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Top 10 Mind Bending Theories About the Universe
By Robert Grimminck,
Toptenz, 24 May 2015.

The universe is a vast and mysterious place. There are so many mind-boggling parts of our solar system, the universe and beyond that humans often have a hard time wrapping their brains around it. These mysteries are profound and often are connected with the inner workings of the universe and the very existence of life. Needless to say, a lot of these theories that try to answer some of these questions are mind-bending in their own right and could change your whole outlook on reality.

10. We Don’t Know How Many Planets Are In the Solar System


In our solar system, we have eight known planets and five known dwarf planets. We have known about the eight planets and Pluto for the past few centuries, but we still don’t know what is beyond Pluto and still within our solar system, meaning there could quite possibly be more planets that we haven’t discovered yet.

The first evidence of another planet within our solar system first arose after the discovery of two possible dwarf planets - 2012 VP113 and 90377 Sedna. Researchers noticed that something massive was affecting the orbit of these two possible dwarf planets. Astrophysicists believe that beyond the known planets there is a planet 10 times larger than Earth that is affecting their orbit. Beyond that, they believe that there are one or possibly more planets that are more massive than Earth, meaning that it is highly possible that our solar system has at least 10 planets.

These planets would be at least 200 astronomical units away from the Earth. One astronomical unit is the distance of the Sun to the Earth, which is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometres). Due to the great distance, we simply are unable to detect these other possible planets with current instruments.

9. Biological SETI


The biological SETI theory is an interesting pairing of two profound questions about human life. How did humans come into existence and are we alone in the universe? After all, life developing to this point is quite miraculous. Conditions had to be just right for present day humans to exist. Also, the idea that there are other beings living out in space has fascinated people for centuries.

However, what if we weren’t meant to look to the skies for proof of alien life? What if it was written into our own DNA? That is what Vladimir shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute hypothesizes. Their theory is that DNA is one of the most durable constructs in the universe. If intelligent life were sending a message, it would be more effective to code it in our DNA, rather than send something like radio transmissions. Essentially, they are arguing that if there are cells in the human genome that cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution, then it is possible those cells are a signature, or a designer tag. They also point out how amazingly logical the human genome is. They believe that something as straightforward and logical probably came from an advance being, somewhere outside of the solar system. If their theory is correct, then it could possibly answer both questions poised in the opening of this entry; there could be other life in the universe, and they could be the reason we exist.

8. White Holes


Most people have heard of black holes, but what about white holes? In the field of physics, white holes are a bit mythical; one has never been found, but it is possible for them to exist. The theory is that they are very much like a black hole, except for one main difference; you can’t leave a black hole once you enter and you can only leave a white hole, you can’t enter them. This means that black holes are entrances only, while white holes are exits only. Due to this binary, some physicists believe that black holes and white holes are actually the ends of wormholes. Meaning that someone, or something, could enter in the black hole and end up in some other part of space or in a completely different time once they come out the white hole.

However, this is all speculative because, as mentioned before, a white hole has never been found. In fact, some physicists believe that it is unlikely that they exist. They believe that if you sent something into a black hole, it would just get stuck there and eventually the black hole will get jammed up. Nevertheless, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, white holes are possible.

7. Quantum Entanglement

Quantum Entanglement is a strange, physical phenomenon where tiny particles, like electrons, that were formerly entangled, interact with each other even after they are separated. This is seen when physicists measure a particle, because when it is measured it changes the property of the particle. The interesting thing is that if you change one particle, it also changes the one it was formerly entangled with. This is true, even if the two particles are a galaxy apart. It was such a problem for Einstein, that he called it “spooky actions at a distance,” because it happened instantly, which is faster than the speed of light and went against his theory of relativity.

The leading theory is that, somehow, the two particles do manage to communicate with each other. The question then arises; can we communicate at faster than light speed using quantum entanglement? Unfortunately, that will not happen because quantum entanglements are random and we will not be able to send a message.

Understandably, this is a complicated subject, which even troubled Albert Einstein. If you wish to learn more about this topic, please watch the video posted above.

6. Baby Universes are Born in Black Holes


One of the most mysterious aspects of the known universe are black holes. There are a number of theories about what they are and what they do, but no one is exactly sure. One theory is that black holes are actually mothers that give birth to “baby universes.” What’s interesting is if the theory is true, then our universe is inside a black hole, which is in a black hole, which is in a black hole and so on.

While it is still a theory, it does help explain one mystery about the universe. Knowing the universe’s rate of expansion, the universe is actually bigger than it should be. Physicists believe that in the fraction of a second after the Big Bang, it picked up power before tapering off. This fraction of a second is a period known as “inflation.” No one is sure what caused the inflation, but it’s quite possible that particles within a black hole could have caused the inflation. Without going into too much details about black holes, basically there are spinning half particles in them. When these half particles interact with each other, it creates a repulsive force called torsion. The torsion would explain the inflation because it would have given the Big Bang a little bit of extra thrust.

Black holes being mothers also helps explain why time works the way it does. In its simplest terms, our universe inherited the arrow of time from the mother black hole.

5. Space-Time is a Slippery Fluid

Space-time is the concept where time and space are connected. For example, humans on Earth experience space in three dimensions and the fourth dimension is time. The combination of these four dimensions would be considered space-time.

Have you ever thought what space-time feels like? It’s kind of a silly question because space and time don’t have a feel, right? Well, according to physicists, they believe that space-time is actually a slippery substance referred to as superfluid. A superfluid is a type of fluid that has almost no friction or viscosity. One substance that is a superfluid is liquid helium when it is cooled to two degrees just above the coldest possible temperature, absolute zero. Essentially, a superfluid has so little friction that it makes water seem like molasses.

If space-time were actually fluid, it would help align two branches of physic’s, quantum physics and Albert Einstein’s general theory. Neither of them can properly describe what happens to particles when space-time undergoes a drastic change, like at the birth of a black hole.

4. The Ekypyrotic Scenario


The prevailing theory of how the universe came into existence was the Big Bang. In that first second after the Big Bang, most of the universe was created and it is still expanding. A mind-blowing question is, what sparked the Big Bang? According to the Ekypyrotic universe theory by Paul Steinhardt, a physics professor at Princeton it was caused by the collision of two three-dimensional worlds (branes) in a space with a fourth dimension. According to the theory, two flat three-dimensional worlds (like strings) collided with each other and stuck together. This collision caused a kinetic energy to create a flat big bang universe, which is the universe in which we live. However, this goes against the mainstream belief that the Big Bang erupted out of singularity. If the theory of an Ekypyrotic universe is correct, it raises interesting questions about what is the outside of universe.

3. The Universe is Lopsided


In a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, there was a large burst, which gave the Big Bang a bit more thrust. This thrust is called inflation. It was believed that this inflation made the afterglow of the Big Bang, called the cosmic microwave background, pretty similar throughout the universe. However, data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite show that this may not be true. In fact, according to the data, one side of the known universe is warmer than the other. The result is that the universe is lopsided.

Two theories as to why the universe is asymmetrical are that there is an energy field that is warping our universe. Another theory is that it is warped because it is bruised from bumping into another an universe or universes. Researchers said that if the universe is lopsided it probably will not really affect our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics, but again goes back to the question of what is outside our universe.

2. Our Universe May Collide With Another One


The multiverse theory is a fairly well known, and mind-boggling, theory. Essentially, there are other universes that are parallel to our own. One of the best analogies to explain it is like apartment floors; they are all connected, but separate. The problem is what happens if one of those universes doesn’t stay parallel and collides with our own? If that were to happen, we probably wouldn’t be able to tell because it would hit us at the speed of light. However, if we were able to slow it down, it would be like a giant mirror coming from the sky. That would be the last thing we see, because after the collision, we would all die.

The good news is that is a worse case scenario and there is only a small probability that another universe will collide with us. Some physicists also believe that it is possible a collision with another universe has already happened.

1. The Fermi Paradox


The Fermi paradox in its simplest terms is “where is everybody?” Why have we not come across some trace of an advanced civilization? There are four basic pillars to the argument. The first is that our solar system isn’t that special, there are billions of other stars in the galaxy. If you compare the age of the sun to other stars, our sun is fairly young, by billions of years. Since our sun is just a normal star and if the Earth is just a normal planet, it is quite possible that there could be other Earth-like planets. Out of all those planets, even if a few developed interstellar travel at a pace similar to humans, then it would take a few tens of millions of years for just one of them to colonize the entire universe. Yet, despite the seemingly high probability that there should be some form of life at some point in the 13.8 billion year history of the universe, we have never found a single definitive artefact or evidence that there is anyone else in this universe except for us.

This leads to a few brain-bending theories, such as the zoo hypothesis, which is the notion that alien life is purposely staying away and could be observing us without our knowledge. Or that life is simply a computer simulation and the program is simply written where we’re the only ones in the universe.

Top image: The detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe created from nine years of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image and some links added.]