It would be easy to think that the existence of night is solely a consequence of the rotation of the Earth and its location relative to the Sun. But it is not. It is a consequence of the expansion of the Universe. If the Universe were not expanding then, wherever we looked into space, our line of sight would end at a star. The result would be like looking into a forest of trees. In a universe that didn't expand, the whole sky would resemble the surface of a star; we would be illuminated by perpetual starlight. What saves us from this everlasting light is the expansion of the Universe. It degrades the intensity of the light from distant stars and galaxies, and it leaves the night sky dark. (John Barrow, The Artful Universe, p45.)
As the Sun sets in Singapore, and European visitors fight the disruption to their circadian cycles, the aesthetics of Formula 1 undergoes a phase transition. A silver strip of metal halide light runs between the colonial palm trees, beneath the bejewelled post-modernist towers, underneath the concrete stanchions of the flyovers, alongside the armadillo-contoured concert hall and theatre, and beside the neoclassical and Palladian civic architecture. Specular reflections shimmer from the compound surfaces of the cars; the Ferraris become molten lava, and the McLarens dissolve into liquid metal.
Permitting this extravagant display of light and pattern is the dark night sky, a phenomenon whose very existence requires a cosmological explanation, as recognized by the 19th century German physician and amateur astronomer, Heinrich Olbers. Olbers realised that if our universe were a static universe, infinite in space and time, and homogeneously populated with stars (or galaxies or galaxy clusters etc.), then the sky should be bright throughout the day and night. The fact that the night sky is dark is therefore Olbers's paradox. Modern physics solves Olbers's paradox by virtue of the fact that light travels at a finite speed, and by virtue of the fact the Friedmann-Robertson-Walker models of relativistic cosmology represent our universe to be an expanding universe of finite age.
In a universe of finite age, in which light travels at a finite speed, there will be a finite cosmological horizon around every astronomically observant species; the universe is 14 billion years old, hence the light from stars more than 14 billion lights years away has not had time to reach us. Moreover, in an expanding universe, the expansion red-shifts distant starlight towards energies invisible to the naked eye, and reduces the brightness of the light.
There is a twist, however, for "it seems that the background of the sky is bright, even at night. Of course, it is not as bright as the surface of the Sun, nor does it shine at the same wavelengths. However, according to models of the big bang, the entire universe was so hot around 14 billion years ago that each of its points was a luminous as the surface of the Sun. Each direction leaving from our eye reaches a point of this past Universe. And by the same reasoning as that of Olbers, even in the absence of every star, we should be surrounded by this enormous bright object, the early Universe...We indeed receive this radiation, but it is shifted towards long wavelengths and weakened...Since it is very old, the shift is very strong: redshifted by a factor greater than 1000, it has transformed the light into microwaves. This electromagnetic fossil radiation, a vestige of the primitive epoch, was detected for the first time in 1964. Today it is being exhaustively observed under the name of cosmological background radiation." (Jean-Pierre Luminet, The Wraparound Universe, p159-160).
This weekend then, the Formula 1 cars will race at night through the streets of Singapore, and will do so oblivious to the omnipresent background radiation, and the cosmological expansion which permits this visual and kinetic cornucopia.