Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just a little bit older, but are we wiser?

Scientists have announced that their estimates of the universe's age were just a little off. So the hydrogen that comprises about half a typical human's body mass is not 13 billion years old, it's 13.7 billion years old.

Doesn't that make you feel young as an Elf?

I've always wondered, though, how scientists can live with the idea that Earth is at the center of the universe. They claim it's not, but every measurement of the size of the universe (which is correlated to its age) is expressed in terms of how far light has had to travel to reach us (or radio waves). That makes the Earth the center of the universe.

Or at least it's the center of the universe that we see (and hear). But why is it that scientists never ask if the light that reaches us didn't come from a source that sent light in the opposite direction? Are there huge cosmic lamps out there that only point light one way, like the great stands of lights that surround game stadiums at night?

Where does that light go? Is there some Earth-like planet in the middle of another section of the universe whose scientists are saying, "We're only Bleeple Mipps away from the edge of the universe", and in fact we here on Earth are outside the distance covered by those Bleeple Mipps?

When I was a tyke, or perhaps a lad, a strapping young man, some older friend of mine (he may have been all of 14 years old at the time) tried to explain to me that -- according to Einstein, who knows all things about gravity, mass, light, and relativity -- a beam of light directed at the edge of the universe would continue on its way until it reached its point of origin. That is, the universe is so massive that somewhere the light's path -- though seeming to remain straight to a point of observation concurrent with the light particles' position -- would seem to curve to an observer positioned at the point of origin.

Supposedly, the curvature would be so great that the light would come right back in to its point of origin -- or wrap around the universe about halfway and then come right back. Sort of like a rock being thrown up that eventually has to come down.

The problem is, if that theory is correct, we should see ourselves coming back to meet ourselves. I mean, at some point, the light sent out by Sol -- our sun -- should return to the Solar system. And if we could detect that ancient light from Sol, we should be able to determine how long (relative to our own position in the universe) it took that light to zoom out to the edge of the universe, curve around, and come back.

Ideally, you'd want to do that with a nearby pulsing star's light, although I suppose that pulsing stars don't last very long in cosmic terms as they pulse because they have captured or been captured by the mass of a nearby star-like body. But how do you measure the distance of a universe where you haven't seen the light come back around?

Scientists depend on the radiation they detect from the Big Bang, the supposed event of origin for this universe. That is, the radiation has moved out so far it has already bounced back to us. Except, if the radiation we detect is from the earliest experience of the universe, when did it bounce back? That is, if the universe is constantly expanding -- or if the universe was constantly expanding for some length of time in the past -- then why did the radiation fall back into the universe? Did some particals have less energy than others, and there are still particles farther out that didn't bounce back at the same time as the radiation we have already detected?

There should be a fall-edge or event horizon for the universe somewhere in all directions, where light cannot escape. We are essentially a light hole in the space of the greater nothingness that surrounds the universe. That is, if the universe is expanding, it must be expanding into something or else it is not expanding at all. That something may have nothing in it, but it remains something into which time and space and move. Call it Absolute Distance, where the laws of relativity do not apply because -- except for our universe and perhaps a multitude of other universes -- there is nothing to produce the laws and relativity. There is no mass in the greater expanse of Absolute Distance.

So our universe, if it has an event horizon, is bright unto itself, because all light remains within it, even though that light may be moving farther away from center. Eventually, though, the light loses its energy and the mass of the universe pulls it back in, just as the mass of a black hole pulls light into itself, and the light falls back into the universe.

We are standing in an ever-constant, gentle storm of lightfall, showered by the memories of the past. But we still don't know if science is right or if it has missed the obvious universe sitting right next to us. After all, perhaps Absolute Distance is tightly packed by universes which almost touch each other, constantly jostling for more room, but constantly sucking their light (or its equivalent) back into themselves. We see not the darkness which surrounds us, but we feel its absence within the walls of our universe, and we ask, "Is there anything else out there? Or is that all there is?"


Anonymous Matt T said...

Great post, Michael. You have some very interesting thoughts on one of my favorite subjects. We tend to see things very similarly in this arena.

11:16 AM  

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