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Evidence for a Flat Universe?

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the fading-fireball-of-the-big-bang dept.

Science 334

mattorb writes "The New York Times [free reg.req.] has an interesting article about a recent cosmological experiment whose results rather strongly imply a flat (omega equals 1) universe. Basically, the authors measured the scale of small variations in the cosmic microwave background, which yields strong constraints on allowed cosmologies. The abstract from the preprint (off LANL astro-ph) is here. Caveats: this is a preprint -- meaning that it hasn't been refereed yet. Also, questions are always raised about the precision of such "angular power spectrum" measurements -- who knows if this result will hold up. But it's an interesting thing to talk about."

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yes... (4)

Zurk (37028) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500452)

but do we fall off if we sail to the edge ?

Flat (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500453)

I have always wondered about this idea. It is an idea that keeps coming up more and more. It is just hard to imagine a FLAT universe...

Re:yes... (2)

QuMa (19440) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500454)

Only if we do a sketch about deceased parrots first.

... (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500455)

Gee, so if we eventually build a inter-planetary space ship, we'd better be on the lookout not to fall off the end of the universe... *snicker*

The concept of a "flat earth" was discredited shortly after the Roman empire fell. Besides, wouldn't this completely invalidate the big bang theory? I mean, if something explodes, it does so spherically(sp?) - not like a flat disk. Perhaps I'm missing something here... that just seems to stupid to have come from any sane scientist.


Re:... (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500456)

minor correction - I should have hit preview first...(sigh)... people still thought the world was flat when columbus discovered america... my appologies to the history buffs...

#$#$%#$$$%$%!!! (1)

derobert (57901) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500457)

There went my plans send MicroSoft to the other side of the universe quickly by going through the middle... now we'll have to wait a little longer. Ak. Awefull! Or maybe -- just maybe -- they'll fall off the edge :)

Also takes out some good sci-fi plots, unfortunately.


Whoa... (1)

Issue9mm (97360) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500458)

Okay, suffice it to say, my brain isn't at all suited for this type of information, so feel more than free to correct all the mistakes I'm about to make.

Also, be patient, I'm still trying to soak up the article...

Okay, wasn't it the Third Law of Thermodynamics that stated that eventually all motion would slow to a stop, and (at least in my interpretation) all systems would eventually just, spin down? Isn't this "cosmological constant" in complete opposition to that theory? It seems to me, and always has seemed to me, that things slow down, each orbiting object crashes into the object it's orbiting, ie: moon crashes into earth, earth crashes into sun, sun crashes into whatever it's orbiting, etc, until everything was back at one point in the universe, until we had another big bang...

Given that (probably fscked up) derivation on a principle, how does this work if we're constantly moving further away from the object we came from? Does this mean that if everything does end back up all in one place that it will be different place? Or that we will not ever be pulled back into one place?


Manyfold? (1)

Ozzy (119339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500459)

This to me has seemed to be the most elegant and probable value of the Omega constant.

If this is valid, then it raises the question, Which iteration of Big Bang -> Big Crunch are we in? Or are there infinite iterations? It raises many intriguing twists in the physics of time and space. This fits nicely with the previous /. article on manyfold universe theory. []


Rubber Sheet Theory (0)

blazin (119416) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500460)

I don't know if that's the correct name for it, but it sounds like this rubber sheet theory may be correct. It's basically where the entire universe is a flat rubber sheet, and all the planets, stars and other heavenly bodies cause the sheet to have indentions based on the mass of the body. That's where we get gravity in space.

On the other hand, maybe the universe is like a big sheet of paper and it's only a matter of time until God folds us up like a plane and throws us away. Maybe He's got a circular file too.

Uh... what does this mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500461)

Would someone mind giving this dumb high school student the background physics necessary to understand the article? :-)

Thanks in advance.

Wrong "flat" (3)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500462)

flat in this sense just means not curved. It has nothing to do with edges. It just means that two straight lines parallel to each other with NEVER intersect, extended throughout time and space. Basically the Universe isn't in a snow-globe, it just is.

Re:... (1)

mengmeng (11008) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500463)

Um... no... the truth is, scientists and philosophers had known the earth was round since the times of the ancient greeks. Probably first discovered by Thales of Miletus, who lived around 600 BC. Eratosthenes, who lived around 200 BC, even made a rather accurate measurement of the circumference of the Earth. The only ones who preach that Columbus discovered the earth was round are those who like to think of him as a saint that could do no wrong.

Re:... (1)

javainsomniac (116019) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500464)

well actually the big bang theory was descredited about 5 years ago. The doppler effect theory it was based on was proved to be uncontinuous across the stars that were "moving". Instead there is a group of physicists, including Stephen Hawkins, that are basing the origin of our universe on sound waves, and they figure they will have a complete theory in another 15 years on our true cosmology!

Re:Uh... what does this mean? (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500465)

Do some research. Not that difficult..

Re:... (2)

jacobm (68967) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500466)

Saying "the evidence doesn't support our theory, therefore the evidence is wrong" is what scientists get frustrated by non-scientists doing. We can measure (apparently) the thickness of the universe- if that doesn't jive with the big bang theory, then the big bang theory needs to be adjusted to take into account the evidence, NOT (and NEVER EVER EVER) the other way around.

Remember also that the Big Bang theory is somewhat more speculative than many other theories we work with. It's like doing an eight-term Taylor series for a function around 0, and then evaluating it at -8,000,000,000: better than nothing, but you'd have to be crazy to expect it to be exactly right.

what this means (1)

rongou (67468) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500467)

What this means is that the universe is going to expand forever, so there is no big crunch, there is no "Omega Point", and there is no God.

Of course, you have to believe in Frank Tipler [] first to draw that conclusion.

Re:... (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500468)

Did I say that the data was wrong?

Re:Flat (2)

Ozzy (119339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500469)

Not actually flat. It means that the Omega Constant is 1, and the universe will slow it's expansion but never come to a halt.

Re:Flat (1)

Ozzy (119339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500470)

Not actually flat. It means that the Omega Constant is 1, and the universe will slow it's expansion but never come to a halt.

Re:Rubber Sheet Theory (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500471)

rubber sheet theory may be correct.

It's more like a 3-d dimensional rubber goo theory. All this data shows is that parellel lines won't intersect, EVER.

Re:Flat (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500472)

Gotcha! I understand the whole point now....But doesn't there have to be an end somewhere? Or, is there no such thing as nothing...How can there be nothing..

Re:Wrong "flat" (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500473)

Thanks. =) I really despise /. posting NYT stories - I can't access them because I'm behind a firewall and NYT never lets me in. Well, basically they're saying that the universe is defined on a 3d plane. Okay, well... I don't have the background to disagree with them, so I won't.

Re:Flat (1)

Ozzy (119339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500474)

Not really, the universe will continue expanding infinitely and eventually everything will cool and become a dark, endless void.

Not too happy a scenario :)

Re:... (2)

jacobm (68967) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500475)

Sounded that way to me.

"... I mean, if something explodes, it does so spherically(sp?) - not like a flat disk. Perhaps I'm missing something here... that just seems to stupid to have come from any sane scientist."

Which sounds to me like, "The Big Bang theory obviously means that we should ignore more direct evidence."

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying? I think I must be, considering your response...

Such Thing as Nothing? (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500476)

But the question remains...Is there such thing as nothing? Or IS there an end? DOes it just keep going?

Inflation is interesting. (1)

swift2000 (41376) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500477)

Reading the short blurb in the NYT article about inflation intrigued me greatly because it seemed to imply that we now consider the universe to have a defined state before the Big Bang. The implications of this are quite interesting - if one considers the Big Bang to be the beginning of the universe in an absolute sense, with nothing at all before it to explain, one can in a sense simply ignore what brought the Big Bang into being - the very question seems to be undefined. By describing the Big Bang as being initiated by stretching of space caused by interactions of (I assume because of the mention of grand unified theories) super strings, this article caused me to wonder about what that pre-universe world was like, and what its origin was. Can these super strings have always existed, hanging in space, unexplained and unexplainable? This is also sort of related to the notion of space as a bounded entity - in a flat universe, wouldn't that imply that you could leave space? (albeit possibly only if you're massless) Can anyone with a much better knowledge of advanced theoretical physics shed some light on these issues for me, or at least provide further food for thought?

Oh no, more science news from non-scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500478)

Experimental data suggested for a long time that spacetime is flat or close to being flat. Now it is certainly interesting that the experimental bounds are sharpened, but is it really that interesting that it makes the news on slashdot?

Oh, but it was on NYT. I forgot that important breakthroughs in science are nowadays published there. They even had that great stuff from Fleischmann and Ponds.

Flat in respect to what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500479)

Okay, I have had a quick glance only but might be some here got the notation of "flat" wrong. What is more important to me is the "strong evidence against an open universe", which never seemed never be possible to me.

At some point even a minor fluktuation should be enough anyway to let an expanding universe collapse. At least less bad than a universe oszillating at the its brink.

Interesting finding, they sound confident (0)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500480)

I'd like to see /. to a follow-up with stories like these. Maybe after the IPO you guys can hire some "researchers" to help with the street cred.

An interesting discovery but not spectacular. Straight lines go Straight. The Universe is in Balance. Any new age guru could tell you the same, without dem fancy 'puters.

Re:Such Thing as Nothing? (1)

Ozzy (119339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500481)

The universe had a beginning, the big bang. But if Omega does = 1 then it will have no end, and there can be no nothing.(hrmm)

There has never been nothing in the universe, before the big bang, there was the superparticle which existed in some exotic space. We can't really know what was in that space because we have no way of observing it.

If there was anything else, it means that there must be many universes, or other dimensions. No one really knows what existed prior to the big bang. We have to know that to say conclusively if there is a nothing before the universe or outside the universe.

Oh wait, there is a the Neverending Story... :)

The answer is 42!

Re:Such Thing as Nothing? (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500482)

I just have a hard time swallowing the big bang

If the universe is so flat... (1)

Waldo (4398) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500483)

then why are there such large redshifts?

Flat? (1)

meni (2409) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500484)

If it is flat, doesn't it mean the universe is two-dimensional?

Re:Such Thing as Nothing? (3)

QuMa (19440) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500485)

I think we al would have a hard time doing that, just think about how hot it is!

IMHO (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500486)

eventually enough black holes get together and reverse the trend (think sine wave [] ) and everything starts to come back together. Eventually everything compresses back into the size of that grapefruit of yore and we bang again (notice the "eventually"s, this takes a long time). I think the "dark(anti?) matter" is part of the equation, and there are probably other parts we don't have a grasp on yet, but a continuing pattern of death and rebirth seems to fit with pretty much everything else in the universe.

I don't see this NYT article as discrediting my theory, we merely haven't crested the hill yet and it looks like it goes up forever from our limited perspective.

my $.02(US) (doing very well vs. the Euro BTW)

My brain is aching... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500487)

Is it only me, or is it normal to have problems trying to "visualize" or imagine these things? I'm having definite problems understanding this.. So what can the universe be described as? the surface of a balooon? a plane?

I won't even start to think in what dimensions it could be flat, I mean we obviously have three and, aaaagh *starts to pull his own hair out* maybe I should go back to my routers before my brain explodes....

If anybody can enlightenme, I'd appreciate it.

Re:IMHO (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500488)

I could see how that would work...but we can never "see" nothing, because if we per se, walked into "nothing" it would be "something" So from our view there isn't nothing.

Re:Such Thing as Nothing? (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500489)

Might burn my tongue :)

Re:IMHO (2)

Joeeeee (46278) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500490)

A flat universe is by definition not a closed universe. This research indicates that the universe is flat and not going to come back together as you suggest. Of course, given that the abstract itself only states "...(W)e find that the overall fractional energy density of the universe, Omega, is constrained to be 0.85 Omega 1.25 at the 68% confidence level." It seems whether the universe is open or closed is not really determined. The research only determined that the universe is "closer" to be closed than our observations currently indicate.

Not exactly 1 (3)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500491)

they said that the constant is very close to 1, I didn't read anybody saying, "All our data show us that the answer is EXACTLY 1." Anything that is the slightest bit off 1 in either direction will eventually unbalance the whole thing (think chaos theory). I take this data to mean that the universe isn't "in" anything, it just is. There are no external forces actuing upon it.

Re:IMHO (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500492)

So if you are walking, and you reach that point, would it be like hitting a glass window? And you just can't go any farther?

Please... (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500493)

...take this discussion HERE [] !!!.

No open universe ? (0)

Waldo (4398) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500494)

This study was obviously paid for by Microsoft ;-)

useful info...maybe. (2)

moller (82888) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500495)

Here's a link to a Caltech Research group that is working with the UMass scientist who sent in the abstract to the site. This is the research group run by the phys prof I had last year for freshmen physics, all the work he does is on the Cosmic Microwave Backround Radiation (CMB). He showed us some very cool pictures that a BOOMERANG satellite had taken of the CMB. Consequently, this Slashdot article refers to information gleaned from another BOOMERANG run. More information than I can understand about this is here: m.html []

parallel lines do intersect. (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500496)

parallel lines do intersect according to the general theory of relativity. Where there's a mass, the universe curves, thus parallel lines can intersect (as in double stars that are in fact a single star with a huge mass between it and the earth). Maybe what they mean is "do not intersect" where there's no mass...

Re:Not exactly 1 (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500497)


90% wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500498)

. . . except for the part about Canadians. The sooner we nuke those bastards, the better.

Re:Amoral Liberals (1)

Ozzy (119339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500499)

I see the err in my ways, the veil of stupidity (liberalism) has been lifted from me and I repent for my evil sins.

For I am not only Liberal, but atheist and Canadian! good god!

Chalk this AC up as (Score:2) Funny ass Nectarine.

Re:Amoral Liberals (2)

Harvey (22651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500500)

Two words for you AC: The Crusades.
Any time we dehumanize other people, something like the Crusades is bound to happen

Harvey, who probably just fell for a joke

Visualizing a Flat Universe (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500501)

The best way to think about a flat universe expanding is to do a little bit of geometry. Measure all the coordinates with respect to yourself at the origin. Then have all the coordinates increase with time by being multiplied by a time-varying factor a(t). Then dr/dt (the velocity at which a galaxy moves away from you) is r times da/dt, which we call the Hubble constant. If you transform coordinates to another origin, the universe looks the same to the guy there too. Galaxies move away from him at the rate r * da/dt as well. It is true that far away from you the galaxies are receding faster than c, but those galaxies are "causally disconnected" from the observer. This means they cannot interact with the observer in any way. Such things are not of physical interest. As for the "What does the universe expand into" difficulty, keep in mind that the Universe, by definition, has no outside. Also, we should keep in mind that the laws of physics need not conform to "common sense", which is formed through a rather limited range of physical experience.

Re:Amoral Liberals (1)

Waldo (4398) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500502)

If you truly believe in what you have written, then why are you an anonymous coward?

Re:IMHO (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500503)

no, I think this says, "By the time you could see the horizon a new one will exist beyond it."

You can't get outside the Universe. Doing so causes a core dump.

Flat vs. Open vs. Closed (5)

BaronCarlos (34713) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500505)

This is old news to the Astronomy Community.
Until recently, the Universe was thought as closed (or that it will slow and contract back as Energy dictates).
Recently, with deep space observations with a larger array of data to work with, Astronomers have calculated that the Universe it Open (under constant accelleration and would not slow down). This baffled much of the scientific community for awhile and soon lots of theories about a variable speed of light arose. (I think this appeared in the December 1998 issue of Scientific American [] , a summary of the Special Report exists here [] .)
This latest observation, though as limited as it is, makes some sense that it is a balancing compromise between two seperate observations/beliefs.
I can't say which is true, or which is false, just that it fits with everything else that has been said.
*Carlos: Exit Stage Right*

"Geeks, Where would you be without them?"

Re:IMHO (1)

FraggleMI (117868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500506)

Thats kinda neat, Then I can make my own plot on the universe, and name it for myself :)

Re:Manyfold? (1)

Emptydan (7491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500507)

I am always suspicious when scientists take elegance into account in their analysis of data. It doesn't bother me as long as they don't allow it to turn into bad science, though, which I doubt it does.

Re:Amoral Liberals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500508)

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Human heads.

Re:My brain is aching... (2)

swift2000 (41376) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500509)

I'm going to try to make an analogy here without having too great an understanding of the issue myself, so forgive me if I'm astoundingly stupid here.

Consider the case of a two dimensional universe. Imagine it as a piece of graph paper, with parallel lines on both axes. At the edges in an open universe, the paper would stretch out, and the formerly parallel lines would splay out like a fan. The angle between them would increase. In a closed universe, the paper would scrunch together at the edge, and the angle between the parallel lines would decrease - they would eventually meet. In a flat universe, the universe would remain a perfectly undistorted plane, and the lines would stay parallel forever.

The problem is that to understand the two dimensional universe cause we had to make use of three dimensions; hence understanding the three dimensional case will make use of four. (This is where I start guessing I'm afraid; feel free to correct me) We can imagine the effects despite not being able to imagine four dimensions. Imagine the four square wooden legs of a table. (Leave the tabletop off) Now extend them infinitely up and down. In an open universe, after following them for a very long time distortion would start to be evident - after a VERY long time the legs would become huge and splayed out upwards, curved like the tops of cathedral columns. All three dimensions are stretching, not just the two as before, so the legs would seem to get bigger and bigger and more and more splayed outward. By contrast, in a closed three dimensional universe, the legs would start to bend closer and closer together and shrink imperceptably until after a very long time they shrank to a point. In a flat universe, of course, none of this silliness occurs and the legs stay normal legs forever.

Of course I could be - and probably am - totally on crack. If nothing else, however, I've at least given you an interesting visual. =)

Re:Oh no, more science news from non-scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500510)

Actually, recent supernovae redshift data indicate omega!=1. And it wasn't published in NYT, it was submitted to the LANL preprint archive prior to publication. If NYT wants to pick up on it that's their business.

Re:Such Thing as Nothing? (1)

swift2000 (41376) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500511)

You can experience this for yourself at a good Indian restaurant; order the "Hot" curry.

D, All of the above (3)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500512)

My guess is that the Universe could be classified as all three, at different times. I seriously doubt, however, that we will be able to make measurements far apart enough in time (since we live so pitifully short, relatively) to gain an accurate measure (think maxum? (vs quantum) mechanics).

No flamewars here, Mr. Censor. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500513)

If people choose to attack God by flaming my post, that's their problem. If they react to the plain, simple truth with insane rage, that's their problem. I'm not responsible for their behavior.

All I did was state the obvious truth as we all know it to be. Nobody flamed anybody. Inevitably, the liberals will start a flamewar, and then blame me for starting it (typical Liberal refusal to accept responsibility), but you and I both know that I didn't start anything. I can accept no blame for this.

Embrace the Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500514)

Yes, it seems like "Nothing" must exist - if for no other reason then to provide a convenient, experiental medium for "Everything" to exist within. I think it depends on your definition of Nothing too - perhaps it is a plenum. Here's a little tidbit from the tao te ching regarding the idea:

"There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao."

works for the Nothing!

Re:If the universe is so flat... (1)

SIGFPE (97527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500515)

Flat doesn't imply it's not exapnding. Red shift is caused by expansion.

Big bang != explosion (4)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500517)

I've read a few posts that seemed to imply that the big bang resulted in a big explosion, and that this somehow sent matter flying out in different directions. This is not the case.
The big bang, rather than an explosion, was an expansion of space; every second, the distance between two points increases. The red shift noted by Hubble was not due to galaxies moving apart within space, but due to the space between galaxies increasing.
The balloon analogy much beloved of popularisers is quite accurate in many ways; you just have to imagine that the ballon is the universe, and that there is no outside the balloon. Of course, that's not to say there aren't lots of other balloons; inflation theory suggests there are. But they're nothing to do with our universe.

One thing that amazed me about this piece was the precision that the scientists were capable of; the background ripples have a difference with the normal background of less than one part in ten thousand; it took the COBE satellite to detect them in the first place, and to have them detectable from inside the atmosphere was truly a monumental feat.

Re:... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500518)

No... what he was saying is: The big bang theory must be wrong.

One Word: Murderous Persecution. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500519)

The suppression of Christians in the United States is already under way. It will get a great deal worse before it gets better. To protect my family from acts of violent retribution, I must conceal my identity. If you were a Christian, you'd understand that we live every day of our lives under threat of murder or imprisonment for our beliefs. It has happened to thousands already. It will happen to millions more. Even as we speak, two innocent men [] now languish in a California prison, destined for the electric chair when the corrupt court inevitably denies them a fair trial. Their only "crime"? Worshipping God. Obeying the commandments of God their Creator. They will be murdered for their worship, in cold blood and with the blessing of a criminal and illegitimate government.

It is precisely because of the truth of my statements that I must post as an AC.

This is kinda funny actually.. (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500520)

..that you would say that on the same day I discovered this [] . Coincidence? I think not (but then again as part of the Matrix, I can't think "about" it in any rational sense.)

Re:One Word: Murderous Persecution. (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500521)

are you the same guy who keeps getting hot grits poured down his trousers? You just outed yourself as a prankster.

Have a nice day, meept!!


Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500522)

Stalin killed more people than the Crusades. Therefore, the Crusades were not a crime.

You can twist the facts all you like, you murderous bastard, but the truth will always out.

Even Columbus' opponents knew earth was round... (1)

BlueUnderwear (73957) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500523)

... they only believed it was twice as large as the size Columbus assumed. And now, guess who was right, and who was just extremely lucky ;-)

Grits, my ass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500524)

No, that's not me. It's some disruptive loser who just wants attention.

And MEEPT is long gone.

Lotsa people on Slashdot. It shouldn't surprise you that one of them (me) knows the Truth.

Re:Wrong "flat" (2)

Maurice (114520) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500525)

Actually parallel lines intersect at infinity. Imagine how cluttered infinity must be then with all those lines meeting there.

Tao=Time (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500526)

so does God (roughly, and in different tenses).

Much more pleasant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500527)

So, does this mean that instead of expanding forever or eventually collapsing, the universe may just slow its growth asymptotically?

I kinda like that. it doesn't give you that 'holy shit the universe is just going to peter out into infinite nothingness' feeling. Nor does it give you that 'we are all going to be smashed into nothingness' claustrophobia. It just kind of keeps going, but slower, forever.

He's the Right-Wing Christian/Libertarian Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500528)

He turns up regularly in discussions that touch on science, women/gender, and Communism.

I'm almost certain it's the same guy.

Cosmology and taxation (2)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500529)

Thank goodness for that. If the universe had come out closed then the IRS would eventually have introduced a "no time limit" law on the grounds that anyone that escaped would eventually have to come back.

Re:what this means (1)

Greg Lindahl (37568) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500530)

You don't get it. Omega 1 means the universe expands forever.

Grits, my ass. (kiss yo' momma wit dat mouf?) (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500531)

get a login so I can recognize you. Surely as a good Christian you realize the value of knowing the source of Information or Argument.

Re:Whoa... (1)

Ats (88113) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500532)

Well, the third (or whichever) law of thermodynamics doesn't really say anything about gravitation. It just says that entropy tends to increase. Entropy is a measure of the number of ways in which a system can be so that it looks the same. For example, if you have a ball on a table, the ball will have some (gravitational) potential energy with respect to the floor. When the ball falls from the table it will eventually come to rest on the floor. The potential energy has changed into heat, which is highly unordered kinetic energy of molecules. So the energy has changed into a form in which it can be in more states. It is extremely unlikely, in _practice_ impossible, that the molecules would suddenly start bumping back into each other so that the ball would start jumping higher and higher off the floor and back on the table.

Hmm, in cosmic inflation (I think), a cosmological constant, which would push things apart from each other would not decrease entropy, because there are more ways in which things can be separate from each other than close to each other. Imagine you are eating a bag of candy on a space station in zero gravity. If you accidentally tear the bag apart, the candy will randomly wander into all possible directions and it is unlikely that it will go back into the bag again.

So entropy is only a measure of the probability of different things happening, and in a way thermodynamics just says that the most probable things are likely to happen.

See about "Murderous Persecution" above. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500533)

get a login so I can recognize you.

Were I recognized, that would only serve to lead abortionists to my children. I will not sacrifice their lives to satisfy your idle curiousity.

Surely as a good Christian you realize the value of knowing the source of Information or Argument.

My arguments come from God (whom you can NOT intimidate with your threats and persecutions). That is plain and as clear as day. I am only a conduit, and an anonymous conduit is as good as any other.

Re:He's the Right-Wing Christian/Libertarian Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500534)

Libertarian? Since when do libertarians want a theocracy?

Re:falling off the edge (3)

Woodlark (3628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500535)

People, they are not saying the universe is flat in 3D, but 4D. We know by scientific observation that the Universe is not flat in three dimensions. Witness stars being in every direction of the sky. The Milky Way just tells us our galaxy is a relatively flat, spiral one.

When scientists talk about a flat, spherical, or saddle-shaped universe, they are talking about space-time, a four dimensional construct. Most scientists believe the universe is closed in three dimensions, (meaning no edge to sail off of, even if we could sail faster than the edge expands, a totally different matter), but whether it is closed or open in four dimensions is another matter altogether.

I hope that cleared things up.

Droit devant soi on ne peut pas aller bien loin...

Uh, Beavis? That's two words. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500536)

What a shame.

Re:One Word: Murderous Persecution. (1)

billybob jr (106396) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500537)

Trying...Trying...Trying not to respond..damn here it goes.

"Those who reject God have, in so doing, rejected the only valid basis for morality in the world."

I'm just curious why you think that those who reject your basis for morality must have no morality?

I'm also curious as to what words were spoken by Jesus Christ encouraging his followers to murder those who rejected him or his teachings?

you scare me.. (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500538) don't have access to guns do you? hmm, christian fundamentalist, uh-oh.

When people start to attribute their actions to outside forces things get scary. You do make a good joke though. :-)

I've met a few . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500539)

. . . self-described Libertarians who wanted just that. Their logic was, uh . . . "murky" might be a good word for it. :)

Anyhow, this guy (if it's the same one) sometimes posts as a fundie and sometimes as an extreme wacko libertarian. Both groups share a certain fondness for blind dogmatism, manichean paranoia, and millenarian arm-waving. He uses the same bad logic in either case, with minor concessions to the faith he's preaching at the moment. And IIRC he has claimed once or twice that a brutal theocracy is the only real freedom.

Anyhow, I know rational christians and rational libertarians. A dislike for the maniacs on the fringes of both groups should not be taken as a condemnation of the groups in general.

Re:... (1)

Woodlark (3628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500540)

Hmmm... could you post some textevd for this? Some links would be really nice.

I ask, because I just recently did a 10 minute oral report on the origin of the universe and the nature of space-time, and my partner and I based our report heavily on Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time, the 1998 reprint, and it didn't mention anything about the Doppler effect being discontinuous, nor this new method of sound wave detection. He did mention he was working on a theory where the big bang discontinuity didn't exist because it was continuous in complex time, or something along those lines.

To reiterate, sources please?

Droit devant soi on ne peut pas aller bien loin...

Re:#$#$%#$$$%$%!!! (1)

Woodlark (3628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500541)

There went my plans send MicroSoft to the other side of the universe quickly by going through the middle... now we'll have to wait a little longer.

Actually, you could try to send them through a wormhole... the gravitational changes of trying to send MS through would cause the wormhole to collapse. Nobody is quite sure what would happen then, just that it wouldn't be good. :)

Droit devant soi on ne peut pas aller bien loin...

It's quite simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1500542)

I'm just curious why you think that those who reject your basis for morality must have no morality?

Morality comes from God. Without God, "morality" becomes meaningless: You can say a thing is "wrong", but what makes it so? Nothing, of not God.

If people posit a false God and attribute morality to it, that seems at first like progress, but it's not, because that false God does not exist, and therefore has no Word for the world. That God can only say the words that its worshippers put in its mouth, so therefore any "morality" that results from that situation is a "morality" created and promulgated entirely by flawed human beings. It is only temporary, and it can have no absolute eternal value.

Finally, you can postulate a false God who exactly resembles the real one, much like Borges postulates an author who writes Don Quixote in the same words as the original ("Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote" -- it's in a couple of his collections). Well, if that were to happen, they would in fact be worshipping the one real, eternal and everlasting Creator whether they liked it or not. They'd go to Hell for attempting to worship a false god, but if they lived their lives according to Scripture (even under false pretenses), they would have committed no sin aside from the false-idol thing.

I'm also curious as to what words were spoken by Jesus Christ encouraging his followers to murder those who rejected him or his teachings?

Read the Old Testament. God's People have a right to defend themselves. Public rejection of God is supression of religion, and is therefore an attack on us. To do God's work on Earth, we must respond appropriately.

Preprints and peer review (1)

aallan (68633) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500543)

Just a quick comment on the "this is a preprint so it hasn't been refereed yet" comment. Erm, no exactly. In astronomy its very uncommon, and generally frowned upon, to release a paper to preprint before you've had it refereed. Certainly none of mine have ever landed on the preprint server before I fixed everything the referee wanted me to fix.


Re:Amoral Liberals (1)

swift2000 (41376) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500544)

This has to be either a joke that went a little too far, or else one of the sickest displays of doublethink I have ever seen in my life. For one thing, do you really believe he's bragging about practicing cannibalism? It seems to me he's making a joke about the sheer absurdity of confusing a nectarine with a human head.

As for the "amorality" of non-believers in the Christian God, that is patently absurd. It is possible to develop a morality without having it handed to you from on high, although in many of your examples (Islam, for example) it IS handed down in the form of their holy books, just as it is with you. Your choices are simply absurd - Buddhists and Hindus are known as some of the most peace-loving people in the world; Muslims respected Christians and Jews as 'People of the Book' and treated them as equals; they had an enlightened society while the Christian world was in the dark ages. Communism is not a religion, though I believe you refer to the common tactic in Socialism of encouraging atheism. Canadians? That doesn't even dignify a rebuttal!

Your love for your fellow man is obvious. ("Liberals usually have subnormal mentalities.", "howling insanity and sick hate") The only one displaying hate here is you. Way to walk in the path of Jesus; you've entirely missed his message. Religion is not a fight.

"Stalin killed thirty or forty million people. Stalin was an atheist. You figure it out."

Correlation does not imply causation, and you haven't even shown correlation here. You give one example of a notorious murderer who was an atheist and expect to judge all non-Christians by his actions? (Judge not lest you be judged, of course, but its pretty obvious that you're ignoring THAT one totally too.) This is no less absurd than saying:

Hitler ordered the slaughter of approximately 5,709,329 people.
Hitler had brown hair.
You figure it out.

The human race may be in danger, but if it is, it's from McCarthyist religiously intolerant bigots like you, not from decent, honorable people who occasionally make somewhat tasteless jokes.

What this really is saying (3)

jpgrimes (15330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500545)

First lets make sure everyone understands what they mean by a flat universe. This has nothing to do with the geometry of the universe. This we know to be small (i.e. curvature has to be on a very large scale) but this is talking about the expansion of the universe. As some people have already said this means that the universe will not grow forever or collapse. It will asymptotically approach some limit. But like I said this says ntohing about the geometry of the universe. We don't know what kind of "surface" the universe is on. Maybe the universe is on some N dimensional sphere or box, we just don't know.

As to boomarang these results are nothing special. What could be special would the results from there Antarctica flight last winter (summer there). That result should be the best result at the time they publish. Off course a satelitte I worked on (MAP) will blow it away but it has some unfair advantages and it will be later (2002 for results I think).

Theorists want a flat universe for the simple reason that inflationary theory more or less requires it. We don;t really know how to easily understand this problem in a non flat universe. Pure and simply the math is much more elegant in a flat universe (ask Alan Guth or Andrew Linde).

As with all these experiments getting results, understanding your systematics and backgrounds are extremely difficult. Most importantly going from data to understanding the fundamental parameters requires some assumptions and is not as clear cut as anyone would like. However, having said that, I thnk they are on the right track here. In the near future new experiments like MAP and surveys like the Sloan All Sky Survey will bring a lot fo this together. We will understand this a lot better in 4 years I promise :)

PS I'm currently an astronomer at Harvard but was a grad student at U of Chicago 6 months ago (where a lot of this work is getting done)

PPS Hopefully I din't make any glaring mistakes

PPPS There are no implications for god or theology in all this mess (whatever you believed before you should still believe, well except maybe creation but even that you could argue maybe)

Re:Manyfold? (1)

Woodlark (3628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500546)

This to me has seemed to be the most elegant and probable value of the Omega constant.

If this is valid, then it raises the question, Which iteration of Big Bang -> Big Crunch are we in?

You seem to be slightly confused. If the omega constant = 1, the Universe will expand much faster than the gravitational attraction of its mass can pull it in, and will eventually reach a condition known as "heat death" where it will have effectively zero density.

Imagine you had a finite number of particles (the Universe has a finite ammount of mass/energy) and put them in an infinitely large room. By Newton's third law (entropy increases), these particles will spread further and further apart until they're evenly spread over the room. Since the room approaches infinity, their density approaches zero.

Now then, if the Universe's rate of expansion were lower than the critical rate to avoid recollapse, we might have the oscillating Universe you refer to.

In the course of my research, I have found that the scenario scientist's find most probable is the one where the universe expands just slightly above the critical rate to avoid recollapse, and its expansion has a limit, so the Universe is virtually in a steady state.

Droit devant soi on ne peut pas aller bien loin...

Re:Preprints and peer review (2)

jpgrimes (15330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500547)

ACtually as an astronomer I somewhat want to disagree with that. In general in astronomy this is true but not in cosmology. It moves too fast, you can't wait the 9 months for an ApJ publication or you'll be too late. Hoever, its true that all preprints are not final so things can change.

Some background physics (1)

Ats (88113) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500548)

Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts that the path of light, and any electromagnetic radiation, is affected by gravitation just as everything else. Because gravity affects completely _everything_ completely uniformly, unlike any other force, it causes all sorts of interesting effects. Imagine that the entire earth was suddenly subjected to a strong uniform gravity field (Well, this is just an example!). Without looking at the sky, You would have no way of sensing the gravity field, because it would affect everything you see in the same way.

An often-used analogy about general relativity is that of an ant moving on the surface of an apple. Even if the ant moves 'straight' on the surface of the apple in the 2-dimensional sense, its path still curves when looked in 3 dimensions.

So in general relativity you can think of objects as traveling 'straight' if no force but gravity acts on them. Then you can work out the trajectories of particles much as you would work out the path of the imaginary ant as it explores the apple.

In general relativity you can think of a ball that you throw on the surface of earth as traveling 'straight' just as light travels 'straight', only in a different 'direction', because they move at different velocities.

General relativity predicts interesting (and experimentally verified) things, for example that time will pass very slightly (10^-10 or something like that) slower on the surface of earth than outside earth's gravity field. You can work this out by considering a light ray that is emitted from the surface of earth far into the space. As the light ray climbs its way up the gravity field, its frequency will get slightly lower, because it has to do work to move against the gravity. But you can also think of the light ray as moving 'straight'. Therefore, when the person far in space measures that a light ray, which has moved straight, has a lower frequency than when it was emitted, he must conclude that time moved slower where it was sent. :-)

Now, back to cosmology. Because the universe contains lots of matter, you would expect that 2 light rays, which are emitted in parallel some distance from each other, would eventually cross each other, because there will probably be some matter _between them_ on their path, which will pull them closer together.

But this seems to not be the case, which is unexpected and kind of beautiful! There is a 'cosmological constant' or something, which pushes the light rays apart from each other so that they indeed move 'straight'

Well, hope that helped, professional physicists, feel free to correct me...

Re: It's quite simple (1)

swift2000 (41376) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500549)

Publicly rejecting God is not a supression of religion. If I say "I am an atheist", that does not affect your ability to worship God as you choose. On the other hand, killing someone for publicly rejecting God is murder, and a violation of the Ten Commandments. (Read that Old Testament yourself.) Judge not lest you be judged.

Re:See about "Murderous Persecution" above. (1)

swift2000 (41376) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500550)

You are not only a conduit. Christianity teaches that God embodied you with free will. Take responsibility for your own actions and do not presume to attribute them to God.

As for fear of Murderous Persection, Christians have virtually nothing to fear, especially compared to the abortionists you allege will swarm over your kids if you divulge your identity. Perhaps you should take a look at what they have to face. []

Re:WRONG (1)

TheHornedOne (50252) | more than 14 years ago | (#1500551)

Stalin killed more people than the Holocaust

Therefore, the Holocaust was nothing but a friendly, good-natured Weiner roast.
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