Space Is the Place*

How to master spatial average properties of the Universe?

by Thomas Buchert, Pierre Mourier & Xavier Roy.

The question of how to define a cosmological model within General Relativity without symmetry assumptions or approximations can be approached by spatially averaging the scalar parts of Einstein’s equations. This yields general balance equations for average properties of the Universe.  One open issue that we address here is whether the form and solutions of these equations depend on the way we split spacetime into spatial sections and a global cosmological time. We also discuss whether we can at all achieve this – given the generality of possible spacetime splits.

Our CQG Letter explores the general setting with a surprisingly simple answer.

Currently most researchers in cosmology build model universes with a simplifying principle that is almost as old as General Relativity itself.  One selects solutions that are isotropic about every point, so that no properties of the model universe depend on direction. This local assumption restricts one to homogeneous geometries that define the cosmological model globally, up to the topology that is specified by initial conditions. Spacetime is foliated into hypersurfaces of constant spatial curvature, labelled by a global cosmological time-parameter. The homogeneous fluid content of these model universes is assumed to define a congruence of fundamental observers moving in time along the normal to these hypersurfaces. Einstein’s equations reduce, in this flow-orthogonal foliation, to the equations of Friedmann and Lemaître. The only gravitational degree of freedom is encoded in a time-dependent scale factor, which measures the expansion of space. Continue reading

The Universe is inhomogeneous. Does it matter?

Yes! The biggest problem in cosmology—the apparent acceleration of the expansion of the Universe and the nature of dark energy—has stimulated a debate about “backreaction”, namely the effect of inhomogeneities in matter and geometry on the average evolution of the Universe. Our recent paper aims to close a chapter of that debate, to encourage exciting new research in the future.

Although matter in the Universe was extremely uniform when the cosmic microwave background radiation formed, since then gravitational instability led to Continue reading