Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question already has an answer here:

A person from the year 2250 goes back in time. They go back 60 Million years, because they want to observe dinosaurs. Imagine their surprise when they see T-Rex's running around like little chickens!!

That's because they neglected the Hubble Expansion that had occurred in the last 60 Million years. So they are much larger than anything that existed so far in the past.

Is this correct?

share|cite|improve this question

marked as duplicate by John Rennie, David Z Jan 19 at 14:34

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

So it sounds like the time traveler would be larger, just not very much larger. Like only infinitesimally larger. – Jiminion Jan 18 at 19:19
exactly. However, this would be a non-trivial calculation to determine the exact expansion, and my guess is that it would be less than an atom's diameter. – Sam Blitz Jan 18 at 19:26
Related: – rob Jan 18 at 23:51
I find some of the answers unclear. It is unclear whether matter (or galaxies, for that matter) do not expand, or they expand so little as to be impossible to discern. Subtle, but very different answers. – Jiminion Jan 19 at 15:19
I don't find the answers in the referenced question responsive. – Jiminion Jan 19 at 22:02

No, because Hubble expansion has negligible effects on very small systems (such as human beings).

Here is an answer which explains the maths behind it : Can the Hubble constant be measured locally??

share|cite|improve this answer

Shortly, no, this is not correct.

Here's why. Hubble's law gives us that for a distance of one megaparsec, that space expands by approximately 70 km/s (the data varies, but it's somewhere between 60-80 km/s - it doesn't matter, and you'll see why). Now, how tall is your average human? Let's be generous and say your time traveler is 2m tall. Now, how many MPc is that? Oh, about $6.4 \times 10^{-23} \text{ MPc}$. So, even naively neglecting the fact that the expansion of the universe does not affect gravitationally, electromagnetically, chemically, or otherwise bound bodies (see mlg's answer above, i.e. the earth does not expand with the universe), if we assumed it did, then we would find that your 2m tall person has grown about a centimeter. Not dwarfing anything!

share|cite|improve this answer

I think I should go from another direction.

Yes, obviously the Hubble constant refers to intergalactic motion, and cannot be properly applied to intragalactic effects. That does not necessarily mean that such effects do not exist (it just means that they are too minor to measure, and/or usually overshadowed by other effects; that said, I believe that GPS is precise enough that Hubble drift would've affected it if it worked on these scales, but I hadn't done the calculation, and for all I know perhaps it does and it's just brushed off as another easy correction).

But that aside, consider what the Hubble constant means: it is (roughly, due to complicated inflationary models, but it works as a first approximation) the inverse of the time since Big Bang. Everyone knows how much it had been since Big Bang: 13 billion years (give or take a bit).

That means that the fraction of the Hubble expansion that had occurred over the last X million years is about X/13000. (Well, more like 13600 really, but whatever.)
For x=70 (an appropriate value for seeing T-Rex - 60 would put the traveller in the early Paleogene*), this would be 70/13000, or about 1/200. Yes, Sam Blitz's estimation is correct: about half a percent, or, for typical human height, about a centimeter.
If they wanted to visit the Triassic period instead, the time gap would roughly triple, so they would instead be about three centimeters taller. Still not significant (and probably not noticeable).

*) Which might be the reason he's seeing chickens instead of dinosaurs: because all the big dinosaurs have gone extinct, and the few that still remain (mainly ancestors of modern birds) are tiny and look like chickens! Since they also happen to be fairly close relatives of T-Rex (and even closer, IIRC, of Velociraptor), the result is a lot similar to a chicken-sized T-Rex (except with feathers, obviously - though perhaps the actual T-Rex also had them).

share|cite|improve this answer
GPS has been in operation less than 40 years, and has an accuracy of a few centimeters if you use really fancy techniques and equipment that didn't exist for most of those 40 years; more like 1m at best without them. Given the Hubble figure of 70km/s/MPc, that's a change in the Earth's diameter of 3.6 cm in 40 years. A close thing, but I'm going to call a "not quite" on your GPS verification theory. – hobbs Jan 19 at 14:07
A maybe more practical concern — plate tectonics adds a confounding motion of multiple cm/year to any given point on the Earth's surface, making it tricky to measure an effect on the order of 1 mm/year. – hobbs Jan 19 at 14:14
GPS works by triangulating distance of multiple satellites, I don't know how the Earth's diameter plays a role. Maybe you are referring to the tables involved. I suppose expanding space changes the freq. slightly of the radio waves used? (Again, not sure what expanding space really means.) – Jiminion Jan 19 at 19:37

just try an online calculator like Wolfam : 13.65 billion years after the big bang

  • redshift = 0.00474
  • time ago (lookback time) = 65.6 million years distance (comoving) = 65.7 million ly (light years) = 20.2 Mpc (megaparsecs) = 6.22×10^20 km (kilometers) = 3.86×10^20 miles
  • fraction of total observable radius = 0.00141
  • scale factor = 0.995 × current value
  • epoch = dark energy dominated, post-recombination
  • radiation temperature = 2.74 K (kelvins)
  • Hubble parameter (expansion rate) = 70.6 km/s/Mpc (kilometers per second per megaparsec) (based on 5-year WMAP data and Lambda-CDM model;
  • current universe age: 13.7 billion years

size of a T-Rex squeleton is now about 12 m. If it expands , it gains $12*(1-0.995) = 0.06 m = 6 cm$ , still too big to look like a chicken.

Moreover, it seems that material objects , like a squeleton which is bound by EM fields, doesn't expand.

share|cite|improve this answer
When say that EM bound stuff does expand, is this because an atom is mostly empty space? (A nucleus is like a baseball in a football stadium; that sort of thing). But due to the same forces, wouldn't the atom still have to expand? [Space expansion is very unclear at the micro level....] – Jiminion Jan 19 at 15:24
@Jiminion When space expands, it happens a small perturbation, quickly corrected by the EM dynamics – igael Jan 19 at 15:33
What do you mean by 'correction' ? – Jiminion Jan 19 at 19:38
@Jiminion if space expands, the laws of EM being the same, the equilibrium distances remain "constant" in the atoms , lattices of matter, thermodynamic , etc . There is an issue here about the new equilibrium but it is another question which I don't have the answer. – igael Jan 19 at 20:31

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.