I’m not a scientist but I’m not so simple minded as to think that we humans have figured out all there is to know about the universe. But that being so, it’s amazing that we behave (as a species) as if we are infallible, with smugness and arrogance.
Of particular interest to me, is that science has found a great many aspects of this big universe that don’t fit within the confines of our theories and assumptions. They have determined how much of the universe falls into that category: 84.5%. I am speaking, of course about Dark Matter — that part of the universe which we can sense but cannot see.
Since at least the 1880’s there have been a string of scientists and theoreticians who have struggled trying to understand why much of what we see and sense around us behaves in ways that demand the influence of forces beyond our senses. We can tell something exists but we can’t measure it:
The standard model of cosmology indicates that the total mass–energy of the universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy. Thus, dark matter constitutes 84.5% of total mass, while dark energy plus dark matter constitute 95.1% of total mass–energy content. The great majority of ordinary matter in the universe is also unseen. Visible stars and gas inside galaxies and clusters account for less than 10% of the ordinary matter contribution to the mass-energy density of the universe. The most widely accepted hypothesis on the form for dark matter is that it is composed of weakly interacting massive particles, WIMPs, that interact only through gravity and the weak force. The dark matter hypothesis plays a central role in current modeling of cosmic structure formation, galaxy formation and evolution, and on explanations of the anisotropies observed in the cosmic microwave background, CMB. All these lines of evidence suggest that galaxies, galaxy clusters, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than that which is observable via electromagnetic signals. Many experiments to detect proposed dark matter particles through non-gravitational means are under way; however, no dark matter particle has been conclusively identified.
All of which points out to me — no one else in the world may see it, but it seems perfectly rational to me — that our human claims to deny God, deny miracles, deny anything-we-don’t-understand-including clairvoyance and other so-called spiritual gifts — are nothing more than human hubris.
I have long been curious about what happens after death. No — I don’t really mean whether there is a life after death or not — I am convinced in my own mind — by faith — of my answer to that. But rather what is the process that the human brain goes through after the heart has stopped beating and a person is considered dead.
A recent news article the link to which I have misplaced suggested something that is being looked into but hasn’t been studied enough to make any authoritative claims. That is that memory cells live on for some period of time after circulation has started. Some considerable length of time. I hesitate to speak about it without a ready link but there are a lot of things that aren’t proven and it’s not the fact or fiction of the research that intriques me but the possibilities.
As a pacifist I have always been concerned about the question of whether the execution of any human can be “humane.” This ongoing research calls into question the claims of those who support execution as a judicial solution to heinous crimes. If the memory cells do actually remain viable it’s possible — to use an extreme example — that a victim of the guillotine is seeing and sensing what happens after that very unkind cut. In recent weeks there been news articles about Texas and Florida executions where inmates have seemed to struggle and suffer during the execution process. Questions about whether “memory” lingers raise all manner of complications.
Those of you who follow the TV program The Big Bang Theory will remember that Sheldon talks from time to time about parallel universes and about time travel. Well, the question about what to do with that 84.5% of the universe we cannot perceive causes one to wonder about things like time travel or other universes. Or even whether time exists at all? Whether it’s possible to exist in some realm of matter which humans cannot perceive that exists over and above time — for something to exist at all the times that ever existed in the same instant.
Yes — I know — all of this is nothing more than cotton candy for the brain. We live in three dimensions bound by time. I know no escaping that reality in this life. And, I know nothing about the reality of life beyond this life. I have faith and I act upon my faith but neither I nor anyone else can say they know what lies in the Great Beyond.
What we can do, however, is to stay open to possibilities. To let our brain, and our mind, explore ideas and potential that we cannot know, but which exist as possibilities. I truly believe that as we age this is increasingly important. It’s hard to keep an OLD brain YOUNG! We learn to like familiarity and crave it. We learn to dislike change and avoid it. But the way of the world is to follow the new paths. Electric cars or flying cars, phasers, non-invasive medical diagnosis — things that used to be part of science fiction movies are — TODAY — within the realm of possibility or have already happened. The Saturday morning fiction of the Jetsons isn’t as silly as once it was — though I’m still waiting for my own flying car.
I wonder about the current trend in movies. It seems that for the last few years there have been a lot of post apocalyptic movies — I question whether that has come to be because people are really that disillusioned and depressed — or on the contrary because it’s difficult to imagine what’s even possible now that we have progressed to this point. Are we incapable of imagining the wonders and delights of a world in which all our gimicks and gadgets have come to reality? Or are we realizing that we have created the scenario of our own demise? I have no idea which reality is most likely — and by all standards of human existence I won’t be around when the world discovers the answer to that query.
The last few days with my ponderings about politics I’ve begun to wonder if it’s anyone or anything that bothers me …. or whether I am simply frustrated by the fact that governance must — of needs — be performed by groups of people. And being that guy who has never like working in committee because none of the sizeable committees I’ve ever been on has accomplished much of anything — I look at the stalemates not only in U.S. politics — but in politics around the world and I despair of timely solutions to immediate problems. A person could spend a lifetime wondering how Britain is going to survive BREXIT. We have already spent a lifetime trying to figure out what to do on the Korean penninsula. There are problems — serious problems — around the world in every nation and every city — that aren’t being answered — and even more that haven’t even been phrased into words.
In my younger days I DID work in a few places where we had small committees. Two or three people huddled together with a job that had a deadline. And we found ways of cooperation and improvisation. With strong emphasis on improvisation — because the deadlines were often too tight to do things the accepted way. But a small group didn’t have to be worried about political correctness. We weren’t telegraphing our every move and our every decision to some larger audience in search of their approval — all the larger audience cared about was that the task was finished. Not begun, but finished with the desired end result. So often today there have to be layers of approval. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing — when it comes to saving the environment I’m sure that the people who want to build are not necessarily the people who know what damage their building may do to the environment — so layers of approval have to be used and they are essential to a world in which we can all still continue to survive. But over the past 50 years the population of earth has doubled — and then some — and the simplicity of the world I grew up in simply won’t work for the population load the earth is carrying now. Barring a nuclear war and the fatalities that would bring, and barring pestilence and plague that kills off a major portion o fthe population we are going to have to find ways of feeding, clothing, and sheltering a lot more people in the face of the earth.
Some years ago I was sitting in a public waiting room; I long since forgot where it was. Across from me was sitting a young father and a young son. I’d guess he was younger than 6, he was small but he had a pretty well advanced vocabulary for a human of such tiny dimensions. 🙂 Was he home schooled? Or a prodigy? Maybe he just read a lot? Anyway father and child were talking and the little guy was telling (quite loudly) dad about something he was afraid of (maybe we were in a doctor’s office)… Anyway… The dad asked the little guy a question about where he got a certain idea and without a moment’s pause the little guy said, “The kangaroo in my ear told me that.”
He was perfectly serious. The dad smiled. Their conversation — still at much more than a whisper was no longer about the little guys’ fear but about that Kangaroo! And I thought ot myself: to him it was perfectly normal to think that a kangaroo coud FIT in his ear. I had heard those words “kangaroo” and “in” and “my ear” and all I could think of was the absurdity of the three in one place. Yet to the little guy there was no absurdity at all. There was a kangaroo in his ear and he was talking to him. Pure and simple.
For adults, it’s hard to imagine the impossible. That might be, in part, because we have learned that some things are impossible — at least in the world in which we live. But some adults haven’t yet learned that lesson. Those are the inventors. Those are the theortists. They are philosophers. They are the leaders of men who accomplish the impossible.
I had a program on TV the other night about dangerous roads. During that program it was mentioned that the Alaska Pipeline — that 48″ diameter and 800 mile long pipeline that carries crude oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez Alaska was built in — get this — 2 years. (Construction began March 27, 1975 and was completed May 31, 1977.) That is some of the ruggedest and most unforgiving territory in the world and when push came to shove engineers of all sorts and mechanics of varied talents and laborers and haulers knuckled down and got the job done in an unbelievable time.
Now, I’m no great lover of oil pipelines. I cite the pipeline as an example of doing the impossible. When faced with a challenge we humans can overcome. But we have to begin by believing that you can have a kangaroo in your ear! We have to begin by believing what no one else thinks can happen, can indeed happen. We have to be willing to stand up and assert our conviction against the naysayers.
I bet it’s been 10 or 20 years since that little boy with the kangaroo in his ear sat across from me in the waiting room. But I think there’s a good reason that I still remember him. 🙂
If you’re interested there are numerous resources about Dark Matter and Dark Energy…
Do a little research and give your mind something to think about.