The question of what, if anything, lies beyond the boundaries of our universe (assuming such boundaries exist) has entertained and puzzled people for
many years. Mathematicians and physicists may express their theories utilising the elegant beauty of numbers, but it is science fiction and fantasy
which has given form to these theories, presenting a number of different suggestions as to what exactly may lie just beyond the edge of our concept of
Are We A Marble?
The notion, for example, that our universe, in its entirety, is simply a miniscule aspect of some larger universe is a popular one. A recent example
of the illustration of this theory can be found in Men In Black where, at the end of the movie, our universe is revealed to exist inside a marble
wielded by an impossibly huge alien. Now, whilst this idea was presented in the film as whimsy, it illustrates quite adequately the concept that our
universe may exist in the micro-world of atoms and elemental particles that make up some grander universe.
Loop the Loop
Another concept is one that has already been discussed, that the universe will simply loop back on itself and that, were you to travel to the edge of
the universe and then beyond, you would find yourself returned to your point of origin. For an example of this idea at work, consider the train
station scene in The Matrix Revolutions, in which Neo finds himself trapped in Limbo (Mobil Station) and, upon trying to leave, finds himself
inexplicably brought back to where he began. This idea has proved popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows us to dismiss the notion of what
happens when you reach the edge of the universe, by stipulating that space simply loops back upon itself. Secondly, it runs counter to notions that
the universe has a physical edge where reality as we know it ceases to exist. This is beneficial in that we have seen similar beliefs defeated in the
past, such as the idea that the Earth itself had a physical edge over which a great void existed. In this way, this idea of a curved universe seems
somehow the safe option, whilst simultaneously raising a number of issues of its own.
Here Be Dragons
A third idea is that beyond our universe exists a surreal state of reality which is completely incomprehensible to humans, since it is so far removed
from anything we currently hold to be “reality” and is, by its very nature, a kind of unreality. This idea has been popularised many times in both
print and film. Examples of this nothingness include the Phantom Zone from Superman, the universe of the Beyonder and the Negative Zone from Marvel
comics and the description of the Beyond as found in aspects of White Wolf’s role-playing series The World of Darkness. Opinions differ, however,
over the makeup of this unreality that doesn’t exist outside our universe. Some have posited it to be a blank, empty region in which nothing exists
at all (such as the white, featureless un-universe of the movie Nothing
). Others have
imagined it to be an area populated by surrealist, nightmarish creatures. A good example of this are the incomprehensible monsters of the works of
H.P. Lovecraft, or White Wolf’s Neverborn. This idea appeals in a morbid way, playing upon our inherent fear of the unknown and of things
intrinsically alien to us. As has been stated, it is very much a case of “Here be dragons” with this theory.
An idea somewhat similar to the first is that our universe is merely one of many, which together constitute a greater realm known, at different times,
as the Multiverse or the Omniverse. This is the theory of parallel universes and has been portrayed times too numerous to count. A particularly
interesting example of this theory is the Marvel comics universe, where Earths are numbered, with the regular Marvel universe being designated Earth
616. Other examples include the parallel universe of Futurama, which begins at the edge of our own universe and which is similar in every respect,
except that the people who inhabit it are cowboy versions of the regular characters. This theory is at once comforting and unnerving. The idea that,
where our universe ends another begins, is a reassuring one. It gives us hope that we are not alone and that life may exist in limitless variety
throughout countless universes. However, it too plays upon not only our fear of the unknown, but also our sense of identity. For if another Jeremiah25
exists in a universe beyond this one, what implications does this have for self-identity? For religion? For physics?
Knocking on Heaven's Door
To present a final theory, there are those who believe that beyond our universe exists God. Many is the time I have heard God referred to as existing
beyond the confines of time and space, gazing upon our universe from its omnipotent, omniscient perspective. Were this theory to be true, it raises a
number of implications for religion. Humans have mapped the edges of the Earth and now of the solar system. Is it so unreasonable, then, to imagine
that we may one day chart the limits of the universe itself? If we somehow avoid destroying ourselves, what might we be capable of in ten thousand
years? In a million years? Is it possible, within the framework of this theory, that we might one day discover the abode of God?
Whenever I consider these questions, I am struck by a profound sense of awe at the capacity of human beings for curiosity and wonder. After 3.5
billion years of life on this planet, nature has finally crafted a creature capable of questioning what exists beyond its own reality. With all the
negative aspects of being a human living on this planet, it is refreshing to pause every now and then and consider that perhaps we are not so lost as
we might imagine.
[edit on 27/11/05 by Jeremiah25]