In The Simpson’s season 7 “Treehouse of Horror” episode, Homer Simpson escapes an awful social engagement with Patty and Selma by slipping into a three-dimensional portal hidden behind the living room bookcase. On the other side of the portal is an infinite plane supporting mind-blowing, three-dimensional objects; Homer gets lost and eventually punctures a hole in space-time. Hilarity ensues, and you should definite watch (or rewatch) it the next time you get the chance.
Unfortunately, like an increasing number of Simpsons-related subjects, the “Homer Cubed” segment of that year’s Halloween special might not age as well as initially intended... but not for any egregious ethnic or racial offenses, thankfully. It’s just the fact that the episode might misrepresent the shape of our universe in a way the show’s writers probably wished they knew, for very obvious reasons: Apparently, the cosmos may well be donut-shaped, after all.
That’s what a team of researchers from Ulm University and the University of Lyon are contending in a new paper detailing their recent studies into the universe’s Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) pointing towards “a new signature of a multiply connected Universe.” “The example in our paper is… a donut-shaped universe model,” explained Thomas Buchert to Motherboard.
To sound a bit more scientific, the shape is actually referred to as a three-torus model. As Motherboard’s write-up explains, certain signals missing in researchers’ look at CMB point towards the theory that, instead of the more widely-accepted notion of an infinite plane, “its topology is curved in such a way that it connects back onto itself like a donut.”
“Finite universe models might be scary to some people, but you do not experience a boundary. So you live in an unbounded Universe although it has finite volume,” Buchert says, which we’ll definitely just take his word on there.
It’s definitely worth noting that the paper has yet to be peer-reviewed, but Buchert says that the team has submitted their work to multiple scientific journals for publication. In the meantime, we all might as well cue up all the prerequisite Simpsons donut references and quotes. We’ll go first: Donuts... is there anything they can’t do?
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