Creative Arts with Patrick Moore


Embracing Dark Energy
May 29, 2013, 10:47 am
Filed under: essence, Plato and Platonism, science

The following is an essay I wrote more than a decade ago and emailed to friends. I don’t know if my essay was an influence, but in 2007 Stephen Baxter wrote a Sci Fi story called Last Contact, in which expanding space caused the light of the sun to stop reaching the earth, and soon after the world ended. My essay has a much happier ending!

I opened this document a few days ago with the intention of rewriting it. I was surprised to find that much of what I wrote, still holds up after a decade plus. I only cut out a few parts where you see elipses (…).

ADAPTING TO THE THREAT OF SPACE EXPANDING
by Patrick Moore c 2002
Discover magazine reported in September, 2002, that space is expanding much faster than physicists had ever guessed. What does this mean? Albert Einstein described the expansion of space to his son by showing him a balloon. Put two dots on the balloon at point A and point B. Imagine that an ant is walking across the balloon. The ant can surely walk from one point to the other. However, if you blow up the balloon at the same time, the distance the ant has to travel increases. If you blow fast enough, the ant will never reach point B. The same is happening with our universe. Light from sources more than fifteen billion light-years away will never reach us because the space is expanding too quickly. Expansion was first noticed many decades ago, but physicists believed that the gravity of the stars would eventually pull the universe back together, or at least match expansion. New observations of supernovae demonstrate that expansion is far greater than ever imagined, so the universe will continue dispersing. The implications of this fate are just beginning to be realized.

One of the discoverers in 1998, Brian Schmidt said that the future of the universe is bleak. He said that in 150 billion years, space will be so expanded that the only the light from our own Milky Way galaxy, and our nearest neighbor, Andromeda, will be close enough to reach here. The rest of the sky will be black. The article in Discover Magazine described the future as isolated, disturbing, cold, lonely, and void. The article is modified from a chapter in the book, God In The Equation by Corey S. Powell, 2002.

The news may be even worse than the science writers currently realize. Let’s face it: if space is expanding at an accelerating rate, then at some time after the starlight has disappeared, the light from our own sun will never reach the earth. When a person in the same room speaks to you, the sound from their voice will not reach your ears. Later, the sight of other people will not reach your eyes. Blood pumped from your heart will never reach your limbs, and thoughts from your brain will never reach across the synapses to the next neurons. Life as science has defined it will be completely suspended. Electrons will not be able to complete an orbit. Not only will each person be alienated from every other person, but each cell, each particle will be forever lost. It is like running for a boat that has just left port, when the gap is already too large to jump and the boat is accelerating away.

Also, findings in the last four years suggest that these changes may occur within 10 billion years, rather than Brian Schmidt’s estimate of 150 billion years. If this is true, our universe is already past half its life expectancy, and we weren’t even awake during most of the first half. We are having a mid-life crisis.

How will this discovery affect our world in the coming decade? Some may think, “I’ll grab what I can now because later it all drifts away.” Some may think, “Since everything that matters will fly apart, there is no reason to live.” I can imagine people justifying horrible behaviors with these thoughts. What if the news may yet benefit us? What if there is a way to bridge the widening gap? Awakening to time’s deadline may hurry us along in our human development. Permit me to explain.

The bleak consequences arise because we currently experience distance between each other: you are over there while I am here. We believe some sort of powered locomotion is necessary to bridge this distance: the muscle power of walking, the sound waves generated by the voice, the light waves of sight, reflected from a powered light source. And crossing the gap from me to you still does not insure that we can hold onto each other if space expands. You and I cannot occupy the same space at the same time, we believe. The fastest speed currently understood by scientists is 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light. Scientists can “prove” (by referring to “laws”) that instantaneous communication is impossible, instantaneous travel is even more impossible, and “being” here and there simultaneously is impossibly impossible. However, if there is a way to “be” both subject and object simultaneously, universal expansion would have no unpleasant consequences.

Science Fiction presents alternative views. Here are three. In The Shobie’s Story, by Ursula K. LeGuin, a group of people make the first “flight” of instantaneous travel across many light years. However, when the people arrived, they did not agree that they had arrived, and this conflict of perspectives influenced whether they really had arrived or not. In the SF novel, Dune, by Frank Herbert, space can be “folded” to travel large distances instantaneously, but a certain kind of navigator, who maintains a certain mental state, is necessary. In the teen novel, A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeline L’Engle, people are able to travel large distances by tessering which is to bring point A into immediate contact with point B, rather than traveling the distance between them. To tesser requires no technology, just a stretch of the imagination. There are many examples in SF of instantaneous transporter beams, which rely on technology, but I chose these three stories because they show how the human shift in perspective is a necessary ingredient to instantaneous travel. Relaxing certainty, beliefs of limits, expectations, and other attachments makes travel possible.

Religions and philosophies have been demonstrating the same message for thousands of years. The laws of surface tension are no longer legally binding when a human can walk on water. The laws of pathology are repealed when instantaneous healing takes place. Shamans can reportedly travel into the consciousness of animals, streams, mountains, and other creatures, influencing and being influenced by events at a distance, which the laws of physics prohibit. Tibetan Lamas have reported the human capability to inhale air pollution and exhale pure air, to stop fires, to read books in two rooms at once, to give their skin to a leper, as well as other feats that are proven impossible by science. American money says, “In God We Trust,” and when a war is imminent, the highest commanders pray publicly that divine principles support their perspective. The laws of science are obeyed during smooth sailing, but when a terrible threat appears, we look for deeper meaning, alternative means, and higher powers. Maybe the threat of universal isolation was created by a higher power, which cares enough to remind us to look for better solutions.

… none of the four forces can explain the new findings that space is expanding, and that the rate of expansion apparently changes. According to Powell, they are now looking for a fifth force that has a repulsive rather than attractive effect, to explain the increase in expansion. And what makes them think that five is the final number of forces? … What “laws” can apply to finding this number? Even if it could be discovered that five and no more forces exist, and the Theory Of Everything gained the ultimate predictive power, what good will it be when the light from the calculator never reaches the eye of the scientist? A T.O.E. seems to offer little hope in comparison to a capability of “being both here and there.”

… has inspired my own questions: How do they know it is space expanding, and not time shrinking (how could they tell the difference)? Why assume that space expanding is a force, and not the very fabric of space stretching, the thread count multiplying (people go forth and multiply, why can’t space)? What if space is experiencing personal growth (when your partner is growing quickly, it puts the pressure on you to catch up or dissolve the partnership)? What if space is growing beyond human ability to see, as a literal response to human short-sightedness…?

Whether you call it (Zen) unifying subject and object, embracing others as self, or universal presence, this leap of perspective is the solution to the problem of space expanding. … to gain this refinement of perception.

If the danger is transcended through a change in perspective, the quality of life becomes dramatically better than it was before the threat emerged. A blessing in disguise. It makes you wonder if space has a sort of consciousness, if there is a compassionate being, an intelligent sci-fi author at work in the cosmos.