“The fact that through the application of reason we can come to understand the rules by which the universe works proves that reason and the universe are of the same being” from the novel Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee
There’s been a lot of coverage recently of Physics and Astronomy. The Large Hadron Collider at Cern has been in the news this year with the confirmed discovery of the Higgs Bosun. Also known as the God particle, it’s an unpopular title with scientists who think they are deserving of the title. Particle physics has added new words to the lexicon; quarks, Higgs Bosun, wimps, black holes, and now Dark Matter. This ‘new material’ is the stuff of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The Dark Matter will give religion a field day as it fits the identikit of Beelzebub, and is neatly juxtaposed to the God particle. So be prepared for an outbreak of religious zeal, sightings, moving statues, and Virgins passing messages. Warn your children not to speak to radiant strangers in grottoes.
Dark matter, it appears, actually it doesn’t appear at all as it is invisible, is causing the universe to expand. Jim Al Khalili, a theoretical physicist, demonstrated with a pen and notebook a progression of formulea to verify the existence by inference of this Dark Matter. That expansion will result in Galaxies so far apart that light will not travel between them. Two questions: Expand to where exactly? Will there still be a mail service?
Everyman, Mr.Al Khalili, sat with his back against a pillar in an derelict parking lot, with pen in hand he bandied numbers ‘to the power of’ which eclipsed any notional debt anywhere in the known universe. His street cred fell like a shooting star when he dusted the seat of his pants as he stood and walked out of shot. Particle physics my arse!
All this information is the result of our preponderance for stargazing. I am a keen advocate of stargazing with feet on terra firma and a cloudless velvet black sky. There is a fundamental human need to stare into the void and wonder with the wonder of a child. This curiosity has created a vast array of deep space technology carrying out experiments to produce data verifying that we are actually here. It is 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, give or take a day or two, and the shock waves from that event are still reverberating throughout the universe. That our planet spins at 1040 mph on its axis, hurtling around the sun at 67,062mph while the solar system is also in rotation within the galaxy is awesome, miraculous. Yet If you were to stare through the wrong end of the Hubble telescope back to planet earth the effect of ignorance is expanding the spaces between nations, races, and religions. Dark Matter; Present. Destination; Black Hole?