To Infinity and Beyond

Since time immemorial, humans had been burdened and frightened by the end times. The thought of our earth crumbling to pieces ending all forms of life is like a harrowing nightmare to most of us. The apocalypse, depending on the kind of religion you subscribe to can either distress or excite you. The end of the world or our earth is something I can understand and appreciate. When our sun extinguishes its heat 5 billion years from now, it’s lights out for all of mankind. But the earth does not need the sun to end its inhabitants’ existence. It can perform a self imposed facelift or reconfiguration and wreck havoc of apocalyptic porportions on humans anytime it wishes to. It is predicted that 5 million years from now our land mass will not look the same. Plate tectonics will cause Australia to move north engulfing and submerging the whole of Southeast Asia, Africa will crash itself into Europe, North America will move farther west to get closer to Asia. What will the human civilization look like 5 million years from now ?

Little do we understand that the cataclysmic upheavals of our earth and even its total distintegration is so minuscule compared to the grand scheme of things in our universe. To appreciate the scale of our minuteness in the context of our universe, they say that if our galaxy, the Milky Way is as big as Washington D.C., our earth is equivalent to a grain of sand in it. If our earth were to disintegrate, it will be akin to crushing that grain of sand with little or no significance from our galaxy’s perspective. Furthermore, to think that our Milky Way galaxy with its billions of stars might look like a grain of sand from the entire universe’s perspective, we are treading into a dimension that is unfathomable, immeasurable, inexplicable, surpassing human comprehension.

If there is no such thing as permanency in this earthly world of ours, and if the road to self destruction and eventual extinction is the order of the day, the same applies to our universe. It is predicted that our galaxy, the Milky Way is headed on a collision course with Andromeda, a galaxy closest to us, some 2 million light years away, at the blazing speed of 600,000 mph.The collision is predicted to happen 3 billion years from now. Our solar system is said to be 28,000 light years to the center of the Milky Way. Since a light year is equal to 10 trillion kilometers, the distance is already immensely staggering and we haven’t gone out of our galaxy yet and there are billions of galaxies in the universe. With galaxies colliding and stars extinguishing their heat, what will happen to our universe eons and eons from now ?

To cut the story short, here’s a brief rundown on the fate of our universe :

100 billion years from now galaxies will start pulling away from each other , in 1 trilllion years the stellar era where we are now ends, in 10 trillion trillion trillion years most of the stars would cease burning, in 10 thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years black hole era starts after the death of the stars, and in 10, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000,000,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 years into the future will be the dark era, when the black holes will have evaporated , marking the eventual death of the universe

Add 100 zeros more – perhaps the universe will shrink into a cocoon like state and stage a repeat of the big bang ? Totally mind boggling and even more mind boggling when you think that our fellow earthlings can posit such complex, labyrinthine and incomprehensible notions about the future of our universe. If there is one thing that is true, it is that we are part of a much larger scheme, that the earth we live in isn’t the totality of things and the events that we see are a mere glimpse into our very limited view of reality. If we unravel how the universe works, how life forms and evolves, how would it affect our faith ?

Here’s what scientist Stephen Hawking had to say. “The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second. If you like, you can call the laws of science ‘God’, but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions.”

Science writer/journalist Clay Farris Naff : Faith is a vague term, but I suggest it has two essential characteristics: it is a belief that ultimately some good will come of it all, and while its components may be reshaped by evidence it is a belief that transcends the evidence. In short, people who feel that such and such scientific claim must be false or their whole religious belief system will collapse don’t really have faith. They have a membership in a particular ideology”

“The future is not wholly determined, and to the extent that we control our destiny, our fates depend not on pure reason nor on pure faith, but on just the right intertwining of the two”

Religion and science are an unholy alliance, essentially a mixture of oil and water. Part of ourselves are immersed in both, with each playing a tug of war in devouring us completely. I am not prepared to completely cancel one in favor of the other not will I attempt to justify my faith with science or vice-versa. This is the only way I can rid of the nagging encumbrance of trying to come up with an answer for everything based on a single all encompassing rule book. Call me a heretic, but I have made up my mind on quite a few things that would excommunicate me from my religion in a jiffy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with believing in a creator but there is something awry when such creator throws you into hell for missing church on a Sunday or for being born a lesbian. Likewise I am unable to appreciate the supposedly divine reward afforded to someone who makes babies leaving them famished and impoverished for most of their young life. They're rather lame examples but you probably get the gist of what I am saying. The handiwork of the creator, the universe, reflects true power, more than the mastery, the reward and punishment of us lowly mortals. We can be a science nut but it is never uncool to say " I need God in my life".

When I was mulling about the title of this post, I was narrowing down my choices to space stuff when I suddenly remembered Buzz Lightyear, the wannabe space ranger in Toy Story 2 who raised his hand and shouted To Infinity and Beyond ! to impress his fellow toys watching him fly with his space suit, only to fall to the ground, barely making it up the flight of stairs leading to the second floor of the house. I love Buzz Lightyear and so does my daughter 🙂


26 Responses

  1. “Australia will move north engulfing and submerging the whole of Southeast Asia”

    that’s pretty scary. I hope people can prepare for it. The galaxy collision is even scarier. I never heard of this before. I don’t think of these things anymore because it only depresses me.

    Religion is a very personal matter IMO. We should to keep it to ourselves.

    Buzz Lightyear is cute 🙂

    • These land masses seem to creep rather than run so I guess people will be prepared for it. We might survive the collision – it will be a spectacle 😉

  2. “religion and science are an unholy alliance” i couldn’t agree more and really such a touchy subject. i have a friend who is a priest but we do get along very well even on scientific subjects as well as hawking’s views. we often disagree on some points but at the end of the day, we respect each other even more.

  3. The thought of the end of the world or the mere destined self-destruction of the earth gave me sleepless nights. Many times! I am glad that I am over that phase and generally found the balance between keeping my faith to the One and appreciating the science as well. I will eternally find science fascinating, but whenever there are things or school of thoughts that are beyond comprehension, I find comfort in my faith.

    I am a Catholic, but there are existing practices which I support and do not. That is the beauty of a thinking creature, we are created to discern what is right and wrong.

    PS. I always look forward to your science related posts. I know that I am in for a wide awakening. Keep it up.

    • I was like that when I was a child. It seems common for our culture to inculcate fear in people so they can be easily brought into the faith. But we are as you aptly said, thinking creatures and not robots.

      Thanks 🙂

  4. mind boggling since those zeros can never end , reaching infinity.

    Religion and science always clash but I think we humans are too scared to abandon religion for science. I also agree that the power of the creator manifests itself in the magnificence of the universe and not in what humans say about the creator. we should know about the universe more it seems.

    • True, it is never easy to abandon your faith but knowing the stars and the universe is key to understanding ourselves. It is remarkable indeed. For all we know, it could even strengthen our faith in the creator.

  5. Before “infinity” and before “beyond”, do you believe that the human systems which we created to sustain our dominance and life on earth will eventually destroy us? Let us list some examples:

    The commodification of natural resources and the endless wars and pollution as a result of it.

    The hollowing out of local production and giving it to the third world just to cut labor costs (globalization and its dependency on transportation and oil.)

    The unregulated practices of corporations and financial institutions whose only concern is to increase profit. (August 2010 saw the highest home foreclosures in the United States: 95,000.)

    Tax payers money being used to bail out Big Banks for their aggressive avarice in creating unreasonable mortgages.

    Don’t you think the systems in place which govern man will eventually kill us before the sun dies out? The scientific community (the ones who are not tethered to the interests of corporations) believe that at the blind rate we are going, humanity will be extinct in 50 years.

    • The human specie has the propensity to self destruct and our survival depends on the degree of our enlightenment of who we are and why we are here.

      50 years is kinda short in my opinion but it could be shorter if North Korea goes trigger happy with its nukes 🙂

  6. you know i’m not a fan of toy story, LOL! i just try to think wala na ko by that time, haha

  7. thinking about the probability of the “end” gives me chills.

  8. Two thousand years and some change is quite a long time….the thought of a billion is kinda nauseating.

    A co-workers son (a high school freshman) in the early 70’s Honolulu, once told his father: one day either the sun goes away from the earth; or moves real close. There you go….barbecue or frozen meat.

    I think Pakistan will go ballistic first before N. Korea.

    • come to think of it, our rule books are no older than 5000 years 😉

      That’s it – hot or hold. I have no preference 🙂

      Perhaps but India is a pitbull in their backyard who would bark at the slight smell of nuke.

  9. You are frightening me with your doom stories :-0

  10. “The thought of our earth crumbling to pieces ending all forms of life is like a harrowing nightmare to most of us.”

    your entry is sooo the Linkin Park’s latest album A Thousand Suns… 🙂

    but the “story” behind LP’s album is about mankind ending humanity through science and greed…

    • we humans came from the universe so it is no surprise that we have that penchant for self destruction, a characteristic we inherited from where we came from.

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll check that LP album.

  11. Ever wonder how man would look like a few thousand years from now? We could either evolve into something better or, should we all stupidly destroy everything either through a nuclear holocaust, revert back into ape-like creatures like in “The Planet of the Apes” hehe.

    Science and religion will never mix IMHO, not as long as there are medieval hold-outs among the religious community. Would you believe many among them still do not subscribe to the theory of evolution?

    • there is a danger that we might just destroy this planet if we don’t control our desire for power.

      Sure, there are tons of hold outs out there but I don’t mind as long as they respect other people’s opinions.

  12. Interesting post. Looks like there has to be a creator one way or another. For those who think there isn’t, what should they do when they get sick, depressed or heartbroken? Just not pray nor hope ? I think we need someone more powerful to help us go through the trials and hardship of life.

    • That’s what I meant when I said it is never uncool to say I need God in my life. We can nitpick ideas from both religion and science but sometimes it takes more than our human qualities to go through as you said – the trials and hardships of life.

  13. When I read the History of Time by Stephen Hawking, i felt like was freed from ignorance about the universe.

    But then near the end of the book, I realized that something was lacking from the book. Its project was to explain matter and time and space, but not the mystery of life. For Hawkings, you are nothing but an atom not so different to the keyboard you are using now. And he is right. His questions led him to that conclusion.

    When the basis of significance is size, then you will not be significant anymore when compared to the earth, or when earth is compared to the Milky Way Galaxy. But I do not think that our significance is define by size.

    The problem is not with God. We tend to attribute to God everything we have learned from our religion. I believe that to my God I am not insignificant simply because I am small, tiny, little.

    Stephen Hawking tried to explain the universe from the view of an interested observer, and not from the perspective of the creator. Those who go to a museum as critics will surely not see the work from the perspective of the artist. It could be that from the artist, the smallest work is his genuine masterpiece. It becomes even more different when the critics go to a museum with his textbooks and magnifying glasses.

    I think it was Albert Einstein who said that after discovering the wonders of the Universe, only a fool will say that there is not God.

    One does not need to look at the sky. He simply needs to pick a flower to understand what I mean.

    Thank you for writing a nice piece. You stimulated my mind.

    Jef Menguin

    • Man’s quest to understand how the universe works is to answer the question of why we are here and where are we headed without the aid of crystal balls and tarot cards 😉

      If you believe that there is a creator of this universe, whether we came here through the garden of Eden or evolution – from a strictly logical point of view, that same supreme power or God created us. But as humans we have been known to kill each other for centuries now because we refuse we live with others who are unable to think like us when it comes to our understanding of this creator.

      Looking at the flower is akin to admiring the beauty of the earth but looking at the sky gives us a magnificent and unlimited view of the totality of creation.

      Thank you for dropping by.

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