A New Theory of the Universe

Yesterday I went on the train to London to visit my old friends in Mile End. I worked at the place that is now called Queen Mary, University of London for nearly a decade and missed it quite a lot when I moved to Nottingham. More recently I’ve had a bit more time and plausible excuses to visit London, including yesterday’s invitation to give a seminar at the Astronomy Unit. Although we were a bit late starting, owing to extremely slow service in the restaurant where we had lunch before the talk, it all seemed to go quite well. Afterwards we had a few beers and a nice chat before I took the train back to Cardiff again.

In the pub (which was the Half Moon, formerly the Half Moon Theatre,  a place of great historical interest) I remembered a joke I sometimes make during cosmology talks but had forgotten to do in the one I had just given.  I’m not sure it will work in written form, but here goes anyway.

I’ve blogged before about the current state of cosmology, but it’s probably a good idea to give a quick reminder before going any further. We have a standard cosmological model, known as the concordance cosmology, which accounts for most relevant observations in a pretty convincing way and is based on the idea that the Universe began with a Big Bang.  However, there are a few things about this model that are curious, to say the least.

First, there is the spatial geometry of the Universe. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, universes come in three basic shapes: closed, open and flat. These are illustrated to the right. The flat space has “normal” geometry in which the interior angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. In a closed space the sum of the angles is greater than 180 degrees, and  in an open space it is less. Of course the space we live in is three-dimensional but the pictures show two-dimensional surfaces.

But you get the idea.

The point is that the flat space is very special. The two curved spaces are much more general because they can be described by a parameter called their curvature which could in principle take any value (either positive for a closed space, or negative for an open space). In other words the sphere at the top could have any radius from very small (large curvature) to very large (small curvature). Likewise with the “saddle” representing an open space. The flat space must have exactly zero curvature. There are many ways to be curved, but only one way to be flat.

Yet, as near as dammit, our Universe appears to be flat. So why, with all the other options theoretically available to it, did the Universe decide to choose the most special one, which also happens in my opinion to be also the most boring?

Then there is the way the Universe is put together. In order to be flat there must be an exact balance between the energy contained in the expansion of the Universe (positive kinetic energy) and the energy involved in the gravitational interactions between everything in it (negative potential energy). In general relativity, you see, the curvature relates to the total amount of energy.

On the left you can see the breakdown of the various components involved in the standard model with the whole pie representing a flat Universe. You see there’s a vary strange mixture dominated by dark energy (which we don’t understand) and dark mattter (which we don’t understand). The bit we understand a little bit better (because we can sometimes see it directly) is only 4% of the whole thing. The proportions look very peculiar.

And then finally, there is the issue that I talked about in my seminar in London and have actually blogged about (here and there) previously, which is why the Universe appears to be a bit lop-sided and asymmetrical when we’d like it to be a bit more aesthetically pleasing.

All these curiosities are naturally accounted for in my New Theory of the Universe, which asserts that the Divine Creator actually bought  the entire Cosmos  in IKEA.

This hypothesis immediately explains why the Universe is flat. Absolutely everything in IKEA comes in flat packs. Curvature is not allowed.

But this is not the only success of my theory. When God got home he obviously opened the flat pack, found the instructions and read the dreaded words “EASY SELF-ASSEMBLY”. Even the omnipotent would struggle to follow the bizarre set of cartoons and diagrams that accompany even the simplest IKEA furniture. The result is therefore predictable: strange pieces that don’t seem to fit together, bits left over whose purpose is not at all clear, and an overall appearance that is not at all like one would have expected.

It’s clear  where the lop-sidedness comes in too. Probably some of the parts were left out so the whole thing isn’t  held together properly and is probably completely unstable. This sort of thing happens all the time with IKEA stuff. And why is it you can never find the right size Allen Key to sort it out?

So there you have it. My new Theory of the Universe. Some details need to be worked out, but it is as good an explanation of these issues as I have heard. I claim my Nobel Prize.

If anything will ever get me a trip to Sweden, this will.

16 Responses to “A New Theory of the Universe”

  1. I am certain that Einstein would not buy an IKEA universe. If he were alive today he would now, despite his past views, accept the growing theory that is called quantum relativity. This theory that melds the physics of quantum mechanics with the mathematical structure of the universe suggests a universe that is (a) somewhat contorted, not flat, (b) is closer to something resembling an infinitely changing moibus-like twisted torus, and (c) that twisted torus itself continuously convolutes. Inside this universe all of those glorious elements do all kinds of quantum based activities that leave us often astounded. This forces us to not see the forest (universe) for the trees and derive theories of the universe that defy sound mathematical topology theory. So, that is my own theory of cosmology. That universe has neither a beginning nor an ending, but has endless convulsions as part of its mobius based twisted torus.

  2. In my previous comment I neglected to include a link to my “silly little cosmological vision.” Here is that link: http://tinyurl.com/arocon


  3. telescoper Says:


  4. Telescoper is obviously saddened by my apparently bizarre view of the universe. My only excuse is that unless I have missed something there are no clear answers, YET, on the structure of the universe. I was just expressing a view from my seat in the theatre of the stars.

  5. […] Coles, a Professor in Theoretical Physics at Cardiff University, has just published an important new theory explaining the flatness of the universe. I don’t want to spoil the story but it involves a […]

  6. […] matters. I therefore gave a summary of the concordance model which I’ve blogged about before and then made some comments about things that might point to a more complete theory of the […]

  7. Late to the party Says:

    IKEA is headquartered in Delft NL, though!

    How flat is an IKEA flat pack really? Is it flat with respect to the pseudo-flat patch of ground it’s sitting on, or is it flat with respect to a plane tangent to the WGS 84 datum surface, or to a particular spot or set of spots on the actual surface of the Earth? How flat is a 1m^2 flat pack compared to the 5.1e14 m^2 planetary surface? How would you measure that? Could you say anything about it if you were very short and had an observational horizon at only a few tenths of a metre (mmm, fog!)?

    How flat is the Hubble volume in the space within a radius of a large multiple of the Hubble length? How would one go about measuring that? (Well, I guess we’re looking for ways to quantify the pre-inflationary volume and degree of inflation by staring at the CMB, with the hope that the boundary condition space-time curvature is large enough to make fine-tunings for the Hubble Volume’s large scale spatial flatness and structural anisotropies vanish, right?).

    Guth (footnote * p. 186 of The Inflationary Universe) floated a figure of (c/H0)^3 ~ 3.3e-24 volume of the universe. The figures are ancient now, but is the idea of roughly that order of magnitude spatial scale difference totally implausible? (That scale of 60ish e-folds recurs in more modern papers, too, IIRC, although I suspect that may be an expectation figure rather than one for which there is practical evidence in current CMB data, although I totally defer to you here).

  8. […] Lulin. This comet is supposed to become quite prominent and reaches its maximum magnitude in March. A New Theory of the Universe In the Dark Comical blog […]

  9. […] A slightly different way of describing this is to think instead about the radius of curvature of the Universe. In general relativity the curvature of space is determined by the energy (and momentum) density. If the Universe has zero total energy it is flat, so it doesn’t have any curvature at all so its curvature radius is infinite. If it has positive total energy the curvature radius is finite and positive, in much the same way that a sphere has positive curvature. In the opposite case it has negative curvature, like a saddle. I’ve blogged about this before. […]

  10. […] Coles, a Professor in Theoretical Physics at Cardiff University, has just published an important new theory explaining the flatness of the universe. I don’t want to spoil the story but it involves a […]

  11. […] blogged before, with some levity of my own, about how uncomfortable this dark energy makes me feel. It makes me […]

  12. Maya Incaand Says:

    Strangely enough, a torus would satisfy the available evidence.

    And if it were to rotate, so much the better.

    Bye bye dark energy.

  13. Well, since we have never reached or seen the boundaries of the universe, that is still an open questions. Toroidal constructs would provide no real beginning or end which really confounds things. Intersecting toroids would flat mystify until we could evaluate an intersection. Toroids eliminate the demand for a beginning and an end, but they do not alter theories of astro physics and especially quantum theory of relativity which is under investigation at the present. What is exciting is that the field is still open for hypotheses. My guess is that aspect remains an endless challenge. Lastly, I think our expanding research into gravitational wave theory is going to introduce some astounding hypotheses which will send us off in whole new directions. The End Is Not Near;which I consider to be a happy presumption.

  14. […] previous work  was based on the idea that the Universe was obtained from the Swedish furniture and home […]

  15. […] My week of self-imposed isolation is almost over so I suppose I should try to re-acclimatize myself to the world by doing a quick post of a nice video. I remember Brent Tully talking at the conference I went to in Estonia earlier this summer about the work he has been doing with his collaborators on using the local peculiar velocity field to map structures in the galaxy distribution. Now the paper is out in the journal Nature. Laniakea is the name the group chose for the local supercluster which has been known about for some time, but this work provides a more detailed map. The name Laniakea means “immeasurable heaven” in Hawaiian, from “lani” for ‘heaven’ and “akea” for ‘spacious’ or ‘immeasurable’.  Rather disappointingly it has nothing to do with Ikea, so sheds little light on my own theory of the Universe. […]

  16. […] blogged before, with some levity of my own, about how uncomfortable this dark energy makes me feel. It makes me […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: