Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Surfing on the Wave of the Universe

I've now finished my third week of my Futurelearn Gravity course, which has now achieved a level of mindbendingness that a thousand mile high Uri Geller could not achieve even if he lived in a universe  comprised of nothing but spoons.

We've been talking about the Inflation of the Universe, a theory that states that while the universe was still opaque to light - charged atomic particles absorbed it all at this time - rather than expanding in a constant progression, it suddenly began to expand effectively faster than the speed of light.

The driving force for this was, if you can believe it, energy created by matter and anti matter colliding with each other, this matter being effectively created out of nothing before wiping itself out before it can violate laws of conservation of energy. Eventually the universe encountered a second vacuum that was at a lower energy, and so the expansion slowed to what we know today.

I had no idea how one vacuum could suddenly become one with different properties and felt very stupid for doing so. Luckily, it was pointed out to me that no-one else on the planet does either.

Myself, being a writer with an interest in science rather than a scientist - you don't need to be as intelligent - I preferred to imagine the universe as a big bucket of fluorescent yellow dye. Drop this into a fast flowing stream, and the dye spreads out rapidly, colouring the flow in neon hues as it surfs along the babbling, seething waters representing the vacuum energies our universe rode. But then, an oil slick from a badly run farm stops the flow, stops the expansion, and the dye moves sluggishly along, until eventually, the oil dissipates somewhat, and the dye can flow a little freer again.

It really is a thought provoking course, but one that results in increased tea consumption and chocolate biscuit eating. You need to keep your blood sugar up for this!

Here are some clever people who can draw and talk better than I can write.


All text copyright CreamCrackeredNature 11.11.15


  1. Si, I am afraid I would not like to be on this course - what you say about the theories sails straight over my head.

  2. This is really interesting Simon! I've always been fascinated by the universe and how space works and changes, even if some of it takes me a while to grasp, so this is right up my street! I'm learning a lot at work at the moment so I'm in one of those moods where all new information is exciting and interesting to me. Great post! - Tasha

  3. Thanks for commenting folks, writing about is a form of practice to see if I can make very hard science more literary.

  4. It sounds like a fascinating course!

  5. A lot of it is a bit - a way - above my head - but I'm finding it really interesting.

  6. I like your analogy. I think I learn better with images sometimes. All sounds fascinating.

  7. I've approached it with the object of just enjoying it without worrying too much. Alas I do sometimes, but on the whole, I've enjoyed throwing the universe at me and seeing if any of it sticks.

  8. This course sounds like great mental gymnastics.

  9. Just came back across to say thanks for all of the lovely comments and I couldn't agree more - you have to keep on loving life! - Tasha