At first they thought it was flat. Then that it was shaped like a football. But now, scientists believe the universe could be shaped like a flat-sided trumpet.
That would lead to strange effects in some parts of the universe, where time and light would be so curved that you could see the back of your own head. Also, a long-held theory about the universe - that it looks much the same anywhere - would have to be abandoned. And finally, the universe would be finite, rather than extending in every direction forever.
The new shape, predicted by careful mathematical modeling to fit with known astronomical data, would have the universe stretched out into a long funnel, flaring into a bell-like shape at one end. The thin end would be infinitely long - but so narrow that it would have a finite volume.
The "bell" of the trumpet would also be peculiar: it would flare out, but a spaceship that could somehow navigate towards the open end would eventually find itself flying back along the "outside surface" of the bell.
The research by a team of German physicists led by Frank Steiner at the University of Ulm is reported in New Scientist magazine.
Their theory uses a complex mathematical model called a "Picard topology", named after a mathematician rather than the Star Trek character. It would mean the universe has a finite volume, although you would not be aware of its "edges"; they would seem to be part of the rest of space.
The concept follows a close examination of the dramatic data produced by Nasa, the US space agency, in 1996, which showed that the very faint microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago was not evenly spread throughout the cosmos. This lack of evenness - called "anisotropy" - suggested that large-scale models of the shape of the universe, previously thought to be a flat expanse of space-time, were wrong.
Ever since then, cosmologists have puzzled over what the data from the Cosmic Background Explorer (Cobe) spacecraft could tell them about the space-time "shape" of the universe. One rival group proposed last year that the universe was shaped instead like a football. But that would have left a particular pattern of background radiation - which has not been found by further experiments.
In the "flat" space of conventional cosmology, small "blobs" - hot and cold spots - in background radiation should be round. But observations show that instead they are ellipses. The curve of a horn-shaped universe can explain this, says Professor Steiner.
The "space" in any small part of the "horn" is saddle-shaped, like a Pringles potato crisp. Such a "negatively curved" space would act as a warped lens, distorting the image around the blobs so they look elliptical to astronomers.
Another property of a "trumpet" universe would be that large blobs more than about 60 degrees across would be absent. So far, scientists have also found this to be the case.
But if the team at Ulm is right, scientists will have to abandon one of the fundamental tenets of cosmology - that all parts of the cosmos are about the same. Holger Then, a member of Professor Steiner's team, told New Scientist: "If one happens to find oneself a long way up the narrow end of the horn, things indeed look very strange, with two very small dimensions."
At an extreme enough point, you would be able to see the back of your own head. Over the next year or so, astronomers will test whether large blobs really are lacking in cosmic microwave background radiation and small ones really are elliptical.
Source: The Independent
Additional IslamiCity Notes:
When we see scientific discoveries through the prism of the Quran it helps us in understanding the complexity and awe-inspiring nature of creation. Scientific discoveries are evolutionary, at the same time our belief is that God has sent down the Quran for all ages. As we acquire new knowledge our understanding of creation and how we see them in light of the Quran will transform.
It is interesting to note the following Quranic verses in light of the above discovery about the cosmos.
It is He (God) who created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): the day He said, "Be," behold! it is. His word is the truth. His will be the dominion the day the trumpet will be blown. He knows the unseen as well as that which is open. For He is the Wise, well acquainted (with all things)
The trumpet will (just) be sounded, when all that are in the heavens and on earth will swoon, except such as it will please Allah (to exempt)...
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