The shape of the Universe: Dodecahedral?

There’s an interesting article titled Cosmos is ‘shaped like a football’ over at the BBC News website that talks about an article submitted to the journal Nature on the shape of the Universe. The proposed shape being that of a dodecahedral.

Dodecahedrons, and similar shapes, have long fascinated mankind. Plato believed that the Universe was made up of them.

Leonardo da Vinci also studied them, as did the great astronomer Kepler, who thought the structure of the Solar System was based on geometrical shapes.

Further observations, especially from space probes yet to be launched, may settle the matter, and may at last reveal the hidden geometry of the Universe.

Writing a commentary in Nature, George Ellis of the University of Cape Town, says we live in a Universe “with positively curved space sections and a non-standard topology”.

Indeed, a dodecahedral Universe, were you able to traverse it, would have some interesting properties.

If you went out to the edge of the dodecahedron, you would come back in through the opposite face.

While this has no practical application to day to day life, I still find it fascinating particularly as a video gamer who is fond of 3D games where the basic building blocks tend to be polygons.

3 thoughts on “The shape of the Universe: Dodecahedral?

  1. At the risk of sounding quite foolish, I was always under the impression that the Universe was made up of curly stringy shapes (spirals!)!  Can’t remember where I read this, or whose theory it is, but at the time of reading it I was convinced, and that’s how I’ve always thought of it!

  2. Sounds like you’re talking about string theory which I don’t recall as ever actually trying to describe the shape of the universe. String theory is interesting, but isn’t falsifiable and thus it’s usefulness is questionable.

  3. This first paragraph is just a bit more on the dialogue between Sally and Les. I don’t recall whether or not Briane Greene’s book The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory gets into the shape of the universe, but is does discuss the number of dimensions thought necessary to support string theory, which has to do with the composition of sub-atomic particles. It also suggests a model or structure for the hidden and non-hidden dimensions. (In putting together this post, I found another book by Greene—The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. I am definitely interested in reading that one.)

    Now back to the original post.

    John Whitfeld’s abstract (or discussion?) of the actual article in Nature indicates that a dodecahedral space is just one geometry that could explain the observed patterns in the background radiation. There is no general conscensous on this subject.

    The teaser in Jacob Berkenstein’s lead article in the August edition of Scientific American, Information in the Holographic Universe, is “Theoretical results about black holes suggest that the universe could be like a giant hologram”. The article discusses entropy (information theory), black hole thermodynamics, bounds on information density, and possible cosmologies in which information on the boundry of the universe corresponds to the things inside of the boundry—sort of like holograph. (Superstrings play in here too.)  Berkenstein is careful to point out that the subject has not “reached the status of physical law”. But, he goes on to suggest that field theory may be on its way out.

    OK, What’s my point.

    Just this. Here are two groups of researchers trying to come to grips with the strucrue of the universe from distinctly different starting points. (I suspect that there are still more.) Will they find a common theory that reconciles their approaches or will another theory finally prevail as physical law? Stay tuned, its a fascinating saga. Just wish I understood the dialogues a little better.

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