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At 1,789,549 mph, that's a hell of a flow ...
September 1, 2009 8:03 PM   Subscribe

"You have no idea how big that is. This is giant on a scale where it's not just that we can't see what's doing it; it's that the entire makeup of the universe as we understand it can't be right if this is happening."
posted by WCityMike (84 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that sucks.
posted by xorry at 8:06 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


The comments on that article are depressing.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 8:08 PM on September 1, 2009


I was gonna do a Dune reference for the title, but hey, call me a wimp but "the dark must flow" sounds too creepy.
posted by WCityMike at 8:08 PM on September 1, 2009


Good luck with all of that.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:09 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


<>/Seinfeld>
posted by paisley henosis at 8:10 PM on September 1, 2009


bugger
posted by paisley henosis at 8:10 PM on September 1, 2009


Spooky.
posted by Artw at 8:10 PM on September 1, 2009


[more inside]
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 8:12 PM on September 1, 2009 [27 favorites]


All the biggest stars have table reservations at Milliways.
posted by tellurian at 8:14 PM on September 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


Explained.
posted by maudlin at 8:15 PM on September 1, 2009 [15 favorites]


That's kind of a crappy blog post. It talks about "scientists" knowing something but dosn't even say who they are or where they work, let alone give us a citation. They do link to this more detailed article though. I love that they discovered this motion based on soemthing called the "Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect."
posted by delmoi at 8:15 PM on September 1, 2009


So, the upshot is that the universe is potentially way, way bigger than we thought?

Cool, ever more definitions for "Gin & Tonic."
posted by oddman at 8:19 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Metal.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2009


The good news is that we found out what's happening - They are all heading towards the "Free Cookies" Galaxy, at the edge of the Universe. The intern mailed everyone about the cookies.

The bad news... well... once all those galaxies get there they're going to start looking for milk to go with the cookies..
posted by qvantamon at 8:23 PM on September 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


"they're going to start looking for milk"

I see what you did there.
posted by oddman at 8:26 PM on September 1, 2009


Jesus. I've only just explored most of the KNOWN Universe, and you're telling me there's more?? Thanks a lot, Science! ::grumble::
posted by LordSludge at 8:27 PM on September 1, 2009


"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:29 PM on September 1, 2009 [18 favorites]


We need a mind like Donald Rumsfeld's to tell us whether this is a known unknown, or something.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:34 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, that? That's just some large hadrons colliding. Hardly worth mentioning, really.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 PM on September 1, 2009


I don't think it's known whether this is a known unknown or an unknown unknown, so I think it's outta Rummies league. It seems like an unknown unknown unknown unknown at first blush.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:44 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Awesome...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:46 PM on September 1, 2009


Would everybody chill out for a minute? It's not like there's some giant "dark flow" out there sucking whole galaxies into the unknown and we don't have even a basic understanding of what's going on or something...

Wait a minute...Oh, dude...
posted by silkyd at 8:46 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


The blog post was not particularly well-written, which makes it, in the context of trying to explain cosmology, kind of useless.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:48 PM on September 1, 2009


Maybe if enough of us lean west at the same time, we can get in on this action. One, two, three, GO!
posted by hermitosis at 8:50 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by homunculus at 8:53 PM on September 1, 2009


Someday someone is actually going to realize how frickin' big the collisions, explosions, blowback, backdrafts and eddies in the universe can be...
posted by Muirwylde at 8:59 PM on September 1, 2009


The Hubble constant is something like 55 km/sec/megaparsec. Let's assume that this is happening 25 billion light years away (we know some quasars that are further away) - so that's about 7.5 megaparsecs. Which works out to 400 km/sec.

Which, given my low precision and vague memories of these values, is oddly close to the reported speed these things are moving. Interesting.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:02 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]



posted by Liver at 9:02 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I've told WCityMike once, I've told him a billion gazillion times to memorize all of homunculus' 1000+ excellent posts or you're going to duplicate a topic, and with inferior linkage. But then, after 1000+ posts, is there any topic ol' homey hasn't covered? Just goes to show you, the MetaFilter Universe is smaller and has less surprises than you think...
posted by wendell at 9:10 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok, Zarniwoop - turn off the total perspective vortex.
posted by HannoverFist at 9:12 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the Wiki article: "Telescopes cannot see events earlier than about 380,000 years after the Big Bang, when the universe became transparent"

Consider my mind blown. The universe wasn't always transparent? Could someone care to explain this to me as if I were a 6-year-old child?
posted by papafrita at 9:20 PM on September 1, 2009


The universe wasn't always transparent?

Haven't you ever looked at the Universe? I mean, like, reeeeeeally looked at it, man?
posted by The World Famous at 9:35 PM on September 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


The universe wasn't always transparent? Could someone care to explain this to me as if I were a 6-year-old child?

cobbling together things:

Before that point, the universe was too hot for atoms. So the universe was a soup of protons and neutrons and electrons all whizzing around. And light couldn't get through the fog of electrons. If you and I were somehow there, and I shone a magic flashlight at you, the beam would just get sucked up by the electrons, and you wouldn't see it. There would just be a glowing, uniform, featureless fog in every direction. Also you would vaporize, so that's funny.

Around 380000 years after the Grand Kaboom, things cooled down enough for protons to start grabbing electrons and making hydrogen atoms. So there weren't all these free, promiscuous electrons flitting about getting in the way of the light, and the universe became transparent.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:43 PM on September 1, 2009 [25 favorites]


We need a mind like Donald Rumsfeld's to tell us whether this is a known unknown, or something.

Unknown unknown. We didn't know we didn't know it. The equation that unifies gravity with the other fundamental forces=known unknown.

Could someone care to explain this to me as if I were a 6-year-old child?

Well, if I've understood wiki correctly, they say it took approximately 380,000 years after the big bang for shit to cool down enough to form light and atoms. Before that everything was just sub atomic particles and plasma. No photons, can't observe. It seems they call it this moment the decoupling from the surface of last scattering, which is a rather pretty phrase if difficult to wrap one's mind around. (So....before then the universe was an invisible ball of energy-matter. Okeyly-dokely. Hard to picture, though.)
posted by Diablevert at 9:48 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks, haltingproblemsolved. If only those links were in the actual FPP.
posted by crossoverman at 9:51 PM on September 1, 2009


(So....before then the universe was an invisible ball of energy-matter. Okeyly-dokely. Hard to picture, though.)

It's not that hard, really; you just take our current universe and get rid of all the space.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:55 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I see. So it's like New York City...
posted by qvantamon at 10:04 PM on September 1, 2009


I see. So it's like New York City...

Yes, but with slightly less garbage smell, slightly more urine smell, and no brake dust ever gets in your eyes.
posted by The World Famous at 10:10 PM on September 1, 2009



Last year, I spent a whole week thinking about the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect. It was a good week. Tonight, I'll go to sleep thinking about it.
posted by neuron at 10:16 PM on September 1, 2009


I recall seeing a documentary TV series, one episode of which was on the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect (well, CMBR, anyway), another episode about the invention of magnetic tape—sciency stuff like that. Hey, what was that show? Some old British guy hosted it, IIRC. Saw it in the nineties, but the show might be older. It's been bugging me forever!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 PM on September 1, 2009


Sometimes, I read something mind boggling about cosmology, and then glance at google news or some other random news site and see a headline "Conservatives oppose gay unions" or some such idiocy and the contrast makes my boggled mind even more boggly. Here we are, contemplating vast mysteries and stunning phenomena on a scale that defies human imagination, and here on this tiny speck of a planet, some overgrown apes are concerned that somebody or other might be putting their wee-wees in this orifice rather than that AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE ABOUT IT!!!ONEELEVENTY!!!UNO! And then I think...

OK, back to galaxies.
posted by VikingSword at 10:45 PM on September 1, 2009 [18 favorites]


Minor armchair-physicist quibble: before the universe cooled enough to form neutral atoms, there were still photons and light, they just couldn't go anywhere— the universe was filled with conductive opaque/scattering plasma.

Perhaps if you go back farther, to an even hotter era, there was a time before which photons didn't exist as such.
posted by hattifattener at 11:04 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was all just a nice warm quark plasma once. Then the universe cooled and property values have never been the same.

From haltingproblemsolved's second link:

"A theory called inflation posits that the universe we see is just a small bubble of space-time that got rapidly expanded after the Big Bang. There could be other parts of the cosmos beyond this bubble that we cannot see.

In these regions, space-time might be very different, and likely doesn't contain stars and galaxies (which only formed because of the particular density pattern of mass in our bubble). It could include giant, massive structures much larger than anything in our own observable universe. These structures are what researchers suspect are tugging on the galaxy clusters, causing the dark flow."


Giant, massive structures beyond the limits of the observable universe. So. Freakin'. Cool!
posted by Kevin Street at 11:14 PM on September 1, 2009


Hurray! The restaurant at the end of the world is real. Everyone is going.
posted by Cranberry at 11:42 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


well, now i've done it. i've gone and rolled my eyes so far back in my head that they've actually gotten stuck. now listen...i am NEVER the Cunty McSnarkmeister that asks "Seriously, this is the best of the web?" but...
Seriously, this is the best of the web? A 'science' article with exclamation points? really?
posted by sexyrobot at 11:50 PM on September 1, 2009


Maybe so. But the additional links are pretty neat.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:23 AM on September 2, 2009


Cosmos is available for viewing on Netflix now. The entire series. I think everyone should go watch it again and then delve into this subject anew.

Total derail.
posted by daq at 12:24 AM on September 2, 2009


why, even a casual google of 'dark flow' turns up 2 newscientist articles...newscientist is a good thing (it's no sciam, but still...)
and omg i just have to say it again. exclamation points? really? really?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:28 AM on September 2, 2009


4th meal?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:35 AM on September 2, 2009


If we are seeing something at the edge of the known universe then we are seeing something that happened more than 20 billion years ago. No use abandoning the Titanic today.
posted by vapidave at 1:19 AM on September 2, 2009


Big bang, big crunch
You know there's no free lunch
Kneel down and pray
Here comes your judgment day.
posted by lekvar at 1:26 AM on September 2, 2009


Giant, massive structures beyond the limits of the observable universe. So. Freakin'. Cool!

that's what she said.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 4:23 AM on September 2, 2009


*Narrows eyes and stares at Kid Charlemagne* I see you'll be playing Alan Sandage for this one!
posted by adipocere at 4:43 AM on September 2, 2009


at the end of the universe is a kind of double universe, rather like this one but with less detail.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:59 AM on September 2, 2009


"No photons, can't observe"
There's a huge amount of photons - the point is they can't get anywhere without hitting something.
posted by edd at 5:13 AM on September 2, 2009


This reminds me of Sagan's book, Contact, where the aliens talk about a construction project on the scale of galaxies - an attempt to reverse or delay entropy in the universe. We might want to at least be open to the idea that not all astronomical observations are due to "natural" forces
posted by crayz at 5:18 AM on September 2, 2009


Bolder's Ring
When Jim Bolder flew to the Great Attractor in the Qax's captured nightfighter, what he found was astonishing. All matter in the universe was falling towards the object's massive gravity well. Even more astounding, this object and indeed the entire motion of the galaxies themselves appeared to be the work of the Xeelee, who were using the mass to create a ring of cosmic strings several million light years in diameter.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:23 AM on September 2, 2009


[this space reserved for Creationists to assert that this "certain part of the sky" that stuff is rushing to is You-Know-Who]
posted by Artful Codger at 5:25 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


David Hasselhoff?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Voldemort?
posted by marginaliana at 6:17 AM on September 2, 2009


Pipe harder! He's waking up! Seriously, what's the point of going with the Eldritch Union of Mad Pipers, Flautists, and Buglers Local 666 if you need to end up hiring scabs* to cover for the union-mandated breaks?

* We're gave some slightly off-kilter accordionists a try and hoped Azathoth wouldn't notice the change.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:36 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here we are, contemplating vast mysteries and stunning phenomena on a scale that defies human imagination, and here on this tiny speck of a planet, some overgrown apes are concerned that somebody or other might be putting their wee-wees in this orifice rather than that AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE ABOUT IT!!!ONEELEVENTY!!!UNO!

Of course, on that scale the holocaust was pretty trivial too. Where do you set the bar?
posted by CaseyB at 6:46 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


All those galaxies got the news we won't get for billions of years: There's a sale!

But perhaps there is something in the metaverse moving too close to the universe, causing gravitational attraction to interact where it normally would not. If whatever it is touches our brane, we're doomed.

The question is, would the doom travel at the speed of light, or faster?
posted by Goofyy at 6:49 AM on September 2, 2009


I love it when "scientists" try to explain things to the layman. (video)
posted by yeti at 6:57 AM on September 2, 2009


Outside Context Problem.
posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Galactus' All-Star Buffet.
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 AM on September 2, 2009


Or maybe Galactus Conveyor Belt Sushi.
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on September 2, 2009


I recall seeing a documentary TV series, one episode of which was on the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect (well, CMBR, anyway), another episode about the invention of magnetic tape—sciency stuff like that. Hey, what was that show? Some old British guy hosted it, IIRC. Saw it in the nineties, but the show might be older. It's been bugging me forever!

Sys Rq, perhaps you're thinking of Connections?
posted by nushustu at 7:27 AM on September 2, 2009


Talking of vaguely unsettling difficult to comprehend sciency stuff, turns out time might be an illusion.
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on September 2, 2009


I guess that timing attack against the universe finally succeeded.
posted by Kikkoman at 7:32 AM on September 2, 2009


Sometimes I can't quite shake off the feeling that cosmologists have all had three martinis for breakfast.
posted by Phanx at 7:34 AM on September 2, 2009



Talking of vaguely unsettling difficult to comprehend sciency stuff, turns out time might be an illusion.


Oh yeah, we can totally reverse time. You capture the quantum data of an event or thing or whatever at a moment in time, preserving the wave-form and keeping in flux in a kind of limbo-prison for quarks. It's a simple matter of computation and storage, we've got a few moons devoted to this project, so it's no bigger. Replay the quanta data and the wave-form reverses itself, eggs go unbroken, water becomes ice, you take back things you said, all of it.

Of course, it has to do with the perception of the viewer, If you're not careful, you end up with a whole live chicken in your omelet, or worse. But we've mostly got it under control with the Causality Locks. Mostly.

The official name is the Quantum Disentanglement Data Record And Retrieval Project, or QDDRR ("Quder"), but everyone around here just calls it "Save Point".
posted by The Whelk at 7:43 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, whatever this damn thing is, we have to turn the Large Hadron Collider into a giant cannon to blow it the fuck out of the sky. We can use the Yellowstone supervolcano to power the cannon. And, yes, I get to pull the trigger because it's my damn idea.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:44 AM on September 2, 2009


Which would be an amazing, if humbling, discovery.

I found this kind of funny, because when I try to imagine the distances involved in just our own galaxy, I'm regularly pretty humbled.

Kevin Street : Giant, massive structures beyond the limits of the observable universe. So. Freakin'. Cool!

On the one hand, I completely agree with you; the concept is nothing short of mind blowing. On the other, and I'll admit that this is a personal failing of mine, my first thought on reading that was to immediately go all sci-fi horror and wonder what kind of Old Ones called these structures their homes and what flavor of mind flaying they had in store for us when we finally encountered them.
posted by quin at 8:30 AM on September 2, 2009


Sys Rq, perhaps you're thinking of Connections?

Yes! Thanks, nushustu!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:58 AM on September 2, 2009


Around 380000 years after the Grand Kaboom...

OK astrodudes. If the universe expanded at the speed of light, then it would be 380,000 light years in radius 380,000 years after the Almighty Asplosion. Yet I am fairly certain that the accepted story is that it was larger than that. Either I misremembered this, or I misunderstand some basic thing about time, space, the universe, and everything. In either case makes brain hurt please help.
posted by Mister_A at 11:25 AM on September 2, 2009


Mister_A, I believe the current working theory is that the universe expanded more rapidly than the speed of light just after the Grand Kaboom.

Ask An Astronomer has an article on the subject which might help explain.

(Believe me, you're not alone in the 'brain hurt' department. It's inevitable when people start throwing around analogies comparing the universe to dough and galaxies to baseballs, etc.)
posted by Kikkoman at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, see I thought you couldn't go faster than the speed of light – Carl Sagan told me so! I'll check out your link, if I'm not back in an hour, it's cuz my brain hurts.
posted by Mister_A at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2009


Hmm... so the speed of light limit applies to the motion of things within the framework of the observable universe, but not to the speed of expansion of that very framework. Interesting!
posted by Mister_A at 1:15 PM on September 2, 2009


Well stated.

(I'll submit this to the engineering boys. It could be applicable to a variety of delicious baked goods.)
posted by Kikkoman at 1:25 PM on September 2, 2009


A 'science' article with exclamation points? really?

If there was ever a finding in the entire history of everything ever that called for exclamation points -- I'd say this was probably it.
posted by webmutant at 1:33 PM on September 2, 2009


“It was all just a nice warm quark plasma once. Then the universe cooled and property values have never been the same.”
Yeah, straight outta Compton.
(fuck tha photons comin straight from the background, a young dwarf got it bad 'cause I'm brown, I'm light as a particle so electrons think, they have the density to distort field intensity)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


That was totally going to be the title of my debut rap album.
posted by Eideteker at 9:13 AM on September 3, 2009


thatwhichfalls: Thanks for mentioning that Stephen Baxter has already wrote about this, wrote it before it was found (although who knows why it exists)! It is good 'hard' Sci-Fi. More fascinating that we found a similar anomaly in space, I like it when reality is as difficult and mysterious as Sci-Fi. It furthers the idea that we are making it up as we go along.
posted by uni verse at 10:37 PM on September 3, 2009


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