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8 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 8 December 2010 in Diary |

Yesterday I mentioned that I was reading Prof Stephen Hawkings’ book, The Grand Design. I really ought to say little more about this book. Although the authors write in fairly plain language, inevitably one gets involved with quark’s, neutrons, protons, atoms and the like and numbers so long that the number of zeros would take several lines to type out, for example 10 to the power of 500. Although I like to think I understand what I’m reading at the time I would not relish the idea to have to sit examination having finished the book.

The object of the book is summed up in the first chapter where Prof Hawkins poses the following questions which have puzzled me for decades. Typically:

  • How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves?
  • How does the universe behave?
  • What is the nature of reality?
  • Where did all  this come from?
  • Did the universe need a creator? and in a later chapter
  • Why is there a universe?

In dealing with such questions Prof Hawkins says things like “if you go far enough back  in time the universe was as small as….. 1 billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre”.

You are left wondering how on earth they ever arrived at that figure, certainly before the advent of the computer but I do not have the temerity  to question someone so eminent as Prof Hawkins.

In any event, this very, very, very ‘tiny  ‘spec was all that existed in (‘ space’?) before the big bang from which all the galaxies and the universe have been formed. Before the big bang it seems that time did not exist! Prof audience confirms what seems now to be fairly common knowledge that the big bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago. Just what time of the day it was is yet to established. If I understand you correctly physicists are able to look back to a 200th. of a second before the event and are hoping to get even nearer to the precise moment of the big bang using the giant collider in Switzerland.

From the best of my recollection nowhere in the book did the authors questioned the existence of God. However, I was certainly left with the impression that the answer to the question ‘ Did the universe need a creator?’ was in the negative. Having said that I suppose it leaves people with faith in a higher being asking the question who was responsible for that tiny speck , being there in the first instance, and then causing the big bang.

Following on from that Prof Hawkins also agrees that the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago and that humming noise had only been on it for a minute fraction of time, 200,000 years. I wonder how much longer we will be here?

What has blown my mind for decades is the concept of infinity and the fact that the whole universe is constantly expanding (into what? (Infinite space!!). Presumably, from knowing the rate of expansion, scientists were able to work backwards to establish the age of the universe. You would think from this expansion that everything you see on a clear starry night would be getting farther away from you all the time. However, nothing is that simple. Prof Hawkins explains this phenomenon by saying that distant galaxies recede from us as if the cosmos were on the surface of a giant balloon.

As the balloon expands the galaxies themselves stay constant in relation to their component parts and only move away in relation to other galaxies. At least, I think that’s what he was saying. Despite being the most eminent of all MND sufferers there is little chance of him reading this blog so I’m probably quite safe at making that statement.

The problem with this sort of book it is that it is very hard to get your head round some of the quantum physics or the multiverse laws of nature which vary depending on where you are in the universe I think I generally understood the individual examples given but when it came to the relationship between these individual laws I was lost. For example, I cannot pretend to have understood a fraction of the explanations given about the nature of the universe, basically because I’m not a physicist but the book gave me the gist of the answers to the questions that I posed above.

It also confirms that there are billions of galaxies with Suns around which planets orbit, which seems to me to confirm the probability that some of these planets have some life form, of what form  depends on a number of variables, but maybe Star Trek, Deep Space Nine is not too far from the mark. It is a fascinating book but what I have written above is probably far too simplistic as every proposition or more seems to depend upon other laws or propositions (except the M-theory). So take nothing but I have said for gospel. If you are interested get the book for yourself, free, as an e-book on Amazon..

This seems an appropriate  place to reproduce some wonderful photographs I have from a collection of shots from above the Earth, to shots from outer space..

Aerial shots from above the Earth.  (Setup Slideshow — From the Beginning. Change slides manually

Shuttle  (Setup Slideshow — From the Beginning. Change slides manually

Great shots from space

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