, the dictionary definition of the word universe is "all that is. The whole system of things." In this sense the universe is not expanding into anything other than itself, for whatever it is expanding into is part of the universe, there being nothing else but the universe. However, for the sake of simplicity, I am referring only to our Big Bang expanding universe as 'the universe'. (Even if you happen to disagree with the Big Bang theory, the term 'universe' will still have the same meaning here, as it refers to 'our' universe only, and does not include whatever may or may not exist outside of it.) I will try and explain a finite universe as some people understandably have problems with it.

A good place to start is to understand the very real difference between infinity and a large number.

For example, imagine an ordinary size diamond, as you would expect to find set in a typical lady's engagement ring. Now imagine a super-being armed with super-tweezers, picking out atoms from this diamond one at a time, one every second, since the creation of the universe, some 13 billion years ago. How much of the diamond would by now have been removed? The answer is you couldn't tell without looking through an electron microscope, less than a millionth of the atoms would have been removed. Try and imagine how many atoms there are in that diamond. Now try and imagine how many atoms there are in the entire universe. It is a very large number, but it is finite, and is 10 followed by 80 zeros, (maybe a few more zeros, maybe a few less), expressed as 10 to the 80th. If you want to see what it looks like.........
100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
0r written as - One hundred million, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion. billion, billion

Even this very large number would count as nothing when compared with infinity, because infinity is NOT A LARGE NUMBER be absolutely clear on this point, IT IS NOT A LARGE NUMBER, infinity is ALL THERE IS, it is NOT a number. You could keep counting (or measuring) for ever, and never reach infinity, it is only a description. Infinity describes a thing as having no end, no limit, no boundary or edge, it literally goes on FOREVER, ad infinitum.

Because infinity is not a number, large numbers are no 'nearer' to infinity than small numbers. Number 1 billion for example is no nearer to infinity than number 1, because the two, numbers and infinity, are in no way related. It is then impossible to approach infinity, a thing is either infinite and immeasurable, or finite and measurable, it cannot be part way towards infinity. Imagine running up a 'down' escalator, never moving forward. If you run for a week you are no nearer reaching the end of the escalator than if you run for a minute, you cannot get any closer to something that has no end.

An infinite universe for example would exist in every direction forever, there could be nothing else, ONLY the universe. It is then very easy to understand why our universe cannot be infinite, it is because it is expanding. It cannot be both infinite and expanding. It could be infinite OR expanding, but CANNOT possibly be both, that is a contradiction in terms, and we do know it is expanding. For an explanation of the Big Bang and why we know the universe is expanding.