Is the Universe Expanding?

Well, so the scientists say, or at least the vast majority of them – and if you doubt it, you are likely to be

1. ridiculed

2. bombarded with ad verecundiam arguments.[1]

But what does it mean for the universe to be expanding?

If a city is expanding, it is expanding into the surrounding  countryside, which means that the surrounding  countryside is correspondingly contracting.

And if a country is expanding its territory, the territory of another country (or countries) is correspondingly contracting.

And if the money supply is expanded, the value, or purchasing power, of the money is correspondingly contracted.

And if my knowledge is growing, the extent of my ignorance is correspondingly shrinking.[2]

But into what surroundings could the universe expand? Is it expanding into nowhere, i.e. into an area of nothingness? That would mean that this nothingness is correspondingly contracting, so that there is less and less nothingness in the world, as the universe is expanding. This does not quite make sense… The essence of nothingness is that it is nowhere to be found. And where is the nowhere? Outside the universe? But to be outside of something is to be, at least, somewhere.

According to the Wikipedia article on the Big Bang, is not quite accurate to say that the universe is expanding, but that the space in which the universe exists is expanding:

The Big Bang is not an explosion of matter moving outward to fill an empty universe. Instead, space itself expands with time everywhere and increases the physical distance between two comoving points.

So into what is this space expanding? Into a vast area where there is no space, an area that is constantly contracting as the universe grows bigger and bigger? That does not quite make sense, either. Being “surrounded by”, after all, is a statement about a spatial relationship. How could there be a spatial relationship between space and the absence of space?[3]

This is just one of the conundrums that abound in cosmology. What is outside of space? What existed before time, and what will exist when time has finally come to an end? There is something wrong with even asking those questions.

Enough cosmological musings for today, and maybe for the rest of my life. An earlier cosmological musing here.

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Update 22 March 2014: George Reisman also comments on the Big Bang theory. (Maybe he has read this blog post; but it is more likely that he has figured out for himself long ago.)

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And I have to add that the only difference between the Biblical creation story and the Big Bang theory is that the former says that God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing), while the latter says that the universe created itself ex nihilo (out of nothing).


[1]) None of this in the comments section – please.

[2]) The extent of my ignorance will always be vastly larger than the extent of my knowledge: life is simply too short to get anywhere close to omniscience. And if an omniscient god were to observe me, he would hardly notice my growing knowledge – and if he did notice it, he would punish me for having eaten too many fruits from the Tree of Knowledge. Just saying…

[3]) Hard core Objectivists may consult The Ayn Rand Lexicon. – Well, soft core Objectivists and non-Objectivists can consult it, too.

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