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From inflation theory and other theories explaining the birth of the universe, the universe is expanding and recently it's been discovered that the expansion has been accelerating. My question is simple, what is happening on the boundary of our inflating universe and what is that 'space' that is experiencing that boundary?

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It's a rather difficult concept to grab but, in short, the image of expansion you have in your mind is wrong. It's not your fault, it's everywhere out there, the inflatable balloon etc. And it's terrible :)

Another way to look at it is that the universe properties are changing. Whether it is infinite or finite, its size (as measured within itself) changes. Things are pulled appart. You could imagine that free vacuum keeps being generated between all objects but that would be a misrepresentation of the theory.

The most simple way I see it is actually what the equations say. It's lame but sometimes the math are the simplest way to understand a phenomenon. The equation say the metric is expanding. It means two point in the fabric of the universe are measured at increasing distances over time. As a result, unless objects are pulled to each other with sufficient force, they tend to drift appart. It's a property of the universe that has not been explained yet (at least not completely), and we still are on the fence as to what influences the expansion rate.

Ultimately, this concept is very easy to accept when you cease to represent the universe from outside of itself. The universe is everything that is so if any image in your mind represents the universe from outside, it won't give you a good picture. Balloons are especially bad :). If you need an image, draw a grid or take a notebook, draw some points here and there on it and imagine the grid keeps getting bigger and bigger. But don't look at the whole page, forget the page limits, focus on the grid. And keep in mind that the points do not expand, only the grid does...

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  • $\begingroup$ +10. I had this exact question come to mind today, and this is an excellent answer. As a statistician, I appreciate the mathematical explanation too! $\endgroup$ – StatsStudent Mar 11 '19 at 16:59
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There is no boundary there is no outside to be expanding into. Only slightly misleading is the usual analogy of the expansion of the universe is that of the surface of a balloon as it is blown up, which just gets larger but has no boundary.

One problem with the balloon analogy is that with a balloon we can see that it is embedded in a 3-space, but there is no need for such a 4-space embedding for the Universe. Another problem is that the surface of the balloon is very definitely finite, we don't really know if that is the case or not for the Universe.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the state of that expansion? If it's infinite expansion then it beats the logic of a beginning. $\endgroup$ – Syche Feb 19 '15 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Ken I don't know what you mean by "infinite expansion", please be more precise. Are you asking is the universe finite or infinite? Will the expansion go on forever (whatever that might mean)? Or what? $\endgroup$ – Conrad Turner Feb 19 '15 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, will it last forever? $\endgroup$ – Syche Feb 19 '15 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ #Ken, probably but forever is a very long time and I would not guarantee what will happen in the very far future. $\endgroup$ – Conrad Turner Feb 19 '15 at 17:00
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The universe isn’t expanding into anything. It is just the distance between the galaxies is increasing continuously, but the galaxies are relatively still but space between them is moving. However the universe is infinitely big enough to begin with and remain infinite, it’s size doesn’t change. For e.g. consider 1,2,3... upto infinity. If you multiply it with 2, then 2,4,6.... upto infinity. Here we can say that distance between adjacent has increased, but total extent of numbers remain the same.

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Most of the Astronomers and the community of Astrophysics, will agree that the fate of planet earth is "The Big rip, most comparable to The Big Bang;but polar opposites.Where the universe is expanding to it's breaking point, total expansion of the know universe.

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    $\begingroup$ The Big Rip is entirely hypothetical and inconsistent with the standard ΛCDM cosmological model. It's theoretically possible, but I severely doubt that "most" of the astrophysics community will agree that it's remotely likely. $\endgroup$ – Stan Liou Feb 19 '15 at 7:59
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    $\begingroup$ You are making up your own question, this does not address the question being asked here $\endgroup$ – Conrad Turner Feb 19 '15 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ Tbe (hypothetical) Big Crunch is generally considered the be the opposite of the Big Bang, not the Big Rip. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 19 '15 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you HDE226868 for your correctional suggestions it kept me awake last night, wondering if I clarified both the rip and the bang!! :) $\endgroup$ – jenni selman Feb 19 '15 at 21:19

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