The Cosmic grandeur
The Universe forces those who live in it to understand it. Those creatures who find everyday experience a muddled jumble of events with no predictability, no regularity, are in grave peril. The Universe belongs to those who, at least to some degree, have figured it out – Carl Sagan
To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit—Stephen Hawking.
The struggle to figure out and make meaning of the universe is obviously as old as human thinking. At various stages of human history, various views of the Cosmos had been held by different group of people depending on their exposure to the Cosmic environment, their climatic conditions and, indeed, other terrestrial factors such as topology, vegetation and even domesticated animals.
When there was no communication between communities of people, human beings must have held views of the world that vary from place to place. For instance, when the wrath of God is somewhere expressed by a thunderbolt, in another place it might in form of volcanic eruption or earthquakes. When for some people, springs emerging from fountains on the rocks in mountainous regions depict glory or providence, to some people it might that the earth wept for being maltreated or denied sacrifice. Unfortunately, such sacrifices were offered sometimes in so a savage manner that human beings were sacrificed to appease a god or a goddess.
However, the evolution of means transport and communication has brought about an ever increasing contact between various nations, civilisations. Thereby making it possible for perspectives to be merged and normalised into nearly a common worldview. A standard has now been set as a methodology for observing the Cosmos. Minor disagreements are only found when it comes drawing conclusions about the observations made; yet all arguments are within the matrix of interpreting the observed phenomenon. That common culture, tradition, method or whatever one wishes to describe it; is the culture of science.
So much consensus has been achieved that today, all those who are concerned about figuring out the Universe are agreed about one idea of what it is and, probably, what it is becoming. This, yet, does not in any way mean that the world is agreed about the meaning of the Universe for the question of its meaning is still a metaphysical question before which science is helpless. Despite the near universal consensus concerning the structure of the Universe, the meaning people make out of such a grand structures still remains subjectively varied; a matter for the individual to resolve.
However, there is something to celebrate about science even though it gave us just a pinch and an approximated form of what reality really is. The good news is that despite the fact that the knowledge it brought us can be said to be so little; that so little has revealed to us so much about ourselves and about our environment. We have, at least to some extent, a common way of doing and seeing things. I will not allude to the progress in medicine and energy generation that helped in sustaining the present unprecedented population against Malthusian catastrophe; it is a topic for another day.
I am more focused on the fact that science has cleared away so many superstitions that were the causes of some conflicts among human beings in the past. You hardly now find people fighting over different gods. I must say that the Indian and Muslim societies are embarrassingly backward in this regard; as, in the case of India, we occasionally hear reports of communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in which the former consider the cow as a sacred symbol (it is even questionable if this has any strong basis in the orthodox Hindu tradition) and the later consider it a domestic animal just like any other, the goat, the sheep and so on. The slaughtering of cows for food that is done all over the world including Indian Muslims is seen as sacrilegious by the extremist Hindu, hence the communal clashes.
From another perspective, we have Muslim extremists who interpret the Quran literally and, beyond that, invent lies against the founder of the religion to propagate incredible mayhem across the globe; they kill their captives whenever their whims desire that, they kill in the most gruesome and obnoxious ways; beheadings, slitting human throat, hanging, burning people alive and whatever kind of cruelty one can imagine, they commit it without scruples. But the Muslim extremist is no different from any other extremist, even a scientific extremist. If those extremist Hindus could have their way, especially the strength of numbers that the Muslim extremists take advantage of; they would have waged a war on humanity; they would have gone on a spree of killings for the sacrilege being committed over the world by killing cows. Do we find better extremists among Buddhists? Then we must have forgotten Myanmar. One common thing about extremists is illiteracy and poor exposure to the world.
I still have some hope for humanity as science continues to do away with superstitions that make other people have a sense of superiority over others. In the end, when the doctrine of science and humanism is lucidly espoused in a simple language, not the language of the professionals that sounds like some abracadabra to the ordinary people reaches out to more individuals and makes them understand that we are all one and the same; that substance of humanity pervades all of us. There may be a semblance of peace; even though it is, unfortunately, the nation in which most scientific discoveries are made that sees itself and its values as superior to all others. This is the best example of paradox that I have ever found; the foremost country in scientific development being one of the most superstitious and self deluding one. I still emphasise my hope that the universal brotherhood of humankind despite the fact that some engineers connive with politicians to steal the ideas of science and build lethal weapons.
Now to the main business of this writing which is to popularise as well as demystify science; in that respect, I think there are two things to focus on; the overall structure of the Cosmos and the substructure of life within it. It is in this view that I propose to present the currently accepted Cosmic structure and the structure of life on the planet earth, I will pretend a kind of certainty that the earth is the only planet or place that harbours life as we know it throughout the Universe and ignore the possibility that there may be other corners of the Cosmos where life flourishes. The rest of the work will be questions left for everyone to answer for herself.
The currently accepted structure and origin of the Universe is that proposed by the Big Bang theory or a more advanced form of it known as the inflationary theory. The details of either theory are not our concern here but the kind of Universe it projects to us and the processes that are likely to occur in that version of the Universe.
By the demystification of science, I mean that I intend to point out some inadequacies of science itself to bring home the fact that no human being or any mortal can do or understand something perfectly and that is the beauty of our Cosmic journey; a door is always there opened for new questions to be ask so that human curiosity will never be exhausted.
The engineers among us are aware of the Carnot engine and how it imposes a mind boggling limit to how much man can extract useful energy from any kind of power plant or any quantity of fuel burned. There are always limits in transforming facts from the ideal world of thoughts to the real, external and objective world of Nature. For instance, the famous Newton’s equation F = ma is an ideal equation which needs other variables and constants to be added to it before it can describe real life events in the natural world. However, I think that scientists and engineers should concentrate attention on beating the Carnot engine; I have more faith in the engineers than scientists because scientists of nowadays only study classical physics as a stepping stone to “modern physics”. You hardly, therefore, find a scientist doing research in classical physics; they see it as an object of the past, more suitable for historical museums.
In my next outing on this series, I intend, unless circumstances dictate otherwise, to focus on the demystification of science to dispel the notion that science has already given correct and accurate answers to the Cosmos and its substructures. My sole aim is to expose the truth about science; its extraordinary achievements given our size and significance and some of its unprecedented failures given the intricacies of Nature and the large scale structure of the Universe. It was recently that a famous scientist remarked that “still no one know exactly even what the hydrogen atom, we are only forced to make do with what we think is responsible for the observable phenomena under certain circumstances,
Thank you for reading.
Until we meet, have splendid week.