- , kosmos
, "universe"; and ,
, "study") is the
study of the Universe
in its totality, and
by extension, humanity's place in it. Though the word
is recent (first used in 1730 in Christian Wolff
), study of the universe has a long
history involving science
, and religion
In recent times, physics
have played a central role in
shaping the understanding of the universe through scientific
observation and experiment; or what is known as physical cosmology
shaped through both
mathematics and observation in the analysis of the whole universe.
In other words, in this discipline, which focuses on the universe
as it exists on the largest scale and at the earliest moments, it
is generally understood to begin with the big
(possibly combined with cosmic
) – an expansion
from which the universe itself is thought to have
emerged ~ (13.7 billion
ago.From its violent beginnings and until its various speculative
, cosmologists propose that
the history of the universe has been governed entirely by physical laws
.Theories of an impersonal
universe governed by physical laws were first proposed by Roger Bacon
, a somewhat persecuted member of the
Catholic Church.Between the domains of religion and science
, stands the
perspective of metaphysical cosmology
. This ancient
field of study seeks to draw intuitive
conclusions about the nature
of the universe, man, God and/or their relationships based on the
extension of some set of presumed facts borrowed from spiritual
experience and/or observation.
But metaphysical cosmology has also been observed as the placing of
man in the universe in relationship to all other entities. This is
demonstrated by the observation made by Marcus Aurelius
of a man's place in that
relationship: "He who does not know what the world is does not know
where he is, and he who does not know for what purpose the world
exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is." This is
the purpose of the ancient metaphysical cosmology. However,
rejected Aristotle's theory of
universals as being "in the things themselves," calling them
"figments of the mind." Stanford Encyclopedia of
adopting the concept of universals as being
"concepts," and therefore of the mind, and therefore controllable
by free will. Thus, we get the analysis of Aurelius' that the
nature of the universe is not from "intuition," but from a
free-will, conceptual understanding of the nature of the
Cosmology is often an important aspect of the creation myths
that seek to explain the existence
and nature of reality
. In some cases, views about the creation
) and destruction (eschatology
) of the universe play a central role
in shaping a framework of religious
for understanding humanity's role in the
A more contemporary distinction between religion and philosophy,
distinguished from religion in its less tradition-bound
construction and reliance on modern "intellectual understanding"
rather than faith
, and from philosophy in its
emphasis on spirituality
as a formative
There are many historical cosmologies:
"… the universe itself acts on
us as a random, inefficient, and yet in the long run effective,
teaching machine. …our way of looking at the universe has gradually
evolved through a natural selection of ideas." —Steven Weinberg
The following table outlines the significant historical cosmologies
in chronological order.
Historical descriptions of the cosmos
||Author and date
||Hindu Rigveda (1500-1200 B.C.)
||Cyclical or oscillating, Infinite in time
||The universe is a cosmic egg that
cycles between expansion and total collapse. It expanded from a
concentrated form —a point called a Bindu. The
universe, as a living entity, is bound to the perpetual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
||Anaxagoras (500-428 B.C.) & later
||Infinite in extent
||The universe contains only two things: an infinite number of
tiny seeds, or atoms, and the void of infinite extent. All atoms are made of the same
substance, but differ in size and shape. Objects are formed from
atom aggregations and decay back into atoms. Incorporates Leucippus’ principle of causality: ”nothing happens at random; everything
happens out of reason and necessity.” The universe was not ruled by
||Stoics (300 B.C. - 200 A.D.)
||The cosmos is finite and surrounded by an infinite void. It is
in a state of flux, as it pulsates in size and periodically passes
through upheavals and conflagrations.
||Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
||Geocentric, static, steady state,
finite extent, infinite time
||Spherical earth is surrounded by concentric celestial spheres. Universe exists
unchanged throughout eternity. Contains a 5th element called
aether (later known as quintessence).
||Aristarchus (circa 280 B.C.)
||Earth rotates daily on its axis and revolves annually about the
sun in a circular orbit. Sphere of fixed stars is centered about
||Seleucus of Seleucia (circa
||Modifications to the Aristarchean universe, with the inclusion
of the tide phenomenon to explain
|Ptolemaic model (based on
||Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.)
||Universe orbits about a stationary Earth. Planets move in
circular epicycles, each having a center
that moved in a larger circular orbit (called an eccentric or a
deferent) around a center-point near the Earth. The use of equants
added another level of complexity and allowed astronomers to
predict the positions of the planets. The most successful universe
model of all time, using the criterion of longevity. Almagest (the Great System).
||Aryabhata (499 A.D.)
||Geocentric or Heliocentric
||The Earth rotates and the
planets move in elliptical orbits,
possibly around either the Earth or the Sun. It is uncertain
whether the model is geocentric or heliocentric due to planetary
orbits given with respect to both the Earth and the Sun.
||Finite in time
||The universe that is finite in time and has a beginning is proposed by the Christian philosopher, John Philoponus, who argues against the
ancient Greek notion of an infinite past. Logical arguments
supporting a finite universe are developed by the early Muslim philosopher, Alkindus; the Jewish
philosopher, Saadia Gaon; and the
Muslim theologian, Algazel.
Muhammad Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi (787-886)
||His planetary orbits are only given with
respect to the Sun rather than the Earth, thus suggesting a
||Maragha school (1259-1474)
||Various modifications to the Ptolemaic model
and Aristotelian universe, such as the rejection of the equant and eccentrics at the Maragheh
observatory, the first accurate lunar model
by Ibn al-Shatir, and the rejection of
a stationery Earth in favour of the Earth's rotation by Ali Kuşçu.
||Geocentric and Heliocentric
||A universe in which the planets orbit the Sun and the Sun
orbits the Earth, similar to the later Tychonic system.
model of Ibn al-Shatir
adapted to meet the requirements of the ancient heliocentric
Aristarchean universe in his De revolutionibus orbium
||Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
||Geocentric and Heliocentric
||A universe in which the planets orbit the Sun and the Sun
orbits the Earth, similar to the earlier Nilakanthan model.
||Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
||Static (evolving), steady state,
||Every particle in the universe attracts every other particle.
Matter on the large scale is uniformly distributed. Gravitationally
balanced but unstable.
||Static (evolving), steady state, infinite
||A system of huge swirling whirlpools of aethereal or fine
matter produces what we would call gravitational effects. His
vacuum was not empty. All space was filled with matter that swirled
around in large and small vortices.
||Immanuel Kant, Johann Lambert 1700s
||Static (evolving), steady state, infinite
||Matter is clustered on ever larger scales of hierarchy. Matter
is endlessly being recycled.
|Einstein Universe with a
||Albert Einstein 1917
||Static (nominally). Bounded (finite)
||“Matter without motion.” Contains uniformly distributed matter.
Uniformly curved spherical space; based on Riemann’s hypersphere.
Curvature is set equal to Λ. In effect Λ is equivalent to a
repulsive force which counteracts gravity. Unstable.
|De Sitter universe
||Willem de Sitter 1917
||Expanding flat space.Steady state.Λ > 0
||“Motion without matter.” Only apparently static. Based on
Einstein’s General Relativity.
Space expands with constant acceleration. Scale factor (radius of universe)
increases exponentially, i.e. constant inflation.
||William MacMillan 1920s
||Static &steady state
||New matter is created from radiation.
Starlight is perpetually recycled into new matter particles.
|Friedmann universe of
||Spherical expanding space.k= +1 ; no Λ
||Positive curvature. Curvature constant k = +1Expands then recollapses. Spatially closed (finite).
|Friedmann universe of
||Hyperbolic expanding space.k=
-1 ; no Λ
||Negative curvature. Said
to be infinite (but ambiguous). Unbounded. Expands forever.
|Dirac large numbers
||Paul Dirac 1930s
||Demands a large variation in G, which decreases with time.
Gravity weakens as universe evolves.
|Friedmann zero-curvature, aka the Einstein-DeSitter
||Einstein & DeSitter 1932
||Expanding flat space.k= 0 ; Λ = 0Critical density
||Curvature constant k = 0. Said to be infinite (but ambiguous).
‘Unbounded cosmos of limited extent.’ Expands forever. ‘Simplest’
of all known universes. Named after but not considered by
Friedmann. Has a deceleration
term q =½ which means that its expansion rate slows down.
original Big Bang.aka Friedmann-Lemaître
||ExpansionΛ > 0Λ > |Gravity|
||Λ is positive and has a magnitude greater than Gravity.
Universe has initial high density state (‘primeval atom’). Followed
by a two stage expansion. Λ is used to destabilize the universe.
(Lemaître is considered to be the father of the big bang
Friedmann-Einstein; was latter’s 1st choice after rejecting his own
||Favored by Friedmann1920s
||Expanding and contracting in cycles
||Time is endless and beginningless; thus avoids the
beginning-of-time paradox. Perpetual cycles of big bang followed by
||Arthur Eddington 1930
||first Staticthen Expands
||Static Einstein 1917 universe with its instability disturbed
into expansion mode; with relentless matter dilution becomes a
DeSitter universe. Λ dominates gravity.
|Milne universe of kinematic
||Edward Milne, 1933, 1935;William H. McCrea,1930s
||Kinematic expansion with NO space expansion
||Rejects general relativity and the expanding space paradigm.
Gravity not included as initial assumption. Obeys cosmological
principle & rules of special
relativity. The Milne expanding universe consists of a finite
spherical cloud of particles (or galaxies) that expands WITHIN flat
space which is infinite and otherwise empty. It has a center and a
cosmic edge (the surface of the particle cloud) which expands at
light speed. His explanation of gravity was elaborate and
unconvincing. For instance, his universe has an infinite number of
particles, hence infinite mass, within a finite cosmic volume.
class of models
||Howard Robertson, Arthur Walker, 1935
||Class of universes that are homogenous and isotropic. Spacetime
separates into uniformly curved space and cosmic time common to all
comoving observers. The formulation system is now known as the FLRW
or Robertson-Walker metrics of cosmic time and curved space.
(Bondi & Gold)
||Herman Bondi, Thomas Gold 1948
||Expanding, steady state, infinite
||Matter creation rate maintains constant density. Continuous
creation out of nothing from nowhere. Exponential expansion.
Deceleration term q = -1.
|Steady-state expanding (Hoyle)
||Fred Hoyle 1948
||Expanding, steady state; but unstable
||Matter creation rate maintains constant density. But since
matter creation rate must be exactly balanced with the space
expansion rate the system is unstable.
||Hannes Alfvén 1965 Oskar Klein
||Cellular universe, expanding by means of matter-antimatter
||Based on the concept of plasma
cosmology. The universe is viewed as meta-galaxies
divided by double layers
—hence its bubble-like nature. Other universes are formed from
other bubbles. Ongoing cosmic matter-antimatter annihilations keep the bubbles separated and
moving apart preventing them from interacting.
||Carl H. Brans; Robert
||Based on Mach’s
principle. G varies with time as universe expands. "But nobody
is quite sure what Mach’s principle actually means."
||Alan Guth 1980
||Big Bang with modification to solve
horizon problem and flatness problem.
||Based on the concept of hot inflation. The universe is viewed
as a multiple quantum flux —hence its bubble-like nature. Other
universes are formed from other bubbles. Ongoing cosmic expansion
kept the bubbles separated and moving apart preventing them from
|Eternal Inflation (a
multiple universe model)
||Andreï Linde 1983
||Big Bang with cosmic
||A multiverse, based on the concept of
cold inflation, in which inflationary events occur at random each
with independent initial conditions; some expand into bubble
universes supposedly like our entire cosmos. Bubbles nucleate in a
||Paul Steinhardt; Neil Turok 2002
||Expanding and contracting in cycles; M
||Two parallel orbifold planes or
M-branes collide periodically in a higher
dimensional space. With quintessence or dark energy
Table Notes: the term "static" simply means not expanding and not
contracting. Symbol G represents Newton's gravitational constant
; Λ (Lambda) is
Physical cosmology is the branch of physics and astrophysics that
deals with the study of the physical origins and evolution of the
Universe. It also includes the study of the nature of the Universe
on its very largest scales. In its earliest form it was what is now
known as celestial mechanics
the study of the heavens
. The Greek
philosophers Aristarchus of
proposed different cosmological theories. In
particular, the geocentric Ptolemaic system
was the accepted theory to
explain the motion of the heavens until Nicolaus Copernicus
, and subsequently
and Galileo Galilei
proposed a heliocentric
system in the 16th century. This
is known as one of the most famous examples of epistemological rupture
With Isaac Newton
and the 1687
publication of Principia
, the problem of the motion of the heavens was
finally solved. Newton provided a physical mechanism for Kepler's laws
and his law of universal gravitation
allowed the anomalies in previous systems, caused by gravitational
interaction between the planets, to be resolved. A fundamental
difference between Newton's cosmology and those preceding it was
the Copernican principle
the bodies on earth obey the same physical
as all the celestial bodies. This was a crucial
philosophical advance in physical cosmology.
Modern scientific cosmology is usually considered to have begun in
1917 with Albert Einstein
publication of his final modification of general relativity
in the paper
"Cosmological Considerations of the General Theory of Relativity,"
(although this paper was not widely available outside of Germany
until the end of World War I
relativity prompted cosmogonists
Willem de Sitter
, Karl Schwarzschild
and Arthur Eddington
to explore the
astronomical consequences of the theory, which enhanced the growing
ability of astronomers
to study very
distant objects. Prior to this (and for some time afterwards),
physicists assumed that the Universe was static and unchanging. In
parallel to this dynamic approach to cosmology, a debate was
unfolding regarding the nature of the cosmos itself. On the one
hand, Mount Wilson astronomer Harlow
championed the model of a cosmos made up of the
star system only. Heber D. Curtis
, on the other hand, suggested spiral
nebulae were star systems in their own right, island universes.
This difference of ideas came to a climax with the organization of
the Great Debate
at the meeting of the
(US) National Academy of Sciences in Washington on 26 April 1920.
The resolution of the debate on the structure of the cosmos came
with the detection of novae in the Andromeda galaxy
by Edwin Hubble
in 1923 and 1924. Their distance
established spiral nebulae well beyond the edge of the Milky Way
and has galaxies of their own. Subsequent modeling of the universe
explored the possibility that the cosmological constant
Einstein in his 1917 paper may result in an expanding universe
, depending on its
value. Thus the big bang
theory was proposed by the Belgian priest
Georges Lemaître in 1927 which
was subsequently corroborated by Edwin
Hubble's discovery of the red shift in
1929 and later by the discovery of the cosmic microwave
background radiation by Arno
Penzias and Robert Woodrow
Wilson in 1964.
These findings were a first step to rule
out some of many alternative
Recent observations made by the COBE
satellites observing this background
radiation have effectively, in many scientists' eyes, transformed
cosmology from a highly speculative science into a predictive
science, as these observations matched predictions made by a theory
called Cosmic inflation
, which is a
modification of the standard big bang
theory. This has led many to refer to modern times as the "Golden
age of cosmology."
, cosmology deals with the world as
the totality of space, time and all phenomena. Historically, it has
had quite a broad scope, and in many cases was founded in religion.
The ancient Greeks did not draw a distinction between this use and
their model for the cosmos. However, in modern use it addresses
questions about the Universe which are beyond the scope of science.
It is distinguished from religious cosmology in that it approaches
these questions using philosophical methods (e.g. dialectics
). Modern metaphysical cosmology tries
to address questions such as:
Many world religions
have creation myths
that explain the beginnings of
the Universe and life. Often these are derived from scriptural
teachings and held to be part of the
, but in some cases these are
also extended through the use of philosophical and metaphysical
In some creation myths, the universe was created
by a direct act of a god
who are also responsible for the creation of humanity
). In many cases, religious
cosmologies also foretell the end of the
, either through another divine act or as part of the
- Both Christianity and Judaism rely on the Genesis narrative as a
scriptural account of cosmology. See also
Biblical cosmology and Tzimtzum.
- Islam relies on understanding from the
Qur'an as its major source for explaining
cosmology. See Islamic
- Certain adherents of Buddhism, Hinduism (See also Hindu
cosmology) and Jainism believe that the
Universe passes through endless cycles of creation and destruction,
each cycle lasting for trillions of years (e.g. 331 trillion years,
or the life-span of Brahma, according to Hinduism), and each cycle with sub-cycles of local
creation and destruction (e.g. 4.32 billion years, or a day of
Brahma, according to Hinduism). The
Vedic (Hindu) view of the world sees one true
divine principle self-projecting as the divine word, 'birthing' the
cosmos that we know from the monistic Hiranyagarbha or
complex mixture of native Vedic gods, spirits, and demons, overlaid
with imported Hindu and Buddhist deities, beliefs, and practices
are the key to the Sri
- The Australian Aboriginal
concept of Dreaming
explains the creation of the universe as an eternal continuum;
everywhen. Through certain ceremonies, the past "opens up"
and comes into the present. Each topographical feature is a
manifestation of dormant creation spirits; each individual has
personal Dreamings and ceremonial responsibilities to look after
the spirits/land, determined at birth, within this belief
Many religions accept the findings of physical cosmology, in
particular the Big Bang
, and some, such as
the Roman Catholic Church
have embraced it as suggesting a philosophical first cause. Others
have tried to use the methodology of science to advocate for their
own religious cosmology, as in intelligent design
or creationist cosmologies
teachings involve highly elaborate
cosmologies. These constitute a "map" of the Universe and of states
of existences and consciousness according to the worldview
of that particular doctrine. Such
cosmologies cover many of the same concerns also addressed by
religious and philosophical cosmology, such as the origin, purpose,
and destiny of the Universe and of consciousness
and the nature of existence
. For this reason it is difficult to
distinguish where religion or philosophy end and esotericism and/or
Common themes addressed in esoteric cosmology are emanation
, planes of existence
, hierarchies of
, cosmic cycles
(e.g., cosmic year
disciplines, and references to altered states of
. Examples of esoteric cosmologies can be found in
(especially Kashmir Shaivism
, or Sufism
- Weinberg, Steven. 1992. Dreams of a Final Theory
(Pantheon Books, NY) p158. ISBN 0-679-41923-3
- Alan Guth is
reported to have made this very claim in an Edge
Foundation interview EDGE
- Cronin, Vincent, The View
from Planet Earth: Man Looks at the Cosmos, New York: William
Morrow & Company, Inc., 1981, ISBN 0-688-00642-6
- Jean-Marc Rouvière, Brèves méditations sur la création du
monde, L'Harmattan, Paris 2006.
- Roos, Matts Introduction to Cosmology. John Wiley
& Sons, Ltd, Chichester: 2003.
- Hawley, John F. & Katerine A. Holcomb Foundations of
Modern Cosmology. Oxford
University Press, Oxford: 1998.
- Hetherington, Norriss S. Cosmology: Historical, Literary,
Philosophical, Religious, and Scientific Perspectives. Garland
Publishing, New York: 1993.
- Long, Barry. The Origins of Man
and the Universe ISBN 0-9508050-6-8
- Martinus Thomsen's The
Third Testament is about the explanation of life, everything
inside it and the reason (or origin) of it.
- Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers (1959) provides a
scholarly study of the history of cosmology from the Chaldeans to
- Gal-Or, Benjamin, Cosmology, Physics and Philosophy,
Springer Verlag, 1981, 1983, 1987, New York
- Schechner, Sara J. Comets, Popular Culture, and the Birth
of Modern Cosmology. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press. 1997.