Copyright, Anz Epsilon, 2007
(c) all rights reserved
Astronomers from the University of Minnesota have announced the discovery of a large void in deep space believed to be 5-10 billion light years away. This large expanse of space, which seemingly has no matter in it, is believed to be about 1-billion light years long. A billion light years equates to about 6-billion trillion miles (so I've read).
The thing that should concern those of us who really want a good comprehension of Nature, is that 5-10 billion light years in distance also represents 5-10 billion years in time (with present day technology). There is no technology to observe anything faster than the speed of light (we have no way to transmit and receive data back faster than the speed of light, and we have no receptor technology to receive anything going faster than the speed of light). In other words, these guys are making estimates on something with data that is 5-10 billion years old.
Now, that's ok, with a little calculus (even some simple math) amazingly correct conclusions can be made with old, even faint, data. However, we have some serious issues and concepts that must be worked through.
Number one, and foremost, everything that we are reading and hearing about on this has been simplified and somewhat misrepresented. Our popular press in the western world is not a good source for the whole truth. It's not that all of them are yellow journalists (though many are), sometimes the simple omission of a small detail (for what ever reason - editorial etc.) can make a big difference. This is especially true in math and science.
Another thing of great concern to us should be the percentage of existence. What I mean by that is the existence of our universe. Five to ten billion years represents a tremendous percentage of existence - the big bang (sideswipe, collision, or whatever it was) was only about 15-billion years ago. Five to ten billion years represents one to two thirds of the age of that which we have available to comprehend (or miscomprehend which ever the case may be). In other words, it is one to two thirds of the age of our universe.
Why is percentage of existence (age/time/spacetime) important? Let's bring it home in, yet again, a very over simplified example. If you placed a 60-year-old Anglo-American man directly behind a life size portrait of when he was only 20-years old, and then moved him half way around the world to China, would a new comer (us) looking at the portrait be able to find him? Yes, because certain Anglo-American traits would stick out and calculations of direction and speed would assist us in locating those traits (in a land of people from Asian descent). That is also true for the void, but like the man, it will not be in the same place and it will not look like the image we were given. Could you do it at the age of forty? I know, this is all comparing apples and oranges, but perhaps it's a more adequate metaphor than I think.
There is potential for other theories here that deserve equal opportunity for stature and study. Example being, what they are looking at could be a curvature of spacetime as it appeared 5-10 billion years ago. Like looking into a mirror with another mirror directly behind you, the fabric of spacetime curves. Yes, again another over simplified simile, but perhaps it too deserves more credit than I am willing to give it. Everything in Nature curves, and if not completing a circular motion, at least giving that rounded affect that in the art community is sometimes called rounding.
Yes, these astronomers at the University of Minnesota need to be commended on their discovery, but let's not limit ourselves to a potential wrong course of thinking until we have better technology and evidence.