08 November 2016

Not a post about the elections

I won’t write about the elections in this blog except to say - GET OUT AND VOTE! - instead I will respond to one of the prompts from JOTU course:

Does the discovery that we live in a constantly expanding universe change the way that you think about life on Earth? What questions does it raise for you?

Some of the science that is explored in this course has really blown my mind. I particularly liked Brian Swimme’s raisin bread metaphor to understand the universe expansion. According to Hubble and other scientists’ measurements, the universe is constantly expanding. In fact, every single point of the universe is the center of that expansion.

Think about that - each one of us, each planet, each star, actually is the center of the universe.

But how does that work exactly? Swimme’s metaphor helps us to understand: imagine that you or the planet Saturn are a raisin in an unrisen, unbaked loaf of bread. As the loaf rises and bakes, it expands. From the perspective of a single raisin, every other raisin is moving away, expanding away from the raisin. No matter which raisin you are, the other raisins are expanding away.

It is an interesting philosophical point as well. Think of all the controversy about changing the idea of the Earth as the center of the universe. Galileo, Copernicus, many other early astronomers faced derision, expulsion, and even execution because of their ideas that challenged the religious and powerful thought of the time. It is still true that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth, however based on this idea of expansion, it appears that we could actually say that the Earth is the center of the universe.

It also places the individual human contemplating these ideas in the center of the universe. What a concept! Recognizing how tiny we are while at the same time discovering our centrality.

Listening to: Spotify’s playlist Rock your Rights

By the way, I link frequently to Wikipedia. I think it’s a great resource, and I make annual donations to the Wikimedia foundation. I hope you will consider making a donation too!

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