The Enigma Of The Universe ► 2 ►Universe In Modern Science ► (A) How Big Is The Universe? ► 1. Dilemma

Posted: 04.10.2014

Before the advent of Einstein’s theory of relativity, there were two views amongst the scientists regarding the dimensions of the universe:

  1. The Universe itself is infinite.
  2. The Universe is an island constituted by matter etc. afloat in an infinite ocean of space.

The main argument in support of the first alternative was: “The Universe has to be infinite, because as soon as we concede that space may come to an end somewhere, we are faced with the embarrassing question, `and what lies beyond that?`. Thus we are forced to hold the view that the Universe is infinite.”[1]

The supporters of the second view based it on Newton’s law of gravitation. They argued: “If we consider the Universe, having uniform distribution of matter, infinite, the law of gravitation prohibits it. For then the total gravitational force of all the masses of matter stretching away to infinity would be infinite, and the Heavens would be ablaze with infinite light.”[2] They, therefore, held that the Universe is finite like an island of matter afloat in an infinite ocean of space.

But this view was also not free from difficulties. It was argued that “the amount of matter the island universe held was so small by contrast with infinity of space that inevitably the dynamic laws, governing the movements of galaxies would cause them to disperse like the droplets of a cloud and the universe would become entirely empty.”[3]

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