Posted on October 26 2018
While visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York we came across the concept of the centre of the universe. The idea that the universe could be infinite with many centres was - and still is - very difficult to grasp. However, the image on the ceiling of the planetarium was really beatiful and we decided to use this concept to create a beatiful scarf and explore it further.
In an infinite universe, every point can be regarded as the centre. However, there cannot be a centre of the universe either. The centre of the universe has indeed always been a very intriguing concept for humans.
As long ago as 340 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle thought that the earth was stationary while the sun, the moon, the planet and the stars all moved in circular orbits about the earth. He believed this because he felt, for mystical reasons, that the earth was the centre of the universe, and that circular motion was the most perfect. Elaborated by Ptolemy a century later with the creation of a complete cosmological model, the concept that the earth was at the centre of the universe remained in place until the 16th century. In 1514, Nicholas Copernicus proposed a much simpler model where the sun was stationary at the centre and that the earth and the planets moved in circular orb
its around the sun with the slower planets having orbits farther from the sun. It took another century and the creation of the telescope, which allowed Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler to observe the night sky, for this theory to be taken seriously. The Copernican model got rid of the Ptolemy’s celestial spheres establishing the heliocentric model as the accepted model until the eighteenth century.
However, our modern picture of the universe dates back to only 1924, when the American astronomer Edwin Hubble demonstrated that ours was not the only galaxy. In the following years, Hubble spent his time cataloguing the distance of other galaxies and observing the colour of their light. It was most surprising to discover that the majority of the galaxies had a red-shifted light, implying that they are moving away from us. The discovery that the universe is expanding was indeed one of the great intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century.
A few years beforehand, in 1922, Alexander Friedmann set two simple assumptions: the universe looks identical in whichever direction we look – it is isotropic – and this would also be true if we were observing from anywhere else – it is homogenous. Friedmann’s assumptions were proven correct in 1965, when two American physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, observed that disturbance waves coming from outside the atmosphere looked roughly the same from all directions: if so, the universe must also be the same in every direction, if only on a large scale. That the universe is homogenous we have no scientific evidence for it but can only be deducted out of modesty – it would be really remarkable if the universe looked the same around us but not around other points in the universe. The idea that the universe should be uniform (homogeneous and isotropic) over very large scales was introduced as the cosmological principle by Arthur Milne in 1933.
We have come a very long way from believing the earth to be the centre of the universe to knowing that our planet is a very small part of a medium size galaxy among millions of ours. Nevertheless, when we observe the sky at night we cannot ignore the irresistible feeling of being at the very heart of something very special.
The Centre of the Universe Scarf is made of 100% wool jacquard with fil coupé details; its size is 140x120cm and can be found at Maspero in Cantù, at Thanks in Biella and Psyché in Paris.