What is the shape of space?

4 minutes

Why the apparent flatness of space is an enduring cosmological mystery

Empty space isn’t ‘nothing’. Since Albert Einstein, scientists have known that space has distinct physical properties, giving it the ability to bend, ripple and expand. One of its most mysterious characteristics, however, is its apparent flatness, allowing objects travelling on parallel paths to continue on parallel paths unless acted upon by the gravitational force of another object – a feature of the Universe that appears to be ‘a gigantic, cosmic-level coincidence’. This brief animation probes our evolving understanding of space, brushing up against the edges of current human understanding.

Video by MinutePhysics and PHD Comics 

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Facebook
Like

‘Aeon is hands down my favourite publication to write for. Deadlines long enough to do the work justice, the best editorial input I’ve encountered and compensation which is respectful of writers’ time.’

Antonia Malchik, essayist and editor

‘Thought-provoking, eclectic, open-minded and user friendly.

Aeon is like no other site on the internet.’

Larry D, UK, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is what readers and writers dream about. It is wide in scope, without ever being shallow. It offers stimulating issues, yet never seeking to be tantalising.

Publishing at its best. I love it.’

Professor Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford

‘Aeon, for me, continues to be one of the best places to spend a quiet afternoon, in the company of some of the most brilliant minds around.’

Shivam C, India, Friend of Aeon

‘I read one article and decided that I wanted to support an organisation that promotes critical thinking around ideas that affect our everyday lives.’

John T, Canada, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Essay/
Evolution
Evolving street-smarts

Living among humans favours fearless problem-solvers interested in new things. That's how city birds get smarter

Menno Schilthuizen

Essay/
History of Science
What is good science?

Demanding that a theory is falsifiable or observable, without any subtlety, will hold science back. We need madcap ideas

Adam Becker