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
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
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.