13th Jul 2012
Does the Universe have a North?
Humans evolved in an environment with gravity and a magnetic field, so we’re so used to concepts such as up and down, north and south. There is actually no “right way up” in the universe, no universally common axis—because direction relies on the observer. Earth only has a north and south due to its magnetic field created by the rotation of its molten core, and these concepts only apply in a coordinate system. Compass directions or longitudinal lines don’t actually “exist”—they’re purely reference points created by humans for navigation. Australia, for example, is only known as “down under” because our navigational system decided that the southern hemisphere is downwards. Similarly, up and down are concepts that we’ve created to refer to gravity’s pull—‘up’ is away from the centre of gravity and ‘down’ is towards it. In the context of the universe, however, there’s no north or south or up or down. There is no universe-spanning magnetic field, so the universe has no up and down, no centre, no edge (you’re welcome nerdfighters), and no point of reference relative to everything else. So, there’s no intrinsic north in space—it’s difficult to imagine, but the idea that north is ‘up’ and south is ‘down’ is a purely human concept.

Does the Universe have a North?

Humans evolved in an environment with gravity and a magnetic field, so we’re so used to concepts such as up and down, north and south. There is actually no “right way up” in the universe, no universally common axis—because direction relies on the observer. Earth only has a north and south due to its magnetic field created by the rotation of its molten core, and these concepts only apply in a coordinate system. Compass directions or longitudinal lines don’t actually “exist”—they’re purely reference points created by humans for navigation. Australia, for example, is only known as “down under” because our navigational system decided that the southern hemisphere is downwards. Similarly, up and down are concepts that we’ve created to refer to gravity’s pull—‘up’ is away from the centre of gravity and ‘down’ is towards it. In the context of the universe, however, there’s no north or south or up or down. There is no universe-spanning magnetic field, so the universe has no up and down, no centre, no edge (you’re welcome nerdfighters), and no point of reference relative to everything else. So, there’s no intrinsic north in space—it’s difficult to imagine, but the idea that north is ‘up’ and south is ‘down’ is a purely human concept.

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