The night’s sky, a Universe of endless exploration within the darkness of infinite space and seemingly endless time. Human beings have had many understandings of the Universe since they could stretch their imaginations to such fantastic heights however recently there have been several advancements that have allowed for an even more comprehensive and useful models for understanding the Universe. Scientific methods and imaginal methods are each necessary to approach something as massive as the Universe, and both of these fields have grown considerably in the past few centuries. Here, the scientific, imagistic, and imaginal ways of knowing and relating with the Universe are explored.
The night sky, a field of endless starlight whose beauty both supports and overwhelms the mind, is a subject of utmost scrutiny and relevancy for humanity. Ever since recent scientific advancements since the Enlightenment, Man has been steadily unpeeling the mystery that is night sky and the universe it holds. In this quest, man has hoped to find both truth and meaning capable of assuaging his need for ultimate significance, an imperative of the uneasy soul in uneasy times. Weirdly, this strange need has been both fulfilling and defeating unto many of us as the data shows that there are an unimaginable number of stars, star systems, and maybe even universes within relation with our beloved star-sun and Earth. The complexity revealed is astounding however there are some key revelations and principles given that help to bring order to our Universe which are certainly worth studying and knowing. The first of these is the history of the sky and how humanity has been steadily stepping up their appreciation and interaction with the Universe. The second are some of the modern day offerings regarding the Universe’s structure and possible direction. The third and final is the idea, or ideas, of multiple dimensions, which this reality may be founded, encapsulated, or parallel to.
The sky has always held meaning for humanity. One of the earliest actual uses of the night sky was the navigation across land and water by star constellations. Overtime, these came to represent different characterizations which later were known as the zodiac (The Academy). These constellations were believed to have an influence upon the lives of human beings which may be why many ancient cultures built monuments in homage and alignment with the stars they saw. Astronomy in ancient times was in fact quite adept as some of the more advanced scientists of that early time, such as in the library of Alexandria, were known to have calculated the size of the Earth, moon, sun, and even the distances between them (The Academy). Interestingly, many of the ancient astronomers, despite having made such astounding calculations believed the Earth was the center of the Universe even while accurately describing the relative motion of the sun and planets as a system of circles within circles (The Academy).
The dark and middle ages revealed little development concerning astronomical discovery however with the work of Copernicus and Galileo, thought of the times grew to accept the idea that the Earth might revolve around the sun. While Copernicus was able to scientifically relate this idea through writing in the sixteenth century, in it was not until Galileo’s work with the telescope that people could actually see Jupiter and find that the night sky was not entirely Earth centered. This caused a tremendous commotion as the indisputable proof shook up the paradigms of the day which was difficult for Galileo however he still managed to help propel the system of science into the revolutionary Enlightenment age of the seventeenth century. During this period, the science was refined to objective and testable systems which totally remade society so as to base itself upon science rather than spirituality (The Academy). Today, expeditions like Mars One lend to the possibility of even further discoveries.
Ever since the Enlightenment, humans have been sequentially building up their understanding regarding the Universe. According to many scholars, humanity has had a ‘hummingbird effect’ of innovation ever since Galileo first opened the door to the heavens through his telescope (Popova). Indeed, one of the foremost developments responsible for the surge in heavenly awareness are telescopes like the Hubble. Images shown by the Hubble reveal grand and glorious schemes of creation that are apparently endlessly scattered across the infinite cosmos.
One of the most incredible of reports now available to humanity is the discovery of the universe’s vastness. While the exact dimension of the Universe is uncertain, it is speculated that the Universe is probably about 93 billion light years across. Incredibly, the Universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old however with ever occurring expansion that is the big bang, the Universe is stretched out substantially (Mann). Ironically, looking out on the Universe’s distance actually means looking back in time since one is tracing lines and waves of light which have taken many billions of years to reach the human eye. Hence, as technology has progressed the ability to look into the heavens, what is being observed is older than ever. The paradox is just one of many examples of what makes the Universe so wondrous.
The Hubble Telescope has returned many photos that help to impress the enormity of the University. With the renowned telescope’s optical zoom, it has been able to view at its max capacity a Galaxy thought to be as old as 480 million years after the Big Bang. With its age and position in the universe, the Galaxy is roughly 31.5 billion light years from Earth (Mann). The distance is estimated via the examination of the red-shift phenomenon, the tendencies whereby objects become ‘redshifted’ as they are pushed away from the location of the viewer, Earth, due to the Universe’s expansion (Mann).
Modern science’s discovery of the size of the Universe is matched only by the Big Bang in its astoundingly complex nature. Thanks to super physicist’s super work, it is now reasonably estimated that universe is 14 billion years old (Siegel). It was at this time 14 Billion years ago that the Universe exploded from a single point of unimaginable density and tininess into the Universe today through the principle of inflation’s endless expansion. The exact exponent of size increase is almost impossible to comprehend. The Universe is now literally googols, a 1 followed by 100 zeroes, upon googols bigger than it once was (Siegel). Interestingly, the Universe still retains the unity of the original point however the increase in size has caused the Universe to cause a plane out and create the flatness that is necessary to have interactions and physical form. Like a balloon that is stretched to its maximum capacity, hypothetical inhabitants of the universe have moved from experiencing the roundness of the universe-balloon into the full on expansion of flatness that is so amazing today (Siegel).
As far as the structure of the Universe, the initial history is theorized as quite chaotic as energy experienced itself for the first time. With the start of the Universe, the light element particles deuterium, a hydrogen isotope, which combined to make helium the first element on the periodic table with a 1 to 1 proton to electron configuration (Choi). It was at 380,000 years old that the Universe made the first shining light for until then it was too hot to form coherent systems of matter dense enough to create nuclear power (Choi). Astronomers speculate about the nature of the Universe at that time thanks to cosmic microwave background radiation collected at the very edge of the known and observable universe.
While quite illuminative, the scientific models are not the only places to turn to for cosmic understanding. For instance, the book, video, lecture series, Imagining the Tenth Dimension, is one source for possibly grasping not just the Universe’s size but its multi-dimensionality and possibly character as well. First dreamt up by Rob Bryant as a way to grasp the tenth dimension, the final one according to some theorists, the show is a helpful way to figure the manner of dimensional expansion. Beginning with a point, perhaps the initial one of the Big Bang although without space or size since it has no comparison, the talk explains that the first dimension is created from this zero dimension through the addition of another point thus resulting in the straight line (10thdim). The second dimension is then realized by the intersection of a second line that touches the first thereby giving a split capable of differentiating the impossible narrowness and incalculable size of the first. The third dimension is arrived at through the folding of the second dimension in on itself thereby creating space, the hallmark of the third dimension (10th Dim). The Mobius Strip is a helpful for considering this jump for it concretely demonstrates how a strip of paper, conceived of as the 2nd dimension, can create a loop with a twist in the middle that thereby causes it to twist through 3 dimensions which is however only seen by a higher dimensional observer. The fourth dimension is then the duration of the third dimension, otherwise known as time (10th Dim). The fourth dimension can only be imagined for it is being continuously moved through. Nonetheless, reason says that the fourth dimension is itself twisting, like the Mobias strip, through a higher dimension: the fifth dimension, a probability space for time-lines (10th Dim). The Sixth dimension is again realized or harnessed through another fold which thereby allows for time-lines to intersect. The seventh dimension is conceived of as the sum total of all the time lines and spaces since our universe’s big-bang beginning to its hypothetical end. It is therefore infinity (10th Dim). Although infinite, there may be other infinitudes created by universe born out of different initial conditions. Thus, the infinity of our universe to the infinity of another universe creates the intersection that is the 8th dimension. To travel to and through these infinities, one must go higher once again into a probabilistic fold in the 9th dimension. The 10th dimension, the final of these fields, is the sum total of all infinities ever and at once is again an all encompassing point which can have no comparison point. Hence, it is apparently in theory much the same as the first point of the zero dimension the whole system started with (10th Dim).
The Universe is still expanding. Even though its end has been arrived at theoretically, every day the Universe grows from both its natural expansion and through the revelations given by science for the dendritic mind space created and used by Humanity is also a field-dimension of its own immediate value and actuality. As science and society progresses, it is likely that human’s relationship to and with the Universe will change as they continue to grasp more of the principles that make it so. Hence, the future of the Universe appears to be almost as incredible as its exciting and stunning history.
10th Dim. Imagining the Tenth Dimension part 1 of 2. Youtube, 2007. Web. July, 2005. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySBaYMESb8o.
Choi, Charles. Our expanding Universe: Age, History, & Other Facts. Space.com, 2015. Web. July 5th. http://www.space.com/52-the-expanding-universe-from-the-big-bang-to-today.html
Mann, Adam. How to picture the size of the Universe. Wired, 2011. Web. July, 4, 2016. http://www.wired.com/2011/12/universe-size/.
Popova, Maria. Cosmicgraphics: Picturing Space through Time in 4,000 Years of Mapping the Universe. Brain Pickings, n.d. Web. July, 4, 2016. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/31/cosmigraphics-michael-benson/
The Academy of Evolutionary Metaphysics. The Rise of Modern Science. Evolutionary-Metaphysics, 2005. Web. July 4, 2016. http://www.evolutionary-metaphysics.net/rise_of_modern_science.html
Siegel, Ethan. How Big is the Unobservable Universe. Science Blogs, 2010. Web. http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/10/27/how-big-is-the-unobservable-un/.