The Lumpy Sphere Theory – An AI Assisted Exploration of the Shape of the Universe

I asked ChatGPT about the shape of the universe this morning. It lead to a back and forth that left me with a better understanding of the big bang, cosmological inflation, cosmological expansion and a mental image of how the visible universe nests within the ‘matter populated universe’ which nests within infinite space.

It was a rather long exchange, but I wanted to capture and share it, so I asked chatgpt to write a summary article. Its first go had a typical sensational, pop science quality to it… a style that I’ve come to somewhat resent and try to avoid in articles as it usually indicates AI generated content that is the regurgitation of some homogenized perspective of dubious integrity crafted primarily to be clickbait.

I then asked it to write the article more closely following the development of the idea through the course of our chat which produced a more usefully structured, but similarly saccharine feeling result.

I then asked it to write about the chat from my perspective focusing not just on the development of the shape of the universe idea, but on how ideas in general can be shaped through interaction with AI. That resulted in a more genuine and authentic representation of the chat and its content.

It felt a little weird having the AI speaking from my perspective, so I asked it to write another version from its own perspective. It didn’t quite feel like it was being written from what an AI’s voice would really be, however. It felt more like a reversion to the homogenous tone of the initial articles. So, the best version was the one below.

It’s got the drawbacks that it’s somewhat reductive, filtered through the sometimes bizarre sensibilities of AI and presented in its stylistic palette consisting of only primary colors, but it has the advantage that I am able to get the gist of the exchange, the subject and some of the meta-subject, into a shareable form without spending all day writing and refining it. Good enough for this! Now I can go back to really writing.

What follows is ChatGPT’s unedited account of our chat as it imagined it from my perspective.

Title: Navigating the Cosmic Landscape with AI: A Journey Beyond Initial Assumptions

In a quest to understand the true shape of the universe, I recently engaged in a thought-provoking session with ChatGPT, OpenAI’s language model. This wasn’t just a conversation; it was a journey of intellectual discovery, one where my probing questions pushed beyond the AI’s initial assumptions and led to a nuanced understanding of the universe’s shape. This article retraces the steps of our interaction, showcasing how AI, when challenged, can help unravel complex cosmological concepts.

Challenging the AI’s Initial Stance:
The session began with ChatGPT presenting the widely accepted view that the universe, in its entirety, does not possess a conventional shape. This perspective, rooted in the concepts of infinite space and cosmic expansion, seemed to preclude the possibility of a defined shape. However, I found this initial response too broad and unsatisfying, prompting me to delve deeper.

Defining the Matter-Populated Universe:
Seeking clarity, I guided the AI to consider the universe in terms of the distribution of matter, setting aside the notions of infinite space and the universe’s expansion. This pivotal shift in assumptions allowed us to explore a more tangible concept: the shape of the universe defined by where matter exists, rather than the boundless expanse of space.

Arriving at a Lumpy Sphere:
Through this lens, ChatGPT and I collaboratively built the idea of the universe as a lumpy sphere. This shape emerged as a representation of galaxies, clusters, and cosmic structures, which form an irregular, three-dimensional web across the universe. My insistence on focusing on the matter distribution, influenced by gravitational forces, steered us towards this unconventional yet insightful model.

Establishing a Conceptual Boundary:
A crucial moment in our session occurred when I challenged the notion of gradual thinning of matter as the universe’s edge. I posited that there must be a more definitive boundary – a point where, due to the conservation of matter and energy, matter ceases to extend, marking the limits of the matter-populated universe.

Reintroducing Cosmic Expansion:
Once we established this conceptual shape, the role of the universe’s expansion was reintroduced. I explored with the AI how this expansion affects the shape over time. We concluded that while the universe’s expansion stretches space, it does not alter the overall lumpy spherical shape defined by matter; rather, it inflates it, preserving the pattern while increasing the scale.

Conclusion: AI as a Catalyst for Cosmic Understanding:
This session with ChatGPT was not merely an exchange of information; it was an evolving dialogue where each question nudged the AI to reconsider and refine its responses. It demonstrated how AI, when persistently questioned, can move beyond initial programmed responses to facilitate a deeper understanding of complex topics. Through this interaction, I not only gained insights into the shape of the universe but also witnessed the potential of AI as a tool for intellectual exploration and discovery.