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About space expansion

  1. Jul 11, 2006 #1
    I don't understand what you mean with: universe is expanding.

    Is space that -as an elastic membrane- is expanding or galaxies have a proper velocity?

    And however, shouldn't all become bigger during the expansion?

    for example, in a sphere-universe of diameter 100 metres there is a galaxy of diameter 5 metres.
    If the diameter of the universe become 10,000 meters also the diameter of the galaxy must become 500 metres; because space inside the galaxy would grow too.
    If you deny this, you also must deny that space does not drag along galaxies, so they don't move.

    I send back to my first question.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
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  3. Jul 11, 2006 #2


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    This has been discussed in some threads earlier, and when you dig deep into the problem it's really not that simple at all. However, I'll try to give some intuitive "first step" answers:
    The expanding universe solution really only holds on large scales where the universe can be seen as homogenious and isotropic. As soon as you get down to scales small enough that you start to see "clumpsiness" in the matter distribution, the equations of General Relativity give you other spacetime solutions.
    For example our solar system is well described by the Robertson-Walker metric in which space does not expand with time. The solar system itself lives in our galaxy, which must be described by some other new metric...and so on...It's first when we reach scales large enough that the universe can be well described by the FLRW-metric, which predicts the expansion of space we talk about, that we really can see the expansion.

    Maybe an even more intuitive (although not as "correct") way to look at it is like this:
    In a galaxy the stars are gravitationally bound to each other, and the expansion of space at those scales are not "fast enough" to overwin the gravitational attraction. Only clumps of matter that are far enough from each other will move away from each other due to the expansion.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  4. Jul 11, 2006 #3
    under "expansion" there are 497 results.. can you link me just the more significant thread?
  5. Jul 11, 2006 #4


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  6. Jul 11, 2006 #5
    Cosmologists come up with the most stange conclusions, at least to me, of course for them it is perfectly "explainable".

    For instance they claim that objects are apparently travelling away from us faster than the speed of light.
    Then if you ask them how that is possible, they answer, well it is because space is expanding. So much for Einstein's "nothing that has mass can reach the speed of light".
    Or when cosmologists speak about the age of the universe as if there suddenly is some sense of absolute space and time afteral because of the background radiation. There is supposed to be no prefered frame of reference, and there is covariance and so, but everything cosmological now seems to be measured from the new absolute space and time reference frame.
    Or am I misinformed?
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  7. Jul 11, 2006 #6


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    Yes you are.
    You are drawing false conclusions due to a lack of understanding of the differences between Special and General Relativity.
    If you tell us what level you are at, maybe you could have some books recomended.
  8. Jul 11, 2006 #7
    So are you agreeing that objects can travel faster than light because space is expanding?
    Never mind, I will open a topic on this, seems like a question that can improve my understanding.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  9. Jul 23, 2006 #8
    I read somewhere a funny joke about the expansion of space. (it isn't lame, a clever funny joke)
    If the atom, the person, the Earth and the Solar system expanded just as the rest of space expanded (ie. space between each elementary particle expanded and the space each elementary particle occupies expanded in the same ratio etc etc... how this happens I dont' know...) then the human wouldn't even be able to observe the expansion of space!
    The author went so far as to joke: maybe space isn't expanding, merely matter shrinking within it =) It would produce the same observed affect (given it's ideal homogenous shrinking of gravitationally bound stuff, where all distance ratios within a system remain eternally equal. The ratio of distances between systems to distances witin the system would increase =)
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2006
  10. Jul 23, 2006 #9
    Cosmologists have chosen a particular coordinate system, which disagrees with the coordinate system suggested by Special relativity. This choice is often to be presented as the only one possible, but it isn't. See Stretchy Space? for more of my argument against this choice.
  11. Jul 24, 2006 #10
    To me it seems that scientists are simply plugging in data by measurements they make in the different regions and making it work with GR. How can we say we can derive all this from GR when we have constants, scale factors, dark matter, de Sitter spaces, energy vacuums etc?

    So you are saying it is not possible that we simply have no clue as to why the numbers at very large distance are so different, and that instead we simply plug in some new metric that makes the numbers fit?

    So you are saying that gravitational attraction stops expansion?

    If we take a simple example in GR of a sphere with a certain volume and mass we indeed see that the volume is reduced.
    However from within the sphere no such conclusion is made, it is only outside the sphere that the reduction is visible.
    Now we live in the universe, how could we possibly see a volume reduction effect on the expansion?

    What about the time part of space-time?
    Is only space expanding or is time expanding as well?
    So did time run faster in the past?
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2006
  12. Jul 25, 2006 #11
    The geometric model of cosmology comes from applying two observations about the universe on large scales to the field equations of general relativity. Astronomers have known for some time that the universe on large scales looks pretty much the same in every direction (it's isotropic) and in every place (it's homogenous).

    It can be shown that the only geometries allowed by general relativity in the case that the sources of gravity are homogenous and isotropic have line elements that look like:

    [tex]ds^2 = - dt^2 + a^2(t) \left (\frac{dr^2}{1-kr^2} + r^2 (d\theta^2 + \sin^2\theta d\phi^2) \right )[/tex],

    up to a general change of coordinates. The value of k (which can only be 0, 1, or -1 to begin with) and the time dependance of a(t) are determined by the specific properties of the sources of gravity. This is where things like dark matter and dark energy become relevant. They are necessary to make a(t) and k behave as we observe them to behave.

    As I implied above, the cosmological metric really only applies on large scales, because it is only on large scales that the universe is homogenous and isotropic. When we look as smaller scales things are pretty clumpy; so, the metric must deviate from the above in response to that .

    The simple answer about small scale structures is that on such distance scales the effects of expansion are very small - much smaller than the gravitational attraction between objects composed of normal or dark matter. So, gravitationally bound systems remain unaffected by the expansion.

    As for the nature of expansion itself, as you can see in the line element above, the scale factor, a(t), only plays a role in the spacial part of the geometry; so, space is expanding over time.
  13. Jul 3, 2008 #12
    Yes, and that is of course true by definition, because all physical phenomena are independent of the ruler (units of measurements) you choose. If tomorrow we choose a new meter unit as 0,5 of the old meter unit, we would have to rewrite all our physics books to adjust to that, but apart from that, nothing in the universe would change. The physics laws and phenomena stay the same.
    This is even true if the ruler we choose is time variant.

    So physically this outlook is perfectly ok, yet it is a little unpractical to choose the distance between two far away galaxies as your unit of measurement.
  14. Jul 29, 2008 #13
    If it expands over time, what kind of time would it be when it's expanding >c as is observed at present. and i repeat a question from another post, what causes the reduction of speed of space expansion to <c thus allowing galaxies which were once moving >c to be seen.
  15. Jul 30, 2008 #14
    Actually you may say that the time run slower in the past and that's why we see the Hubble redshift. Yet the cosmologists don't consider such a possibility despite that it is the only scenario consistent with the global conservation of energy and supplies the means of calculating theoretically the Hubble constant. For some reason the cosmologists prefer expanding distances and "dark energy" to conservation of energy and theoretical predictions of parametrs of this (apparent in such a case) expansion.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2008
  16. Jul 30, 2008 #15
    Nothing in nature can expand faster than c since whenever some distance from us gets increasing with high speed the time at the moving end of this distance starts running slower in relation to us and the result is that it can never crosses the speed of light. It is elementary relativistic physics and our world happens to be relativistic. Physicists don't worry about >c stuff so you don't need neither. If some of your calculations (not observation since there is even no way to observe >c) give you >c result your have to check your calculations since they are obviously false.
  17. Jul 30, 2008 #16


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    could you be more explicit about what you mean by "It".

    the universe does not have a definite speed of expansion so I suppose you are not talking about the universe expanding >c.

    but a lot of the distances beween stationary points have always been increasing at rates >c, so by "It" maybe you mean some particular distance, like, to some galaxy? A galaxy which is approximately at rest relative to CMB and the distance to it increasing >c?

    the matter density causes slowing. there is a term in one of the two Friedman equations that gives the second time-derivative a''(t) of the scalefactor a(t) in terms of the matter density and also positive pressure (if there is any measurable positive pressure)

    we are able to see galaxies which have always been receding >c. We see them all the time. they are a large part of the galaxies available for study. You just point the telescope at them and look. How this happens is explained in the Lineweaver SciAm article whose link is in my signature. check it out. good article. they use it to teach with at Princeton. simple and lots of picture.

    what you said there shows some misunderstanding because a galaxy's recession speed does not have to slow down to <c in order for it to be seen. the distance to it does not have to increase at a rate lower than <c to allow (as you say) the light to get here.

    we've been over this a lot at the forum but at the moment I can't get you a link to a thread. have a look at Lineweaver, that draws pictures of how it happens and makes it clear.

    Kikkah, check this out.
    put in the standard 3 parameters (.27, .73, 71) and try redshift z=2.4

    You will see that any galaxy we are now looking at that has redshift of 2.4 or more has ALWAYS been receding faster than c. the distance to it has been increasing >c. Not that the thing has been moving relative CMB. I am talking about recession, not local motion.

    But we still see the suckers. We see hundreds of thousands of galaxies with redshift 2.4 and up. the fact that they are receding at such a big rate doesn't prevent this.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2008
  18. Jul 31, 2008 #17


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    That is not a joke, it is one way of describing a conformal gravity theory such as Fred Hoyle's mass field theory, "On the Origin of the Microwave Background", Ap.J. 196:661-670 1975 March 15, in which the masses of fundamental particles varied from event to event.

    As particle masses varied so would their size with the result that our interpretation of an expanding universe with fixed rigid rulers would be reinterpreted as a static universe with shrinking rulers.

    Hoyle proposed this theory to resurrect some idea of his Steady State Theory in the light of the discovery of the CMB radiation.

    In this theory the mass field went negative beyond a zero mass field surface. He postulated that as photons went from a -mass field to a +mass field region they were thermalised and thus became the microwave background, which would then be simply the light from galaxies beyond that zero-mass field surface.

    A similar reinterpretation of the expanding universe is also found in the Jordan Conformal frame of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-creation_cosmology [Broken].

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  19. Jul 31, 2008 #18


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    Query on the timeline of similar threads
    This thread appears to have been originally opened 07.11.06 and had an interesting exchange up to 07.25.06. Strangely, a ‘joke’ about the expansion of space was raised on 07.23.06 (#8), which then got a response on 07.03.08 (#12). This appears to be quite a delay between the punchline and audience laughter! Subsequently, another thread `The physical meaning of expansion in cosmology` opened on 07.24.08, which in parts seems to parallel the same issues. Was just curious!
    As somebody relatively new to the details of cosmology, I am only trying to build a framework around the standard model built on accepted physics rather any suggestion of any ‘alternative’ theory. So, as a general statement, much of modern cosmology seems to be built on the assumption of relativity, especially GR, in the form of Friedmann’s equations. Now it is said that Friedmann’s solution is derived from Einstein’s field equations, but today much of this theory is shrouded in the complexity of Riemann geometry, differential geometry, conformal geometry etc, much of which I am assuming was not available to Friedmann. It is also highlighted that the basic form of Friedmann equation can still be derived from the assumption of the conservation of energy, although aspects of GR are said to question this basic axiom of classical physics:

    [1] [tex] H^2 = \frac {8}{3}\pi G \rho + \frac{2 E_T}{mr^2} [/tex]

    The last term may look a bit unfamiliar because it is usually substituted as

    [2] [tex] - \frac {kc^2}{a^2} [/tex]

    Which might suggest that:

    [3] [tex] k = \frac{2E_T}{mc^2}[/tex]

    Of course, measurements to-date suggests that [k=0], at least, in approximation. As such, equation [1] would reduce to

    [4] [tex] H^2 = \frac {8}{3}\pi G \rho [/tex]

    Now the value of [H] appears to be based on measurements of redshift, which are then linked to assumptions about luminosity of distant objects, from which it has been concluded that H=v/d, where [v] is the recessional velocity with distance [d]. Therefore, knowing the value of (G), we can calculate the critic density [tex]\rho_c[/tex]. As understood, the standard model of cosmology assumes this density contains all forms of mass-energy, e.g. matter (4%), dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%). However, only matter and dark matter can be linked to gravitational attraction, because dark energy corresponds to a ‘force’ linked with the observed expansion of the universe. As such, it appears that we have a model that describes expansion in terms of a balance between some unverified expansion source, e.g. dark energy, and gravity. This is simply a statement of my current understanding of the basic model, which is open to correction. So my first question is:

    How does gravity slow H in this model?

    What I referring to is the classical concept of a centre of gravity, which a homogeneous and isotropic universe is said not to have. If so, I am finding it difficult to resolve how the net effects of a `gravitational slow down` works within this model. I accept that I am no expert of GR either, but the concept of a model of a homogeneous universe, where the matter density is analogous to ‘dust’ suggests that much of the complexity of GR theory is confined to relatively small sections of the universe, where gravitational potential is higher, e.g. galaxies.

    However, in contrast to all this apparent definite talk about expansion, the thread `The physical meaning of expansion in cosmology` appears to highlight some level of both philosophical and technical doubt about the reality of any expansion. However, referencing the 1st post in the current thread, the premise seems to assume expansion of the universe and everything in it. Whereas the standard model only seems to assume a relative ‘expansion’ of the universe. As such nuclei don’t expand, atoms don’t expand, neither do solar system or entire galaxies, only the large-scale space between galaxies. If so:

    Can we say there must be, at least, some relative expansion of the universe with respect to smaller objects not apparently subject to any net expansion; otherwise the standard model itself would be inconsistent?

    Does this imply there is a threshold where expansion, if it exists, overcomes the internal forces that hold any given structure in place?

    I recognise that some of these questions may seem naive to the experts, but if so, they will hopefully :rolleyes: not have to resort to tensor notation and relatively obscure ideas about 4-D manifolds to outline how the basic model works, at least, in general principle. Thanks
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  20. Jul 31, 2008 #19


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    As Parlyne has already said, the FRW equation can be derived without GR, simply from the condition of maximally symmetry space, i.e. from the Cosmological Principle of a homogeneous and isotropic universe.

    [tex]ds^2 = - dt^2 + a^2(t) \left (\frac{dr^2}{1-kr^2} + r^2 (d\theta^2 + \sin^2\theta d\phi^2) \right )[/tex],

    The condition of maximally symmetry space is then applied to the GR field equation to obtain its cosmological solution that determines a(t). The specific solution of a(t) and k depends on the content, matter (dark and otherwise), radiation and DE that you put into the field equation.

    1. Gravity does not "slow H", the gravitational field of positive mass and energy within the universe decelerates its expansion, just as gravity slows a rising rocket, which may or may not escape the Earth's gravitational field depending on its initial velocity.

    H is determined by a(t) and its time derivative and those are determined by the cosmological gravitational field. If the positive mass and energy content of the universe were to be increased then the value of H would increase, perhaps this is what you are thinking of....

    2. There is a real increase of the distances between distant galaxies as measured by a ruler constructed of atoms, a steel rule. All measurements are relative to the standard by which they are being compared....

    3. The standard model is consistent with the principles upon which it is based.

    4. In the standard model cosmological expansion does not apply on 'local' structures which are gravitationally bound.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  21. Jul 31, 2008 #20


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    Response to #19

    Garth: Many thank for the helpful and concise summary. By way of response, I was trying to rationalise a basic model in which the FRW metric, as defined by Parlyne (#11), reduces to the form:

    [tex]ds^2 = - dt^2 + a^2(t) dr^2 [/tex]

    This form only looks at the equatorial expansion along a radial path and assumes k=0. As also pointed out by Parlyne (#11),

    To which you have added the qualification:

    In other words, the expansion may have varied in time depending on the makeup of the energy density [tex][\rho][/tex]. While I am taking a deliberately simplistic approach, as far as I can see my basic model doesn’t violate anything being implied above or current measurements. However, I am less clear about the following statement:

    Again, from a basic approach, classical physics only defines 4 fundamental forces, 3 of which are effectively neutralised at the atomic level leaving only gravity to operate on the cosmic level. I would define ‘pressure’ as an aggregate ‘force’ caused by individual kinetic collisions between components within the makeup of the energy density being considered.

    Now if pressure is an expansive ‘force’ what is slowing down the expansion?

    I know GR prefers not to describe gravity as a force, but rather a geodesic path or a gravitational field gradient. However, I assume that these two concepts can be transposed and a 'force' can be used to described a geodesic path.

    So where is this path? Is the implication that each unit volume of space has a gravitational curvature or field that slows the expansion due to dark energy pressure?

    As I pointed out, I don’t understand how the concept of a net gravitational field within a homogenous universe can be considered without some form of centre of gravity. Therefore I would appreciate any further clarification of the mechanism that is used to explain the slow down of the expansion within the standard large-scale homogeneous universe model.
  22. Jul 31, 2008 #21


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    Re: Response to #19

    You are welcome
    In a maximally symmetric space all one can have is density and pressure, other forms of stress, angular momentum etc. are set to zero.
    Gravity. Counter-intuitively pressure actually decelerates the expansion! This is because adding pressure to a model adds extra energy and energy, together with mass, is a source of gravitation.
    A geodesic path is a 'straight line' across a surface. The point about GR is that it is the surface that itself is bent, just as a straight line can be drawn on a sheet of rubber and then the sheet can be deformed, the 'straight line' drawn on it is still the shortest distance along the surface of the bent sheet, it is a geodesic of the surface.

    In GR it is the 4D space-time manifold that is curved by the presence of mass and energy, so freely falling objects, such as the Earth on its orbit is traveling on a 'straight line' through a space-time curved by the presence of the Sun.

    The field equation of this theory predicts the orbits of planets, particularly Mercury, more accurately than any model that uses a Newtonian type force in flat space-time.
    Cosmologically the path is the freely falling trajectory of a member of a cloud of representative particles at rest wrt the CMB.
    The expansion is decelerated by positive mass, energy and pressure, DE accelerates the expansion because it has a high negative pressure.
    In the cosmological solution there is no centre of gravity because there is no centre, every point is expanding away from every other point, like dots on an expanding balloon.

    I hope this helps,
  23. Jul 31, 2008 #22


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    just a footnote, Mysearch. Riemann geometry, differential geometry have their roots in an 1850 lecture by Riemann. They were available to Friedmann (circa 1923) and to the other Einstein contemporaries.

    I don't mean to say that Einstein (1915) used all the differential geometry machinery that was available by 1915---a great deal of work had been done already in the period 1850-1915. But his formulation depends in an essential way on differential geometry.

    Cosmology is based very broadly on General Relativity, not only through the Friedmann model. GR is how we see dark matter by gravitational lensing of the background, and how we understand black holes, quasars, pulsars, the detailed map of the CMB (which involves special GR effects like energy-boosting* not contained in the Friedmann model).

    Whatever alternative derivations there may be, the young Friedmann thought what he was doing was deriving a special set of solutions to the Einstein equation--working from and within the GR context--and he introduced his results to Einstein on that basis. Tragically, the older man did not acknowledge their validity until after Friedmann's premature death around 1925.

    So I would say that cosmology is built very much on the GR basis, and not only via Friedmann but far more broadly than that.

    What you say you find shrouding GR (differential geometry, basically) was largely already there in 1915, not put in afterwards. It could even be that the subject has gotten easier since 1915. Some modern textbooks may use streamlined notation and make things more intuitive. I don't know because I haven't compared with antique textbooks. But that's what one would hope.

    To me you seem completely able to understand this stuff and to have the motivation, so I encourage you to take it head-on.

    *boosting by so-called integrated Sachs-Wolfe--one problem with the subject is the name-heavy nomenclature. the energy boosting effect is simple to understand and calling it by two names most people have never heard of DOES shroud a bit and put folks off.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  24. Jul 31, 2008 #23


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    Acknowledgement to #21 & #22

    Garth & Marcus:
    I just wanted to acknowledge & thank you both for your responses. In particular, Garth, I really appreciated the concise breakdown of the points I raised. This now allows me to go and research those gaps in my understanding of this subject. So I will now stop pestering you with my questions and follows Marcus' advice and try to get to grips with some of the maths. Again, many thanks.

    P.S. Which way is it to the maths forum:smile:
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  25. Jul 31, 2008 #24


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    Re: Acknowledgement to #21 & #22

    BTW I expect you've noticed, we have a S&G Relativity forum here at PF!
    It's actually in the physics section, though it could equally well be in maths.

    Over the years when I've been watching, it has often collected a really helpful and knowledgeable group. Of course quality on a real-time board fluctuates depending a lot on the kind of people who come and ask questions. I haven't checked recently so I don't know what the average level, or anything, is at the moment. simply can't say.

    But in any case one thing you could do, which might actually be constructive and contribute to the general tone and level of discourse over there, is to go to S&G and ask a hell of a lot of intelligent questions and ask them to explain things about General Relativity that you find are obstacles. George Jones is a name that comes to mind. He might be checking in now and then over there. And there are plenty of others who could be, I just haven't looked.

    If it happens to be a slack time and no one especially helpful is around there responding at the moment, you are cordially welcome to keep trying us for explanations at cosmology. That's true in any case! BTW does anybody have any convictions about what is the best GR textbook, say for someone at Mysearch stage of inquiry? Is there an appropriate free online one? Would Sean Carroll's free online GR text be good to recommend? Are there any better ones that you can download?
  26. Aug 3, 2008 #25
    my apologies. there are too many contradictions and disagreements in physics, as in another post i read we can observe galaxies that were travelling >c because they no longer weren't travelling >c.
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