TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

originally posted on September 16, 2010

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 🙂

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