The astronomers and cosmologists have now assured us that they have solved the puzzle of the nature of the universe. We are told the universe is composed of 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter, 4.9% protons, neutrons and electrons, 0.1% neutrinos and anti-neutrinos, and 0.008% photons, a quite reassuring degree of exactitude. We are further informed that the galaxies are moving away from each other at a constantly accelerating pace to the point where galaxies now visible to us at the edge of our observable universe will disappear over a notional horizon in very short order, cosmologically speaking, to be replaced on the edge of our vision by the next grouping in line, which will in time also disappear from view, and so on, leaving us, eventually, all alone in a completely empty observable universe. We have all been raised in the notion of an expanding universe, but this latest seems to differ only in the notion that the universe is expanding at an ever accelerating rate, with most of the universe moving away from us, and we from them, at speeds greater than the speed of light. The claim is, because of the ever accelerating speed of expansion the universe is disappearing before our eyes, and there is nothing we can do about it. I confess I have some doubts about all of this, despite the learned opinions of my betters, knowing, as do we all, that until Mr. Hubble came upon a Cepheid variable on piece of film in 1925 it was taught in all university astronomy classes that the Milky Way was all there was.
Firstly, space, like time, is not a thing, it is a void, an emptiness, and therefore it is difficult for a layman such as myself, to think how something that is nothing can expand at all, let alone at warp speed. Nonetheless, I accept as an article of faith, that we live in an expanding universe. But still I wonder, redshift or no. We are told that our observable universe is a sphere with a radius of about 46 billion light years, but because of the speed with which the universe is expanding, we can only see out to about 15 billion light years, with everything beyond that distance moving at speeds greater than light, and therefore invisible to us. Our 46 billion light year radius sphere, we are assured, is just 3% of the universe as a whole. Interesting if true, but since the universe is not an island in a vast sea of nothingness, then the universe is all there is, and therefore is, by definition, infinite, and I for one am pleased to have the size of infinity so easily calculated. In short, consider me skeptical but willing to be convinced. How confident am I that the Earth will not be completely alone sometime in the next two or three hundred billion years or so, the moon, sun, planets and all the stars in the sky having been swept over the notional horizon by a fiercely accelerating emptiness, leaving us freezing in the dark? Confident enough that I’m not going to worry about it.
The universe is all we have
To see it disappearing
Beyond our ken and out of sight
Means end of time is nearing
A time of cleansing of our hearts
Repent of our addiction
To dreams of space-borne empire
And all that other fiction
For nothing in our view is real
It’s all imagination
A book of leaves strewn on the ground
With scattered pagination