Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Majesty of the Universe - Sci 10 Reflection Paper (wala na ma-post e hehe)

In our busy, meandering lives we often get short-sighted, failing to pause and appreciate the things that matter the most. We eagerly snoop about the latest political bickering and showbiz scandal, but neglect to observe and take a meaningful look at the big picture of our existence. We often take for granted that human beings are the only creatures capable of analyzing beyond his immediate surroundings. Very few seem to care that we human beings are in the midst of great things, and are destined for greatness.

Since time immemorial, so many questions, both scientific and otherwise, have intrigued mankind. But as for me, no question has ever been more fascinating than the earliest question man has raised: what lies out there in the heavens above us, and how and why everything came to be.

In the early 20th century, it has been theorized that everything that existed came from a colossal explosion of matter and energy, of time and space, known as the Big Bang. The explosion generated energies so great that it formed the first subatomic particles. These particles then joined together to become the first atoms, and these matter combined to form the stars. The gravitational pull of our own star, the Sun resulted in the accumulation of stardust, eventually materializing into planets. The planet Earth then evolved to become our world today. All the matter in the world, including those inside our bodies, originated from the stars, which in turn arose form the Big Bang.

The progression had been all too perfect. If there had been a minor deviation in any aspect of the evolutionary course of the universe, everything would probably just be one endless pool of heat and chaos. Nothing would have ever existed. If the natural laws and fundamental quantities were simply tweaked a little, like if the strong nuclear force was twice as strong, or if gravity pushed instead of pulled, the universe will have been a cataclysmic mishmash of unknown floating entities. Is it mere luck or probability that came into play in the sequence of cosmic and atomic events that led to today? It almost seems as if the subatomic particles and the fundamental forces conspired to place us here. But quoting Albert Einstein, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

The universe is fifteen billion light-years across. It holds an unfathomable amount of empty space, trillions of stars, billions of galaxies, and everything else that exists. Scientists have chronicled its fifteen billion years of evolution up to the most miniscule fraction of time. Astronomers have been able to identify the composition of stars and even the estimated amount of matter the universe contains. They have even been able to determine the shape of the cosmos. However, the most fundamental questions remain unanswered. How and why did it all start? What was out there before the Big Bang? How will the universe end? It is beautifully ironic to behold the universe since in the process, we are peering directly unto our origins. What we see is always a picture of the past, of where we came from. However, we have to accept that the limited human mind will never be able to fully comprehend the scope and mysteries of this vast universe. The answers to the origin of everything may even be outside the frontiers of science.

Yes, the questions are still there, probably until the end of time. Half a century after the invention of space travel, we still have not gone past the baby steps we took to reach the moon. As Emil Wiechert said, “The universe is infinite in all directions, not only above us in the large but also below us in the small. If we start from our human scale of existence and explore the content of the universe further and further, we finally arrive, both in the large and the small, at misty distances where first our senses and then even our concepts fail us.“
We may not fully decipher the mysteries of the cosmos, but the sheer fact that we question our origins and ponder our ends is a miracle in itself. Why? In the countless entities that the universe brought about, we are the only ones capable of appreciating its majestic wonder. We are the only ones capable of understanding our oneness with all the matter and energy that ever came to existence. In that sense, we could not simply be by-products of the natural evolution of space and time. We humans could be the very purpose of why the universe came to be.

Despite the assumption that we are the culmination of cosmological progression, it doesn’t alter the reality that our everyday activities are no more significant than the little trailing circles of ants when compared to the workings of the universe. It is humbling to realize that we are but infinitesimal specks amid the glorious enormity of creation. It is beyond overwhelming to grasp that everything we know, everything that has happened to our race is just transpiring in a single dot in the universe.

The modern tools of astronomy not only open our eyes to how majestic the universe is, but also to how tiny we actually are in the scheme of things. Once we realize this, our lives come into clearer focus. We come face to face with a question once again, what is one life compared to the billions of years of existence?

We only come into existence for a brief period of time, not even a fraction of the lives of stars and planets. Therefore, our lives should not merely revolve around mundane routines or worthless activities. We have been blessed with this evanescent opportunity to appreciate and relish what it means to live and behold the greatness of creation. Let us show that we deserve to take part in it.