What the Hell is Outside the Universe?
By Johnny Apocalypse
September 1, 2011
So there I was, poking around in Martin Cohen's book "101 Philosophical Problems" (a great book if you want to give your brain a workout). I flipped to a random page, and saw a pretty short paragraph mentioning a minor bit of knowledge about space, the point of it being that planets are within solar systems, which are within galaxies, which are within the universe. But the question at hand was "what is outside of the universe?"
For some reason, this question has really hit me. The basic concept of the universe itself is somewhat easy to fathom, this "massive chunk of outer space" containing all of these planets and galaxies. That's a pretty generic explanation, but for now it'll do. Now according to some, the universe hasn't been proven to be finite in size- it may be infinite. That effectively does away with the question. Sadly, there are also many who conclude the universe is in fact finite in size (and expanding), which means that there would technically be a border, and an "inside" and "outside" of the universe. But what the hell is outside?
So I tried to come up with some ideas on my own. Since the empty parts of the universe is generally considered a vacuum, I thought that maybe outside of the universe was complete nothingness- not even a vacuum. Then I started thinking of the term "less then a vacuum" and I got a headache.
Then I thought that maybe the term "outside of the universe" was faulty. Maybe the word "outside" is simply a creation of the human mind to help describe the positioning of objects, and would have no meaning outside of our heads. Perhaps upon crossing the universe's border, one enters a region where prepositional phrases have no meaning- no up, down, inside or outside. But then it hit me that this cannot work in the terms of the human mind. Once the universe's border is crossed, there would have to be at least two existing prepositional concepts, "inside" and "outside". A human leaves the universe, he knows that he is outside of it and not inside. The only way outside could have no meaning was if the concept was fundamentally flawed, or the human mind ignorant in how the term could not have proper application in this context. Let that idea sink in for a second, and try to imagine how it could possibly exist- you're outside the universe, but in a realm where there's no such thing as "outside". Seems paradoxical.
So then I turned to the most trustworthy information source I could think of: Yahoo Answers. It's a great set-up: you ask a question and random people answer, and aside from getting a few worthless answers, you usually get something pretty solid. It turned out that I didn't even have to post the question --- several people had already asked it.
Let's see, first answer. "Outside of the universe, there is only GOD." God is even entirely in caps. Huh. Well that's all well and good, but what are the poor atheists going to do with that answer? Moving on.
Well this next answer isn't very helpful either. Just some guy recommending that I learn calculus, Einstein's theories of general and special relativity, quantum physics. Sheesh, I'm only curious about this, I don't need a bunch of fancy degrees. Maybe Yahoo Answers wasn't the best way to go.
Let's try Wikipedia's page on the Universe. Hmm. totality of everything that exists. concepts related to space-time connectedness. approximate age over 13 billion years old. nothing about what's outside of it? Well that's just bullshit. Let this be a lesson to all of you reading this. The internet may seem like a good place to get information, but it's really best for porn. One gigantic porn storage device, and nothing about what's outside of the universe.
I imagine the reason there's not much said about the outside of the universe is because we're having a hard enough time figuring out what's going on inside of it. We've busted our asses understanding how a star is formed and how it keeps burning, learning about anti-matter (and now dark energy), and we've dabbled in coming up with a unified field theory and failed miserable. That is, unless that "string theory" nonsense turns out to be true. Everything's made up of tiny strings of energy my ass. Tiny mobius-strips of energy seems more likely to me.
Digging further into the issue, I discover that the universe may well be "unbounded", meaning it has a specific size but no actual boundary, nothing "enclosing" it. That would make it pretty hard to tell where the universe ends, wouldn't it? One minute you're cruising through space in your rocket ship, the next you've passed outside of the universe. I'm sure that some of the brainiac physicists out there could come up with some ways to know when you actually left it, if they haven't already.
Now take the idea that there is no boundary to the universe, and then toss in the multi-verse theory, which says that there could be/are multiple universes out there, not just our own. If they both have no boundary, what would stop them from "flowing" into each other? I imagine it would be like two waves hitting each other in the ocean, they crash together, and settle back into the water. But then two universes could just bump into each other, mingle and become a "one-universe-multi-verse".
It seems to me, that if there is in fact no boundary to the universe, we should create one. Find something to wrap the universe in, so other universes don't try to get mixed in with us, and keep whatever the hell is outside of the universe out (I've spontaneously become convinced that whatever is outside of the universe, it probably isn't good). What could we possibly use to encase the universe? I suggest plumber's tape.
Plumber's tape, also called thread seal tape, is the greatest stuff in the world. Some pipe fittings will leak, no matter what you do. Using washers doesn't do anything, wrapping them in paper towels or condoms won't work, and using solder is a bad idea if you ever want to open that pipe back up. That's where plumber's tape comes in so handy. A few layers of this, and no more leaky pipes. And I'll wager that if we wrap the universe in it, it'll stop expanding. After all, water's a pretty tough substance to keep flowing in pipes without a leak, and if the plumber's tape can handle it, it can handle the universe.
Okay, that really turned into a lot of rambling there. Maybe that philosophy problems book is going to turn me psychotic. Eh, screw it. If thinking about what's outside of the universe is going to cost me my sanity, then I'll probably lose it some other way just as easily. At least philosophy problems will be a fun way to lose my mind.
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