With our vast technology, we have been able to photograph galaxies billions of light years away , manipulate the genes that control life, and probe the inner sanctum of the atom, but the mind and the universe still elude and tantalize us. They are the most mysterious and fascinating frontiers known to science. – Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku
The World is a huge place where people experience life without ever having to think about the Universe beyond or to reflect on the evolution of life within; an evolution that has delivered a menagerie of life forms, sensory processes and intellectually centred brains that dictate survival by separating illusion from reality.
A reality we rarely question, and yet diffracted through lenses so complex that dissimilar exposures deliver dichotomies of belief that defy logic; while ‘out there’, more bewildering questions remain about origins, and the life that manifested and evolved in the cradle of mother Earth and her Sun – one of two billion stars residing in the Milky Way, one galaxy surrounded by infinite galaxies dotted across the Universe.
The most influential Western philosopher of the modern era, Immanuel Kant, noted that living organisms perceive reality in a unique way: ‘Sensory experience only makes sense because our faculty of sensibility processes it, organizing it according to our intuitions of time and space.’
In the macrocosm of life the sensibility of 'plant forms' is communicated by biochemical means; for humans that chemical sensibility is directed by nervous system pathways that coalesce in the control centre of the brain; the place where consciousness registers surrounding space and the passage of time.
The concept of an infinite surrounding space beckons infinite possibilities, such as the colonization of extraterrestrial space, costless energy and artificial brains, but the possibility we seem most obsessed with is life somewhere other than Earth, and given an infinite Universe, this must be the case - but is it?
Yes I saw big ‘panther’ prints in the sand at Cape Conran, the ‘beast’ loping along with a two metre gait, which I photographed, made plaster casts and told incredulous stories about.
According to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson this is a personal truth not an objective truth; whereas science, verified by observers using mathematics and replicated experimental design, is regarded as fact.
Some of the scientific facts we know:
· The Milky Way is 100,000 light years from end to end (with a light year equalling 9,500,000,000,000 normal years).
· Our galaxy is constantly rotating, with Earth placed 30 thousand light years from the centre and moving at 828,000 km/hr (5% of the speed of light).
· There’s a black hole, ‘Sagittarius A’, in the middle of the Milky Way (as there are in all spiral galaxies) and it has a mass 400 million times that of our Sun, (we know little about the nature of black holes).
· Some galaxies are being pushed apart (by ‘dark energy’) at a rate faster than the speed
of light. ‘The two galaxies ... are not travelling through space; it is the space between them that is expanding.’
At the other end of mind boggling big are the molecules that make up matter.
Take a glassful of water out of the ocean and mark all the molecules, then tip the water back into the ocean and mix it with the world’s oceans; take another glass of water from anywhere in the world and check for your marked molecules - you will still find a hundred or so in your glass.
But molecules are mainly space and if an Earth sized hydrogen atom existed then the proton in its centre would be 200 meters wide. Not to mention the electron going around the proton, which is so small we only hypothesise its size - and possibly it has no size at all, even though it has mass. Consider that if we took all the space out of humanity we would end up with a lump of matter the size of a sugar cube!
In 1929 the first particle accelerator was built and since then almost all the advances in particle physics have been made using particle accelerators; the most recent one being the Hadron collider’s discovery of the Higgs boson, the ‘God particle’ that organises the conversion of energy into mass.
As a result of smashing atoms together we now have ‘The Standard Model’ that explains what the Universe is made of and what forces hold the fundamental particles together. The Standard Model consists of quarks (three in every proton and neutron), leptons which are electron-like particles (six in total) and four forces which bind the quarks and leptons.
Some of the other ‘cute’ particles discovered in colliders are virtual particles that inhabit the so called voids of space; and antimatter particles (discovered in 1933), which have the opposite charge to matter particles and exist in the blink of an eye before being neutralized by matter, (antimatter having exactly the same properties as matter except being oppositely charged).
act in peculiar ways which must underlie functions exhibited in the macroscopic world since these are the building blocks. So before
considering the macroworld that we live in let's look at one of the strangest characteristics of the quantum world - 'quantum entanglement'.
But there are more questions left unanswered than answered and gravity is one of them. We know what gravity does, but we don’t know what causes it, even though it’s been given the name ‘graviton’.
The accepted theory of gravity is still with Einstein but I can’t get my head around it. Here’s an explanatory YouTube clip if you want to try.
The best anology I've come across is given by Theoretical Physicist, Carlo Rovelli, who uses the difference in time measured at differing altitudes as being a consequence of time being warped due to light or some other particle, passing the Earth and being affected by the curvature of the mass of Earth. As a result of the extra distance traveled the particles something has to give since the speed is constant, and that something is time with everything moving towards the slower time at the center of the Earth and this process creates the experience of gravity.
(Sorry Albert - I'm still not happy! The ramification of this is that we move towards a unification time frame which can only be experienced when waves of 'light' are beyond our conscious experience; which is advantaged by the delta brain waves of sleep or the alpha/theta waves of meditation - both places beyond the consciousness of thought.)
A quantum is the smallest possible discrete unit of any physical property and the study of these primary building blocks is called quantum mechanics.
In 1905 Albert Einstein recognised that light was not a continuous wave but was made up of light quanta (later called photons) that travelled at the constant speed of about 300,000 km/sec (299,792,458). This was the start of the mechanics surrounding the quantum world.