Is the universe infinite?

  1. 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.
  2. jcsd
  3. Chalnoth

    Chalnoth 5,674
    Science Advisor

    There is no consensus. Basically, our vision is limited in time and space, so we can't exactly say anything about whether or not distances are infinite. All we can say for sure is that our universe is many times larger than our observable region. But how much larger is currently up in the air.
  4. What is the/a universe?? Scientists suggest that there many universes emanating from their own "big bang". Space is infinite but a universe is bounded.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2010
  5. The size of the Universe: the speed of light multiplied with 13.7 billion years...
  6. lol no
  7. if the matter that originally emitted the oldest CMBR photons has a present distance of 46 billion light years, then at the time of decoupling when the photons were originally emitted, the distance would have been only about 42 million light-years away...
  8. Assumption: mass creates space, right?

    If space were finite, then just by standing at the edge of space will create more space?
  9. HallsofIvy

    HallsofIvy 41,264
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    What evidence do you have of this?

    What evidence do you have of this?

  10. space is infinite, energy/matter has a maximum value
  11. Checking my assumptions:
    1. Matter create space?
    2. Matter expanse space?
    3. Matter needs space to exists?
  12. Space can create particles i.e. matter and energy seemingly from nothing? And the reverse?
  13. Answers to your assumptions:

    1) No, matter does not create space. Matter exists in space.
    2) No, matter does not expand space. At the earliest epoch of the Universe, there was no matter, per se, but rather pure radiation. The expansion of space is an intrinsic property, set by the initial conditions (Big Bang). Technically, the expansion of space would still occur even if there was absolutely no matter.
    3) As physical matter has spatial extension, then I guess yes, matter "needs" space within which to exist.
  14. Ah, thank you Deuterium2H
  15. How can we say that for sure? What in our observable universe would be different if the universe were 1.1 times larger then the observable universe versus 1,000,000,000,000,000 times larger?
  16. Chalnoth

    Chalnoth 5,674
    Science Advisor

    Well, there are a number of possibilities that have to be considered. But let's just consider one where the universe wraps back on itself. If the universe wraps back on itself based upon its spatial curvature, then current measurements place the spatial curvature to be within 1% of zero, which makes the radius of curvature at least 10 times the Hubble radius, which is a factor of a few larger than the observable universe.

    If the universe is flat but still wraps back on itself, then this induces anisotropies, which we should be able to see in the CMB. But we don't. Thus if it does wrap back on itself, it would have to do that very, very far away (again, a factor of a few times the observable universe).
  18. You got that wrong, the paradox you mention was more to do with a static universe.
    Since our universe is all that there is (that is after all the definition of universe), it must then extend forever - yet it is still expanding!
  19. Olders Paradox. Note the part of the "fabric" space expanding (not just the distances between objects)

    If I understand the Big Bang theory; It all started with a finite amount of energy. If space is finite as well then what is the ratio between space and the other finite "stuff" in it?
  20. Chalnoth

    Chalnoth 5,674
    Science Advisor

    Olbers' Paradox takes two assumptions, and shows they cannot both be true:
    1. The universe is infinite (in time and space).
    2. The universe is static (no expansion).

    The discovery of the expansion of the universe demonstrates that the second assumption fails, which means that Olbers' Paradox cannot provide any additional information about the truth or falsity of the first.
  21. Chronos

    Chronos 10,348
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    A clarification appears to be in order. Olber hypothesized the universe cannot be both spatially and temporally infinite. We are fairly certain it is not temporally infinite. The jury is still out on the spatially infinite part. A temporally finite universe could be spatially infinite. My guess is it is not. My reasoning is an infinitely spatial universe would have observationally irregular 'edges'. I think this would be fairly obvious from WMAP data - and it is not. The alleged 'axis of evil' thing has been discredited due to selection effects - unsurprisingly.
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