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Trying to understand the universe .possible at 13 years old?

  1. Oct 18, 2014 #1
    I am trying to understand the concept that the universe is infinite at that nothing holds the universe in. I have been thinking hard on this and was wondering if someone could help me or am i I just to young to understand?
    I need help my brain hurts! (idk if this is quantam physics or not)
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2014 #2


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    First, it is not known whether the universe is finite (but unbounded) or infinite. Current data is tending towards the infinite and that's the best we can say at the moment. If it is infinite, then there is nothing "beyond" it and if it is finite but unbounded, it's still (by definition) all there is so anything "beyond" it would just be part of it anyway.

    Cosmology (the very large) and Quantum Mechanics (the very small) will REALLY make your head hurt as you first get into it, and for a very simple reason. We humans have evolved in what turns out to be a very narrow range of phenomenon. There has been absolutely no survival value, or even any direct experience of, the very large and the very small. As a consequence, out "logic" and "intuition" and "common sense" become not just useless, but sometimes downright counter productive.

    SO ... don't worry about the fact that you are young. That's no barrier at all. Well, for some of the more esoteric things that require a lot of advanced math, you'll have to take some things at the word of folks who have studied them. What is more of a barrier is getting rid of the concern that things "just don't seem right". I used to joke that every time I learned something new in Cosmology or Quantum Mechanics it made me want to scream and tear my hair out because it just could not be right ! (And actually, I was only half joking).

    One other thing I caution you about. Do NOT believe what you see on TV. I don't care if it's the History Channel or Discovery, or whatever and it doesn't matter if the person talking is a respected scientist. These programs dumb things down to the point where they often say things that are just flat WRONG and they are not to be trusted. They get a LOT of stuff right, and they're fun to watch, but you never know whether what they are saying is right or wrong.

    And by the way, welcome to PF.
  4. Oct 18, 2014 #3
  5. Oct 18, 2014 #4
    a famous physicist (maybe it was Feynman, but I am not sure) said something along this line "nobody really understand quantum physics, you can just get used to the idea". The reason is well explained by Phinds: we have never had similar experiences.
  6. Oct 18, 2014 #5


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    Welcome to the forum. Don't worry about being too young. Nobody really understands the universe, not even old folk.

    Back in history we thought the planet was flat and had edges that you could accidentally sail over and fall off. Now we know it's not flat and doesn't have edges. There are several models of the universe that don't have an "edge".

    What phinds said about TV programs. Some are repeated decades after they were made and are out of date due to more recent discoveries.
  7. Oct 18, 2014 #6


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    I've also seen him say it in one of the videos of his lectures
  8. Oct 18, 2014 #7
    I learnt QM and at 13 and started with bosonic string theory at 14 (yes I am familiar with aroganz(but not with spelling)). It is not about the age, don't go by the guidlines of school or you will end up just as unimaginative as the your teachers, just do it for fun. I don't think I have to name historical exapmles. It is just a game-the adrenallin kicks you get when you solve a differential equation(nasty creatures!).
  9. Oct 18, 2014 #8
    I really appreciate you guys so much thanks for the help :)
  10. Oct 22, 2014 #9
    I'm not a physicist, just another interested person (but older) who's struggled with the same questions. Here's what works for me:
    - You're not too young to understand. Or to put in another way, nobody understands these things in the same intuitive way we understand the path of a baseball. If your head hurts, that's more likely an indication of your intelligence than of your limitations.
    - Infinity is a weird concept. It's a theoretical idea that usually doesn't make sense when we try to apply it. A person without much curiosity might be satisfied just to say "the universe is infinite" and leave it at that. A deeper thinker will get a sore head.

    If you're a curious person, then you understand things as well as you can, and keep yourself open to understanding them better. That's what the smartest physicists in the world are doing.
  11. Oct 23, 2014 #10
    Who knows if it's possible for you to understand it? The only way you're going to find out is by trying to understand it.
  12. Oct 23, 2014 #11


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    I'm practically a hundred and I don't understand the universe!
  13. Oct 23, 2014 #12


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    Yeah, I'm seventy eleven and I don't either.
  14. Oct 23, 2014 #13


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    Relativity applies to age too. You just made me feel a lot better, :rolleyes:
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