Space: Origin, Center & Expansion

Robert Owen (
Sat, 27 Nov 1999 22:27:10 -0500

After a little more reflection on Sean's post, it occurred to me that many people (but not necessarily Alexander) do misunderstand the concept of "the expansion of the universe" [1] because it is a misnomer, and [2] because of the complementary notion of "The Big Bang". Both seem to imply a preferred locus.

I hope, without insulting anyone's intelligence, the following simplified description will be helpful to some members.

Rather than remark that "the Universe is expanding" it is much clearer to state that it is space itself that is expanding. It's not really that the galaxies are moving away from us; as space expands, it carries the galaxies along with it; the analogy of spots on an inflating balloon is often used here. We are not at the center, as you might naively think from the astronomical observations that generated the theory; every galaxy would see every other galaxy rushing away from it, and the farther the galaxy the faster the recession [as a result of the geometry of the local perspective].

Now, the idea that the Universe was created in a single moment and has been expanding ever since is used as the generally accepted model of the origin of our cosmos (although there are difficulties). The term "Big Bang" is also a misnomer; nothing really exploded and because the result was the creation of space, the locus of this event is undecidable; an explosion implies something blown outward into something else, but since it was space that was created, there isn't anything into which it could begin and continue expanding.

On the lighter side, a university student riding on a train with Dr. Einstein tapped the great man on the shoulder, and asked: "Excuse me professor, but does New York stop by this train?"


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA