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The 3 Dimensional Universe

The universe had a beginning at a particular point and time, when there was a massive release of energy that we call the ‘Big Bang’1. No one knows or can explain how or why it started. Since then it has continued to expand like a huge explosion. In any explosion, as you go further from the point of origin, the slower the motion of the particles as the energy is lost. However, in the case of the universe, from our observation, it appears to be accelerating the further out you go2. This is strange because acceleration requires a force or propulsion. What could possibly be propelling the stars and particles in space to make them accelerate faster away from the point origin? Gravity would slow them down and we are not aware of any other force that could cause acceleration outwards. In fact, according to all known laws of physics, the universe should be slowing down and shrinking as the overall effect of gravity attracts the objects towards each other. Something strange is going on!

 

No one understands the universe and in particular, gravity. Here is a possible way of looking at a model which may help us understand the universe. Think of a two dimensional fabric, very stretchy and infinitely long and wide. Someone forcefully throws a handful of small different sized balls on to it. Initially the balls fly in all kinds of directions, rolling across the fabric away from the centre of the impact, but after a while they begin to settle down. Large balls would stretch the fabric, making deep depressions. The stretched fabric creates a force against all of the objects, as it tries to level itself off. The larger balls create deeper depressions and hence a greater force; the smaller balls would have less force and shallower depressions. Small balls would be attracted and spin around the large depressions until they eventually came to rest against the larger balls, until gradually over a period of time all of the balls get attracted to each other and the depression in the fabric would get deeper, until eventually everything ends up in a single mass.

 

Space-time is a continuous fabric having no end onto which the universe was thrown and hurtled out in all directions. The stretching force in the fabric is called Gravity, which causes the particles of the universe to be attracted to each other, with small objects spinning around larger ones. After a very long time, the gravitational force in the fabric will pull all of the matter in the universe to coalesce into a single body. Maybe if the body gets too ‘heavy’ it actually breaks through the fabric and leaves the dimension.

 

If you can handle that, now try to project the same concept on to a three dimensional fabric with the same kind of properties and the same effect.

 

However, those are just helpful models, because the space-time fabric is actually a four dimensional fabric. That hurts your brain to think about, because you are a 3 dimensional being. Thus, whilst you can easily understand the 2 dimensional model, it takes at least a 5th dimensional person to understand and interact with the space-time fabric.

 

Einstein’s classic discovery of the relativity of time and space opened up a new way of looking at the Universe. Energy is proportional to matter and the speed of light squared: E=MC2. (For those who are interested: energy in Joules, mass in Kilograms and speed of light in metres per second). It had been thought for centuries that the speed of light, C, is a constant of about 300,000 Km per second. Recent discoveries have shown that light is subject to gravity and that the speed of light is variable and in fact slowing down3. (Currently estimated to be 299,792,458 m/s).

 

We have to remember that light is a created force. It has not always existed. In the beginning God said, ‘Let there be light and there was light’. (Gen 1:3). Light is therefore subject to the laws that God created. We see light from the sun and stars, as well as fires and light bulbs, as particular instances of light, but light as a creation exists apart from any source of light.

 

The square of the speed of light is proportional to energy, of which the force of gravity is prevalent throughout the universe. What is thought to be constant, is the total amount of mass and energy in the universe. It is a closed system. Since it was created, matter and energy have been interchanged, but none is being lost. We can observe the sun converting matter into energy as heat and light, but nothing is actually lost.

 

If we regard the universe as a sphere, then the closer you approach the boundaries, the lesser is the influence of the gravitational force. At the centre of the universe, wherever that is, gravity is at its greatest. The force of gravity, being inversely proportional to the square of the distance from a mass diminishes increasingly rapidly as you approach the edge of the universe4. Since the square of the speed of light is proportional to energy, we can infer that the speed of light decreases as the boundary of the sphere of the universe is approached, tending towards zero. In other words, we cannot see beyond the edge of the universe as nothing physical is beyond it. Light emanating from bodies at the extremity of the universe would begin very slowly, speeding up as it gains energy and approaches the central core of the universe to the constant of about 300Km /sec.

 

If, as has been thought previously, we make the assumption that the speed of light is a constant throughout the universe and indeed is unbounded, bodies that are nearer the edge of the universe would appear to be much further away that they really are, approaching infinity. Hence we can observe constellations which appear to be 90 billion light years away, which in fact are only a few thousand light years distant, but because the speed of light is approaching zero they appear to approach infinity. This makes the universe appear to be extremely old and much larger than it really is.

Since speed is inversely proportional to time, this also infers that time speeds up as the boundary of the universe is approached so that beyond edge of the universe, time becomes infinite.

There is another factor that supports this theory, which is the background radiation that pervades the universe. You would expect the temperature of the universe in outer space to be absolute zero temperature or 0 deg Kelvin, which is calculated to be -273 deg C, yet there is a slight raising of temperature pervading the universe of 3 deg absolute or Kelvin5. Light is reckoned to comprise waves of tiny particles known as photons6 that require energy to be propelled even through the vacuum of outer space. As you approach the edge of the universe, it can be assumed that this background radiation reduces to zero and light would have no energy to take it beyond the outer edge. So whether light uses gravity or the background radiation or both to propel photons, there is energy as far out as it is possible to go and beyond that, who knows. No one can see or measure, only speculate. My proposal is that at the edge of the universe, there is no matter; gravity becomes zero; energy reduces to zero; the speed of light reduces to zero, and time becomes infinite.

 

Therefore the universe is not infinitely old or infinitely immense. Given the variability of all of the attributes we have been discussing, it becomes impossible to give any dimensions. Measurements depend on some basic units like metres or seconds. We can only measure within a very limited locality. If we stray too far from where we are, we can no longer rely on these basic measurements. The universe could be as little as around 6000 years old and 6000 light years in radius from the Big-Bang starting point. Light travels about 6 million million miles in a year in our part of the universe, so that could make the universe a maximum of 72 x 1015 miles across.

 

All of this discussion gives a rational basis for believing in the Biblical description of the creation. Somewhere around 6000 years ago, God said ‘Let there be light and there was light.’ There is no other plausible explanation for the Big Bang. No scientist can give any better explanation for the first cause. There has to be a first cause. The only counter argument that I have seen put forward is that everything has always been and since the Big Bang is pretty well proven, this argument has no foundation. The fact that something started it is uncontroversial. The arguments are about who or what it is: and that is where faith takes over.

 

We can see the past but cannot change it. We can change or manipulate the future but we cannot see it. We can predict and extrapolate, using mathematical or computer models, but they are only predictions based on assumptions. The weather forecasting relies on patterns of previous behaviour, but even these can be disturbed by unforeseen circumstances. So we don’t really know what happened 6000 years ago any more than we know what is going to happen in 1000 years to come. We can only interpret the information available given our present knowledge and assumptions.

 

Another interesting aspect of the 3 dimensional universe that we inhabit is that it is actually digital. To illustrate this with another example from technology, consider the television or video screen. As you look at a modern television screen you can see in very high detail the lives of the world being portrayed. So much so that it seems real. However, if you take a powerful magnifying glass and examine the screen, it is filled with coloured dots that we call pixels. Normally a palette of 256 colours is used. This is a digital representation of the ‘real’ world. It is not the ‘real world, but only a virtual reality. Technology could take it further and give it depth to give an even greater impression of 3 dimensions, but it is still not real. When we now look at the ‘real’ world, we find that the same thing applies albeit at a much deeper level. If you took a virtual piece of string and cut it in half again and again, you might think you could go on indefinitely halving it until the length of the segment is infinitely small. However, there is a length below which it is impossible to go. Even if you kept on cutting, it would not get any smaller. This length is 10-35 metres, and is known as the Planck Length, Similarly there is an irreducible time constant shorter than which it is impossible to go, known as Planck Time, which is about 5x10-24 seconds. We have already discussed that light has a finite speed beyond which it cannot go. So the main attributes on which our universe is based, distance, time and speed are all finite and bounded.

 

All of this discussion drives us to the conclusion that we are living in a digital virtual reality that is only a small part of the whole. Even as the video screen is a digital representation of what we think of as reality, so our universe is a larger and more comprehensive digital representation of an even greater reality. By the way, this makes our attempts at technology appear very feeble compared to God’s technology. The pixels on my computer screen are about 2x10-4 metres in size, which is 2x1031 times bigger than God’s pixel!

 

We now go on to consider the significance of the bigger picture in God’s universe.

 

1. Big Bang: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_uni/uni_101bb1.html

2. Accelerating universe: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_uni/uni_101accel.html

3. Speed of light: http://www.setterfield.org/relativityandc.html

4. Gravity: http://www.astronomynotes.com/gravappl/s3.htm

5. Background radiation:

http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/cosmology/cbr.html

6. Photons: http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/Photon.html

 

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