back to article Vigorous tiny vibrations help our universe swell, say particle boffins

Not only is our universe is expanding, its expansion is accelerating. How and why this is happening remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science. This month, academics suggested it is caused by every point in space oscillating between expansion and contraction – and rather than these changes canceling each other …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A welcome addition to the current flap of mutual headbashing on whether the idea of "inflation" is actually scientific or not.

    Still, I need a refresher on how this "expansion" thing is supposed to work. After all it is not "blowing space" that "pushes" things as gravitationally bound systems do not see expansion. Instead we see divergent trajectories through 4D space if the map 3D space to a surface into said 4D space, was it? The Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker universe model tiptoes around that question as it considers matter an infinitely-divisible gas througout of space...

    1. Gazareth

      You are amanfromMars and I claim my £5.

      1. Graham Dawson

        The fact that much of that post made sense to me has got me quite worried about my own sanity now.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Things aren't getting pushed apart

      Space itself is expanding, like blowing up a balloon would be 'inflation' for a 2D universe drawn on its surface.

      Gravitationally bound systems do see expansion, but it happens so slowly it wouldn't be something you could measure. The constant stream of charged particles leaving the sun, micrometeorites impacting the atmosphere of bodies in the system etc. would have a massively larger effect.

      If the space in the solar system out to Earth's orbit inflates its diameter by a Planck length every "time period", how would you know? The Earth will stay at the same distance, whether the "time period" in question was a nanosecond or a year (I have absolutely no idea, though I'm sure someone could calculate this if so inclined) because the equations of gravity aren't going to be affected in any way that matters by such a tiny change. A pebble sized meteorite striking the Earth's atmosphere probably alters its orbit by more than the 10^-35 meters a Planck length increase in its distance from the Sun would, let alone what a big one does.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Things aren't getting pushed apart

        "If the space in the solar system out to Earth's orbit inflates its diameter by a Planck length every "time period", how would you know?"

        When it gets to the point of the "Big Rip" you'd know. Or rather you wouldn't because you'd be dead.

  2. thomas k

    expanding from?

    Is the universe expanding in all directions (blast radius) from a central point (the 'bang')? If so, where is the center of the universe?

    1. beep54

      Re: expanding from?

      As best as I can understand, wherever you are, you are at the center of the Universe. Uh, anyone....?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: expanding from?

        > If so, where is the center of the universe?

        Point your right arm to your two o'clock, and just a smidge to the left... now up a bit, a bit more, that's it: about fifty gazillion yards in that direction.

    2. Michael Hoffmann

      Re: expanding from?

      The analogue most often (mis)used is 2D/3D example of the inflating balloon for our 3D/4D universe. As I understand nobody has yet found the dude who's blowing at the nipple of the universal balloon. ;)

    3. Paul Kinsler

      Re: If so, where is the center of the universe?

      Consider the surface of a ball (note the surface only, not the volume contained within it).

      Q1) Whereabouts on that surface would (or could) you put a marker that says "centre"?[1]

      Q2) Would everyone agree about the location of that central point?[2]

      [1] Anywhere

      [2] Probably not. Why should they?

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: If so, where is the center of the universe?

        "Consider the surface of a ball (note the surface only, not the volume contained within it).

        Q1) Whereabouts on that surface would (or could) you put a marker that says "centre"?[1]

        Q2) Would everyone agree about the location of that central point?[2]"

        It would be on the line passing through the observatory in Greenwich, wouldn't it?

    4. James Haley 2

      Re: expanding from?

      Here's a lecture from Robert Nemiroff, Michigan Tech U. He's one of the authors of the "Astronomy Picture of the Day".

      From the lecture slides:

      In General Relativistic Cosmology:

      There is no center.

      There is no “Big Bang National Park”.

      The Universe is not an exploding golf ball.

      Every point can be considered the center.

      The expansion looks the same from every point

    5. TitterYeNot

      Re: expanding from?

      "If so, where is the center of the universe?"

      My favourite answer to that question was supplied by Prof. Brian Cox of rockstar physicist fame - "It's at the end of your nose."

      Why? Because all the subatomic particles that make up the end of your nose and the space-time they occupy were present in the Big Bang singularity (in other words all points of space-time in the universe can be thought of as the centre.)

      Made me look at the end of my conk with a new found respect...

    6. thomas k

      Re: downvotes, really?

      It was an honest question. I don't know, that's why I asked.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. Captain DaFt

      Re: expanding from?

      "Is the universe expanding in all directions (blast radius) from a central point (the 'bang')? If so, where is the center of the universe?"

      Since the entire Universe was originally that center point, the irritating answer is that the entire Universe is still the center point.

      Full explanation would probably bore you to death, unless I succumbed trying to explain it first. ☺

      (Bonus head exploder: According to theory, the Universe is still the same size now when viewed from the outside as it was when the big bang occurred.)

      1. Axman

        Re: expanding from?

        Don't be DAFT; how can you view it from the outside!

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: expanding from?

          "Don't be DAFT; how can you view it from the outside!"

          Shh, don't tell anyone, but... The Matrix has been backdoored! ☺

    8. Faux Science Slayer

      97% of the Universe is composed of math particles and hyperdense equations....

      "Mysterious Dr X says, Universe is NOT Expanding" in Time magazine interview, "Shift on Shift",

      Dec 14, 1936....the father of big bag said it was a hoax to fund a 200 inch telescope.

      More under Cosmology tab at FauxScienceSlayer.... share Truth....

  3. Detective Emil

    That paper has 214 equations!

    A document containing 214 equations should have a readership of 2^-213 times that of Hawking's A Brief History of Time. That's um, about 10^-57.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. mistersilver134

        Re: That paper has 214 equations!

        Hey! I read it, twice. That should take it off the most unread list. I also, shamefully, admit, I read Applied Cryptography too.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typo or misanthropy?

    From the article: "Clearly, we're all still here, unfortunately"

    / Someone give the author a coffee and a hug

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: Typo or misanthropy?

      Maybe cosmologists go into that field because they don't have to think about people.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding

    In all of the directions it can whizz

    As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,

    Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.

    So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,

    How amazingly unlikely is your birth,

    And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,

    'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Can we have your liver then?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        and maybe with some fava beans?

    2. Apprentice of Tokenism

      The astro-boffins from earth

      Noticed dark energy dearth.

      What to expect?

      Soon they checked.

      And found the universe surf.

  6. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Preprint. I've not had time to skim it yet.

  7. Tom Paine Silver badge

    The Silastic Armorfiends...

    ...will be interested

    ....puts forward the idea that each point in space is yo-yoing between expansion and contraction

    Am I so very wrong for speculating about what would happen if those pulsations or oscillations could all be synchronised? It'd be the best bang since the big one!

    1. ma1010 Silver badge

      Re: The Silastic Armorfiends...

      It would be Zaphod Beeblebrox?

    2. Tom 64

      Re: The Silastic Armorfiends...

      I'm pretty sure that would make me feel seasick

  8. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    Now we're a little closer to understanding how and why.

    So these oscillations might be the cause of our universe expanding? Great! What causes them?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      At the quantum level, such things are random. If they were not, there would be no source of randomness in the universe, everything would ultimately be entirely deterministic, and there would be no free will. Luckily for us, a combination of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (which in essence states that you can never measure all things precisely) and zero-point energy (which tells us you can never remove all the energy from a system) stops this form being the case. The appearance of order comes from statistics...

      1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

        Re: Why?

        The question should rather be: why are the oscillations contributing more to expansion than to contraction? If the fluctuations are random, shouldn't they cancel on average?

        Sounds a bit like the question 'why is there more matter than antimatter?'

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          "The question should rather be: why are the oscillations contributing more to expansion than to contraction?"

          If I've understood everything, it's because the system has positive feedback.The author's explicit answer is "...the expansion outweighs the contraction a little bit due to the weak parametric resonance effect."

          Apparently all (harmonically) oscillating systems have a net expansion when the frequency changes (?increases?) slowly. And iff I'm reading the paper right, the change in frequency is due to a change in the distribution of matter and radiation in the universe -- that's the feedback. So it may be the universe has a net expansion because there's a net expansion. But don't quote me on any of that.

          They also say the net expansion would be zero if a cutoff related to the "micro structure of spacetime" reached infinity but they don't relate that cutoff to oscillations. However cutoffs are physicist speak for the "answer is in the unified theory of quantum gravity but won't bother us if we steer clear of black holes and big bangs".

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Well... that blows the theory I've heard and embraced that the universe resembles a cat. It vibrates some, in goes in and out of view on a regular basis, and it grows.

  10. adam 40

    Vacuum Energy?

    The vacuum energy link to halopedia had me going for a minute or two!

    Cheeky buggers.

  11. Michael Sanders

    Nassim Herriman

    Just a little plug for the non-mainstream published physicist Nassim Herriman. He has been saying this very thing for a long long time now. Specifically he talks about a expansive and contractive space-time geometry at that quantum scale. Also he talks about the large energy density of the vacuum predicted by the model not being an error corrected by normalization.

    For answers to your questions you'll have to start studying his theory. It's taken me years. So good luck. In any case he should get the credit for this discovery. They are doing just as much theory work as he is. But he has been published and has a much more refined theory. And his theory makes predictions, some of whom have since been proven.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Nassim Herriman

      I hadn't heard of him. A quick google, found this.

  12. The Nazz Silver badge

    OK, i'll ask the obvious.

    What is it expanding into?

    To use the balloon analogy, if it's someone blowing up a balloon at a kids party, how big is the room it's in? And how big is the house the room is in? And the garden?

    Back to the article, it sounds to me like it's one big microwave. Is this why the earth's heating up?

    1. Tom 64

      Re: OK, i'll ask the obvious.

      > "What is it expanding into?"

      The concept of 'size' may not apply outside the universe. 'outside' may also not apply =)

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: OK, i'll ask the obvious.

      "What is it expanding into?"


      (ponder that one.)

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: OK, i'll ask the obvious.

      I'd look above at the answers to Thomas K. But basically, the analogy of expanding balloon is crap.

      Let's try a different analogy. Suppose you're numbering the lines of a computer program. You don't want to run out of numbers so you make the first one line number 0 and the last one line number 1, and the lines inbetween are 0.25, 0.5 and 0.75. If you need to insert a line between x1=0.25 and x2=0.5 you can always use 0.375 so there is always a line number available. But if you count lines after the insert you will find that instead of x1 and x2 being next to each other, they now have one line apart. And as we carry on editing they might end up with two or three lines between them -- so they're moving apart; they're expanding.

      That's closer to what's happening. Space isn't expanding, but extra places are appearing between matter. And, who knows, a quantum theory of gravity may show space is literally being pulled out of the quantum foam.

  13. Sysgod


    For such an exacting theory, the use of "tons of experimental results" raises a red flag.

    I am, however, intrigued by the concept as an energy source rather than a theory of the fabric of space.

  14. Pudders

    Sum of Infinte Series

    Is this like the infinite series of (+1 -1 +1 -1 +1 -1...) which equals 1/2?

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