Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I the universe moving?

  1. Sep 27, 2004 #1
    It is moving, accelerating or stationary?

    PS: hi, I am noob say hi to the new comers.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2004 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Motion must be relative to something so there is no way we can detect, or even speak of, the motion of the Universe.
  4. Sep 27, 2004 #3
    relative to outside of universe?
  5. Sep 27, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There is nothing outside of the Universe
  6. Sep 27, 2004 #5
    If the universe is defined as "all that there is", then what would be the meaning of saying "outside the universe"?
    Instead, I'd like to ask a question...is the universe, as a whole, taking an average, an accelerating reference frame? Do we experience accelerations even though we do not produce any force? Is it possible that the universe is actually not a strictly valid inertial reference frame, but one that has very minor accelerations?
  7. Sep 27, 2004 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    And I've got a question for you ... how would you go about answering this question of yours?
  8. Sep 27, 2004 #7
    Very excellent questions. We admit that the universe may have intrinsic curvature, intrinsic expansion and, according to Godel, intrinsic rotation.
    One may well ask what other intrinsic attributes it has.
  9. Sep 27, 2004 #8
    To the physics as we undertstand them today, I would indeed say the question is meaningless.
    We call the universe all what there is (at least all we may ever have knowledge about), so it can not have any movement related to anything else (any external frame). If it did, that external frame would by definiton become the universe itself ! . We may only wonder if we (the earth) have any movement related to the accepted universal frame (the cosmic background microwave radiation or CMR), and as far as I know we don't.

    This is not just a semantical game, if we call the universe all what exists according to our best knowledge abilities, if we ever discover a larger frame in which our current knowledge can be integrated, we will consider that frame as the new universe description.
    But as far as we don't have any objective reasons to believe the universe is broader than we now believe it is, our familiar universe is all what there is.

    This is not saying we must not care about such new views of the universe. On the contrary, we know our current theories are incomplete, so we strive to find out more accurate descriptions to the universe we experience.
  10. Sep 27, 2004 #9
    Actually...I was meaning to ask if anybody(or any organization) ever did such precise experiments in space to see if things not acted upon by an external force would suddenly start accelerating.... :uhh: ...
    Or perhaps it would be better to say whether or not things would suddenly accelerate with no reason in this universe. But then again....that would be a kind of "energy creation", wouldn't it? Since there is nothing else beyond the universe that can supply the kinetic energy...
  11. Sep 27, 2004 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    So let's think about experiments involving spacecraft ... we've got Gravity Probe B, which is extraordinarily sensitive in many ways, to the kinds of very small effects predicted by Einstein's General Relativity ... in a year or so we'll know whether it's found anything odd (including, possibly, strange accelerations).

    We've got GRACE, which has already told us lots of interesting things about the Earth's gravitational field (no strange accelerations).

    There's the Pioneer anomaly, named after the US Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. It remains just what its name says, an anomaly.

    In the planning phase, there's LISA, which will certainly nail down the nature of the Pioneer anomaly (if it's real near LISA; if it's only apparent much further from the Sun, maybe not), and put pretty tight constraints on any strange accelerations.

    Beyond spacecraft, there are observations of the motions of planets, stars, gas clouds, galaxies, quasars, ... AFAIK, the biggest surprise in the last 50 years or so was the CMBR dipole, which showed that the Local Group (our Milky Way, M31, M33, the SMC, the LMC, and ~50 other, small galaxies; plus possibly thousands of globular clusters, and gas clouds) is in the grip of the The Great Attractor.

    But, nothing to indicate any anomalous accelerations!

    So, let me ask you again, how would you go about answering this question of yours? Can you describe, in principle, an experiment that would tell you whether the universe is 'an accelerating reference frame'?
  12. Sep 27, 2004 #11
    One suggestion is to make a box, and then within it put a mass fixed with weak springs, which would allow the piece of mass to move whenever the system was put in an accelerating reference frame. Obviously, the system is a few orders off in terms of precision and magnitude, but the same thing could be done with optical instruments such as lasers and optics. Another possibility would be to measure the deflection of light, but that obviously is impossible in terms of present day technology.
    As GR already stated, one can't tell between the effect of a gravitational field and an accelerating reference frame, so I guess that you'll have to look for some place with a reasonably determinable and extremely small gravtiational effect...which again seems impossible.
    Just a random thought, never thought it out clearly, so do cut me some slack.... :uhh:
    And I'm only a high school student, so please don't go too technical in responding :smile:
  13. Sep 28, 2004 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's always interesting to try to think ideas through, at least somewhat. :smile: In actually doing science, the 'thinking through' of ideas usually takes far, far more effort than coming up with new ones :cry:

    You might like to compare your ideas with some of those proposed at the recent Cosmic Visions conference, particularly those in the Fundamental Physics section (if you can, try to download some of the files; their contents are quite interesting).

    One aspect of your idea that you might like to ponder further on: how to tell the difference between a purely 'local' cause of some otherwise unanticipated acceleration and a 'universal' cause? Bear in mind that 'local' could mean hundreds of millions of light years :wink:
  14. Sep 28, 2004 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Some years ago it was claimed that the whole universe was rotating. The polarisation of radio waves from quasar radio lobes was observed to depend on what part of the sky the quasars were situated.
    As a Machian I asked the question, "Rotating with respect to what?" and never really got a satisfactory answer.
    However it was subsequently discovered that the polarizations were due to a galactic electric field and the interesting question went away!
  15. Sep 28, 2004 #14
    i just got an idea to my hand..
    i don't know if it's philosphical..
    but i think it's pure truth..
    when you say "there's is nothing outside the universe"
    you do mean (unconsciously maybe) that there's something..
    because we can never describe what WE call "nothing"
  16. Sep 28, 2004 #15
    the term "The Universe" used to have this all-encompassing meaning- but the language has evolved and now a universe is a region of a greater multiverse- the word "universe" has become a structure in the hierarchy above galactic superclusters- no longer the whole Cosmos [unless you use the formal capital U where it can retain it's older meaning]

    THe Ekpyrotic senario would suggest that the brane of our universe does move and drift through some higher dimensional space- so the idea of this [not THE] universe moving is not meaningless in all models-
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2004
  17. Sep 29, 2004 #16
    This doesn't really answer your question (does our universe move "relative to anything else"?) but it's somehow related (do we move relative to our whole universe?)

    There was a post about it not long ago, but I don't remember where / when. Anyway, this is picked from http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmolog.htm

    The Hubble law defines a special frame of reference at any point in the Universe. An observer with a large motion with respect to the Hubble flow would measure blueshifts in front and large redshifts behind, instead of the same redshifts proportional to distance in all directions. Thus we can measure our motion relative to the Hubble flow, which is also our motion relative to the observable Universe. A comoving observer is at rest in this special frame of reference. Our Solar System is not quite comoving: we have a velocity of 370 km/sec relative to the observable Universe. The Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way, appears to be moving at 600 km/sec relative to the observable Universe.
  18. Oct 1, 2004 #17


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Rotating with respect to itself I would guess. For example, the Earth moves, but we have to say with respect to something. But the Earth also rotates, and we don't need an external reference point. The reference point would be the Earth's instantanious stationary position. The Earth's rotation can be proven through the Corialis (spelling?) force, where weather patterns tend to rotate. A rotating universe should produce some sort of corialis force too.

    Also, as far as the Earth moving, it's possible to measure the Earth's motion relative to it's own instantanous stationary position. In the Earth's journey around the Sun, it keeps changing direction, and that produces a force that can be felt (although too insignificant to feel).

    For example, imagine I have a spider in a jar. And I attach the jar to a string and start swinging it in circles. Relative to a lizard sitting on the wall outside the jar, the jar is moving. But can the spider in the jar consider the jar to be stationary, and the lizard to be moving? No, because the jar's motion is not linear. The spider in the jar will feel an artificial gravity from the motion of the jar being swung in circles. Since declaring the jar to be the stationary center of the universe would not cause the artifical gravity to go away, it would not be correct to say that the jar is stationary. The jar is moving relative to the jar's instantenous stationary position. No outside reference necessary.

    If we are to discover that the Universe itself is rotating, revolving or moving, we have to look for the subtle clues within the Universe that show the Universe is moving relative to its own instantanous stationary position.

    just my guess... :smile: :bugeye: :smile:
  19. Oct 1, 2004 #18


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well that is what I meant by saying I was a Machian.

    Do you remember Newton's rotating bucket example, a little like your spider in a jar? Newton argued that spinning a bucket would cause the water within to spin too and rise up the sides of the bucket. The fact that the surface was flat would be proof that the bucket was not rotating according to an absolute frame of reference. Leibniz had argued that the rotation was with respect to material objects. Bishop George Berkeley and subsequently Ernst Mach asked what would happen if the walls of the bucket were "several leagues thick", would the rotation of that mass affect the 'direction compass'? They said that 'direction compass' would be orientated on the fixed stars, the mass distribution of the rest of the universe.

    The Machian position is thus that without matter there is nothing to 'hang "its own instantaneous stationary position" on.

    As a footnote Gravity Probe B is measuring at this moment the Lense-Thirring frame dragging effect, the dragging of the 'direction compass' by the spinning of the Earth - a thick enough rotating bucket!

  20. Nov 10, 2007 #19
    what about the speed of light?

    you cant break the speed of light right. but we can get close enough to the speed of light to witness atoms getting more massive. so if we where moving through space firing an atom one way would bring it closer to the speed of light than firing one the other way. so we can easily see how we are moving surely?
  21. Nov 16, 2007 #20
    don't see how this would work.... if there is a motion of the universe, everything will be moved, equally. there would be no way to discern it.

    if you're in a car, how can you tell how fast the other passengers of the car are going relative to the outside of the car (without looking outside the car)? It's impossible.

    Maybe there is some quantum mechanics effect that could probably be used
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2007
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?