The Center of the Universe

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The discovery of the center of the universe led to a series of unexpected consequences. It killed some, it enlightened others, but most people just were left utterly confused in the end.

When the results from the Total Radiating Universal Tessellation Hyperfield satellites measurements came in, it became depressingly clear that the universe was indeed contracting. Very slowly, but without any reasonable doubt — or, as the physicists said, they were five sigma sure about it. As the data from the measurements became available, physicists, cosmologists, topologists, even a few mathematically inclined philosophers, and a huge number of volunteers started to investigate it. And after a short period of time, they came to a whole set of staggering conclusions.

First, the Universe had a rather simple four-dimensional form. The only unfortunate blemishes in this theory were the black holes, but most of the volunteers, philosophers, and topologists decided to ignore these as accidental.

Second, the form was bounded. There was a beginning and an end in time, and there were boundaries in space, and those who understood that these were the same were enlightened about the form of the universe.

Third, since the form of the universe was bounded and simple, it had a center. Whereas this was slightly surprising it was a necessary consequence of the previous findings. What first seemed exciting, but soon will turn out not to be only the heart of this report, but the heart of all humanity, was that the data collected by the satellites allowed to calculate the position of the center of the universe.

Before that, let me recapture what we traditionally knew about how the universe is built. Our sun is a star, around which a few planets travel, one of them being our Earth. Our sun is one of a few tens of billions of stars that form a long curved thread which ties around a supermassive black hole. A small number of such threads are tangled together, forming the spiral arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Our galaxy consists of half a trillion stars like our sun.

Galaxies, like everything else in the universe, like to stick together and form groups. A few hundred thousand galaxies make up a supercluster. A few of these superclusters together build enormous walls of stars, filaments traversing the universe. The galaxies of such a wall are all in a single plane, more or less, and sometimes even in a single line.

Between these walls, walls made of superclusters and galaxies and stars and planets, there is, basically, nothing. The walls of stars are like gigantic honeycombs, and between them, are enormous empty spaces, hundred million of light years wide. When you look at a honeycomb, you will see that the empty spaces between the walls are much, much larger than the walls themselves. Such is the universe. You might think that the distance from here to the next grocery store is quite far, or that the ocean is quite big. But the distance from the earth to the sun is so much bigger, and the distance from the sun to the next star again so much more. And from our galaxy to the next, there is a huge empty space. Nevertheless, our galaxy is so close to the next group of galaxies that they together form a building block of a huge wall, separating two unimaginable large empty spaces from each other.

So when we figured out that we can calculate the center of the universe, it was widely expected that the center would be somewhere in one of those vast spaces of nothing. The chances that it would be in one of the filaments were tiny.

It turned out that this was not a question of chance.

The center of the universe was not only inside of a filament, but the first quick calculations (quick, though, has to be understood as taking three and a half years) suggested that the center is actually within our filament. And not only within our filament — but our galaxy. Within a one light year radius of our sun.

The team that made these calculations was working at a small research institute in rural Japan. They did not believe the results, and double and triple checked them. The head of the institute had graduated from Princeton, and called his former advisor there. Although it was deep in the night in Japan, they talked for many hours. In the end he learned that Princeton has made the same calculations, and received their own results about eight months ago. They didn’t dare to publish them. There must have been a mistake. These results had to be wrong.

Science has humiliated the whole of humanity again and again. And it was quite successful in doing so. A scientist would much easier accept that the center of the universe is some mathematical construct pointing to nothing than what the infallible mathematics indicated. But the data was out. And the number of people making the above mentioned realizations and calculations continued growing. It was only a matter of time. And when the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro finally published the results — in a carefully written paper, without any accompanying press release, and formulated so cautiously and defensively — all the scientists who already knew the results held their breath.

The storm was unimaginable. Everyone demanded an explanation, but no one would listen to anyone offering one. The religions rejoiced, claiming they knew it all along, and many flocked to the mosques and churches and temples, as a proof of God was finally found. The irony of science leading humans to the embrace of religion was profoundly lost at that time, but later recognized as one of the largest jokes in history. Science has dealt its ultimate humiliation, not to humanity, but perversely to its most devout followers, the scientists. The scientists, who, while trashing the superiority of humans over the world, were secretly inflating their own, and were now reminded that they were merely slaves to a most cruel mistress. Their bitter resistance to the results did not stop them from emerging.

The mathematics and calculations were soon made public. The mathematics were deceptively simple, once the required factorizations were done, and easy to check. High school courses went through the proofs, and desperate parents peeked over the shoulders of their daughters and sons who, sometimes for the first time, talked of integrals and imaginary numbers. Television and streaming platforms were explaining discriminants and complex numbers and roots of higher degrees. Websites offering math courses bent under the load and moral weight.

There is one weird thing about roots. The root of a number is the number that, multiplied with itself, gives you the original number. The weird thing is that there is usually not a single, unique result to that question. For example, the root of the number four is not just two, but also minus two, as minus two times minus two results in four, too. There are two roots of the second degree (which we usually call the square root). There are three roots of the third degree (sometimes called the cube root). There are four roots of the fourth degree. And so on. All of them are correct. Sometimes you can discard one or the other because the result has to fit certain constraints (say, you are looking only for the positive root of four), but sometimes, you can not.

As the calculations went public, the methods became more and more refined. The results became increasingly precise, and as the data from the satellites poured in, one of the last steps involved a root of the seventh degree. First, this was regarded as a minor curiosity, especially because these seven results led to basically the same point. Cosmologically speaking.

Earth is moving. Earth is moving around the sun, with a speed of a sixty seven thousand miles per hour, or eighteen miles each second. Also the sun is moving, and the earth is moving with the sun, and our galaxy is moving, and with our galaxy the sun moves along, and with the sun our earth. We are racing with a speed of a thousand miles each second in some direction away from the center of the universe.

And it was realized, maybe we just passed the center of the universe. Maybe it was just an accident, maybe all the planets and stars pass the center of the universe at some point. That we are so close to the center of the universe might be just a funny coincidence.

And maybe they are right. Maybe every star will at some point cross the center of the universe within the distance of a light year.

At some point though it was realized that, since the universe was bounded in all four dimensions, there was not only a center in space, but also a center in time, a midpoint between the beginning of the universe and its future end.

All human history is encompassed in the last hundred thousand years. From the mitochondrial Eve and the Y-Chromosomal Adam who lived in Africa, the mother of our mother of our mother, and so on, that we all share, and the father of our father of our father, and so on, that we all share, their descendants, our ancestors, who crossed the then fertile jungle of the Sahara and who afterwards settled the whole planet, painted on the walls of caves and filled the air with music by blowing over grass blades and into hollow bones, wandered over the land bridge connecting Asia with the Americas and traveled over the vast Pacific to discover tiny islands, until the recent invention of the alphabet, all of this happened in the last hundred thousand years. The universe has an age of hundred thousand times a hundred thousand years, roughly. And the fabled midpoint turned out to be within the last few thousand years.

The hopes that our earth was just accidentally next to the center of the universe was shattered. As the precision of the calculations increased, it became clearer and clearer that earth was not merely close to the center of the universe, but back at the midpoint of history, earth was right there in the center. In every single of the seven possible results, Earth was right at the center of the universe. [1]

As the calculations continued over the years, a new class of mystic mathematicians emerged, and many walls between religion and science were shattered. On both sides the unshakeable ones remained: the scientists who would not admit that these results mean anything, that it all is merely a mathematical abstraction; and the priests who say that these results mean nothing, that they don’t tell us about how to live a good life. That these parallels intersect, is the only trace of infinity left.

[1] As the results refined, it seemed that the seven mathematical solutions for the center of time and space turned out to be some very well known dates. So far the precisions calculated was ten years here or there. The well known dates were: 3760 BC, 541 BC, 30 AD, and 610 AD. The other dates turned out to be quite less well known: 10909 BC, 3114 BC, and 1989 AD. The interpretation of the dates led to a well-known series of events all over the world, which we will not discuss here.

(This story was first published on Medium on February 2, 2014 under CC-BY 4.0).

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