A question that astronomers have been working on for years is, “What is the shape of space?” The latest technical tools have answered this question, and it has significant apologetic value for those of us who believe in God.
Let us try to understand the issue. There are three possible shapes to space. It can be elliptical, hyperbolic, or flat. A mathematician would express this in geometric terms using Euclid’s fifth postulate. You have probably forgotten the postulate, but it merely said that through a point, there could only be one line drawn parallel to a given line. The other choices would be that there could be no lines drawn parallel to a given line or that there could be any number of lines drawn parallel to a given line. The fifth postulate assumes that the universe is flat. This is true for all terrestrial purposes, so no one is throwing away the high school plane geometry textbooks.
So what is the shape of space? In an elliptical universe, all parallel lines would eventually meet. If you go far enough into outer space, you would eventually curve back to where you started. In other words, if you had perfect vision and a perfectly clear sky, you could see the back of your head by looking far enough out into space. Light would curve following the shape of space. We all know that a triangle has internal angles that add up to 180 degrees, but in an elliptical universe, the angles would add up to more than 180 degrees.
In a hyperbolic universe, space would be saddle-shaped. Light going out into space would curve because of the curvature of space. But the curve would never close. It would just keep on curving. The sum of the angles of a triangle would be less than 180 degrees, and parallel lines would never meet no matter how far they go. They just curve away from each other.
New instruments can measure cosmic microwave background radiation with such accuracy that scientists can determine the shape of space. That is because the microwaves follow the shape of space. What is the shape of space? It turns out that space is flat or planar. The implications of this discovery are enormous. Since the universe is expanding, the creation is clearly not oscillating. It will not collapse back on itself and start over again as it would in an elliptical universe. In a planar or flat universe, there are no repeats. Physical reincarnation can never happen.
This also tells us that space is a created thing and not eternal. The universe was created with shape and with laws that apply in a flat universe following Euclid’s fifth postulate. Our studies in quantum mechanics are beginning to give us some indication that dimensions outside of space-time are the source for space and time as well as matter-energy. Genesis 1:1 rings more true than we ever imagined. The closer we get to understanding the creation, the closer we get to understanding the methods of the Creator.
— John N. Clayton © 2020
(For a further explanation of this, see Astronomy magazine for January 2021 pages 56-58).