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.

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Big Bang Moments

Figure this scenario. Moses busy picking ticks and fleas from his favorite lamb one lazy afternoon by the green meadows near the river Jordan and a weird voice from the wilderness reverberates from nowhere revealing to him the origins of the universe “… you see, helium and hydrogen are the building blocks of the universe… nitrogen and oxygen are the building blocks of life ” Huh ? For someone who didn’t take up Chemistry 101 the language was a bit too complex and cryptic for the itinerant herdsman to comprehend so a much simpler version was put forth to make it more intelligible, one that collapses some 13.7 billion years spanning the creation and evolution of the universe into mere 7 earthly days. Yet despite the collosal abridgement, Moses’ Genesis 1 and the Big Bang Theory have startling similarities, at least in the chronology of events. The appearance of light, the formation of the firmament, land and water and eventually life forms on earth occur in the same order. The notion of man being created from dust and eventually returning to dust jibes with the scientific theory that we all came from the stars, from the combination and permutation of dust, or chemical elements, the building block of matter and life, particles and gas which were strewn into the cosmos, from the fallout from exploding stars that found their way into our earth’s atmosphere.

What is even more astounding is 2,000 years later, Moses’ descendants have the audacity to perform a reverse-engineering of creation of the universe and postulate a theory of its origin. To some people it is pure heresy to even doubt or second guess Moses’ pronouncements. Proving him wrong whether accidentally or on purpose would be tantamount a condemnation to eternal damnation. It could also be heretical to question the origins of other matter, like postulating origin of water , to say that water likewise came from the celestial bodies – comets and asteroids that constantly bombarded and collided with our earth in the formative stages of our solar system. If science and religion must not mix, those fearful of retribution from their earthly peers would be appeased to know that the Big Bang Theory was actually proposed by a shepherd of the flock, a Belgian priest and scientist by the name of Georges Lemaitre.

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The End Times ?

images_endtimesMany years ago when the pastor of the church I was attending announced that he would be preaching about the apocalypse of St. John in the Book of Revelation , the congregation had mixed feelings of anticipation and perturbation.  People seem to get carried away with anything the deals with apocalyptic predictions, be it prophecies from our very own faith or astrological conjectures from soothsayers of old as well as self-professed seers of our generation. The end of the world – lights out, disintegration of all living things is the most horrifying thought to most people. When we  experience natural disaster, drastic climate change, terrorist attack, war and famine we treat them as tell-tale signs of the end times,  an impending apocalypse.  For thousands of years we envisioned these repetitious cycles of tribulations as doomsday in the horizon threatening to drop like rain from a heavy dark cloud but so far it hasn’t fallen. When will it happen ?

This present generation made a bold prediction of the actual date of doomsday – December 21, 2012. The date comes from the ancient Mayan prediction of galactic alignment, the day when the sun is at the center of the galaxy, perfectly aligned with our earth.  Scientists confirm that the Mayans, amazingly astute astrologers in their own right, were correct in their calculation.  Strangely, the Mayan calendar ceases at this date, an implicit suggestion that time will come to a full stop.  So what will happen on Dec 21, 2012 ? Some say that the solar maximum(sunstorm) event anticipated by scientists to happen in 2012 will occur during this day , causing the earth’s magnetic field to weaken thus accelerating the magnetic reversal of the earth resulting in severe climatic upheavals. The movie Knowing was one that dramatized the Dec 21, 2012 doomsday scenario. Except for the ET-like ending of aliens rescuing Nicholas Cage’s son and his friend before the fateful event, I thought the movie retrogressed from serious science fiction to fairly tale. Methinks the producers didn’t want the audience to take them seriously 😉  Others predict that nothing of cataclysmic nature will occur but a severe financial crisis would wreck economic havoc to the world resulting in panic and chaos. Some say it will be the dawn of a spiritual rebirth for mankind- whatever it means I’ll not be seeking the answer.

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The Waves of Change

images1Evolution is a pretty touchy topic as there are those sanctimoniously thin-skinned among us who will have no second thoughts of calling you an irreligious, godless SOB when you talk about it. But let’s talk about evolution as our eyes see it – the salient and remarkable technological changes we see around us, affecting our very own lives. I am truly amazed and fascinated by the human brain because it evolves faster than any of the human being’s physical attributes. Scholars have suggested, largely based on anecdotal evidence, that at some point in our human history, aliens from outer space may have visited earth and copulated with earthlings and injected their more advanced genes into our specie. The astonishing, exponential surge of our human intelligence in such a short period of time leapfrogged our very own expectations of the human brain’s evolution hence the appeal of the alien intervention postulate. Or perhaps the human brain on its own is truly special, an enigmatic blob of energy that has boundless and limitless capacity when you nurture and stimulate it right.

I chanced upon this video which talks about the changes that will challenge man in the near future – the economy and technology. If you have 18 mins to spare, I strongly suggest that you watch the video. The first 7 minutes talks about the financial crisis and its impact on the economy and the remainder provides a fascinating insight on the potential scientific advancements of the future that could trigger man’s self designed evolution.

I don’t want to dwell much on the economy because it is a subject that had been beaten black and blue for the last 6 months. President Obama may be very well on the right track with his health care reform to save the USA from bankruptcy. Americans normally shun anything that purport notions of socialism but I will not be surprised if the US government impose a consumption tax much like the VAT (Value Added Tax) in the future if things get real tight with the deficit. It may be a tough pill to swallow but it could extricate the country from the deficit bind.

I am more intrigued with the speaker’s prediction of growing cells and tissues and the thought of a futuristic biological parts store, ala Radio Shack, where people could shop for a body part replacement. The tought of a blind person getting an eye that behaves like a camera lens certainly exceeds the capabilities the creator has given us. I’m curious as to what the long gone founders of religion would have to say about this – a miracle or work of the devil? Would the advent of super robots downgrade man’s workload ? Perhaps we could see countries warring with each other with unmanned drones and robot soldiers confining men as the brains of the whole spectacle of destruction. Our brains certainly have the power to accelerate our evolution and control our own destiny. I dare not speculate on the world order that would seek control of the affairs of the earth when the ultimate reboot happens but I hear echoes of John Lennon’s song Imagine when I think about this scenario.

One thing that perplexes me after watching the video, that despite the incredible and remarkable breakthroughs and predictions of scientific advancements in the generations to come, a considerable part of our world today still live in the medieval age where the predatorial rule of the jungle reigns, with people unsure whether they would see the sunrise the next day. Famine and poverty are very real in some parts of our world. The human race doesn’t seem to collectively progress towards the evolution of our intelligence. While some of us are working on farming of human organs to cure illnesses and prolong life others can barely eat three times a day to keep themselves alive. Why the disparity? Is intelligence the monopoly of the few? Don’t we all have brains? Perhaps the power of one’s innate intelligence can only be effectively harnessed and stimulated by some measure of enlightenment which is a requisite ingridient of the evolutionary process. Without such enlightenment, a restrictive, myopic view of the world constricts the power of thinking which paves way for stagnation and retrogression. Just a thought.

Eternal Bliss

As I was intently watching Discovery Channel’s documentary – Journey to the Edge of the Universe – a stunning science special that featured actual images of our universe captured by powerful telescopes and spacecraft combined with computer graphics and superb commentary, my 7 year old daughter quipped – “ is that where heaven is Daddy?” I replied ” no, that’s the heavens. Not quite heaven sweetie”. (Note: if you want to do justice to this documentary, it is an absolute must to view it on HDTV). The breathtaking voyage across the vast expanse of our universe had once again challenged my brain with the thought-provoking subject of an expanding universe.  The incomprehensible notions of infinity and eternity hovered in my mind as the interstellar journey penetrated the nebulous depths of our very own galaxy, the Milky Way, continuing to probe  “other distant galaxies”.   The dimensions and distances mentioned are truly colossal.  What if our earth is as large as Jupiter which is 11 times larger in diameter, how long will a day last ?   When the narrator mentions  – ” the glow of a powerful newborn star from this part of the universe will take some 25,000 years to reach planet earth” or ” our very own sun with extinguish itself in about 6 billion years from now”, I have come to realize the triviality and insignificance of my existence in the overall scheme of things in this extremely humongous and seemingly boundless and unfathomable universe.  The magnificence of the cosmos makes us entertain the mind-boggling and disturbing question – how was the universe created? Disturbing in a sense because it makes us take off our religious blinders if we were to engage in a candid and healthy discussion of such a controversial subject. It is always nice to know what lies on the other side of the coin so to speak. Moreover, there is a quote that says, “ if we speak from authority in a discussion, we are merely quoting from memory”. 

There are two contrasting logical views on the birth of our universe. It was either magically created from absolute non-existence, an utterly paradoxical proposal that defies logic and therefore naturally brings forth the second view, a more humanly plausible and comprehensible alternative,  that the universe had always existed. In short, a timeless universe that had no beginning and no conceivable end. 

Contrary to what most people think, the Big Bang theory postulated by science , as the “spark” that created universe that we know today does not preclude its non-existence. Prior to the big bang, a universe was assumed to have existed but with totally different form and physical properties, one that exists in theory and never experienced by earthlings but its properties manifested in some way in the cosmological phenomenon of the enigmatic black hole –  that of a singularity. The big bang event supposedly ushered in or transformed the state of such singularity to the material world or universe that we know today, where physical properties such as time, space and matter began to exist for the first time.  For a non-scientist, ordinary minded folk like myself, the previous and the next link are in my opinion the most comprehensible literature on timeless universe and singularity I discovered in cyberspace.  The author calls the pre big bang universe state of singularity the White World to give it a physical dimension for illustration purposes. Give it a read if you have the time.

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