Yes Scott that is a very good point the universe could indeed extend way beyond the horizon of our visible universe, in just the same way as the horizon on Earth limits our view of the surface. However current thinking suggests otherwise.
I think we are at crossed purposes Doonhamer?
Yes I accept that I may very well be completley wrong to have any doubts about the big bang but even though it is now the accepted model for the universe I still reserve the right to hold with the notion that it may actually turn out to be wrong, which is I believe the proper scientific approach?
Perhaps I should expand on the above comments?
we could try estimating the age of the universe by measuring the Hubble constant (which is the current expansion rate of the universe) and use it to extrapolate back to the point of the big bang. However this relies heavily on the history of the expansion rate and overall density and composition of the universe as we observe it now, which may not be one and the same thing.
So if the universe is 'flat' and composed of more matter then the age of the universe is towards the lower end of any estimate.
On the other hand if the universe has very little matter and curved then it could be much older.
Or if the universe contains matter that conforms to the cosmological constant, then the universe can be even older still.
Measuring the Hubble constant has taxed the greatest minds for many years with the best estimates being from 65 to 80 km/sec/Megaparsec, where a Megaparsec is 1 megaParsec = 3.08568025 × 10 to the power of 22 metres. The best 'guess' being 72 km/sec/Megaparsec.
So based on this information it is possible to say that the universe is between 12 and 14 billion years old.
However If the universe was flat, and contained mostly ordinary or dark matter, then the age of the universe would be about 9 billion years, so age of the universe would be shorter than the age of oldest stars which obviously couldn't be right could it? So either the measurement of the Hubble constant is wrong or the Big Bang theory is incorrect or possibly we need to add a type of matter that conforms to the cosmological constant, but that sadly doesn't work either.
Of course if the lower estimates of globular cluster ages are right then all is well for the big bang even without a cosmological constant.
What helps underpin the expanding big bang unverse is the WMAP data and as long as the origin of large scale structures are right, well then the finer structure of the cosmological microwave background will have a bearing on the density, expansion and composition of the universe as we now observe it.
As it happens the WMAP data has shown these parameters to an accuracy of better than 3% of what is said to be the critical density and applying that level of precision allows an estimate for age of the universe at approximatley 13.7 give or take about 1%...........
The expansion age as given by the WMAP data is therefore greater than that of the oldest globular clusters, so the big bang comes out on top because if the expansion as measured by WMAP had shown the age of the universe to be less than the oldest globular clusters, well something pretty fundamental must be wrong.
So big bang wins............. for now. http://localhostr.com/files/d624ef/tinfoil.gif