2003/12/19

Humans or the earthly bacteria

An awakener from the US Journal Science. It just published the findings from an orbital observatory called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Microwave (WMAP) that should shaken human certainties. The WMAP spacecraft sits about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth and hovers around a point of gravitational stability between the Earth and Sun.
Here is the summary of those findings:

1. Our vision of the cosmos erupted some 13.7 bilion years ago when the big bang launched the dimensions of time, space and matter. Those dimensions are the building blocks whereupon we build our vision. In other words, those dimensions starting from their eruption with the big bang will follow a path of continuity that shape the observation opportunity of our human scientific investigation. Seen from the opposite point of their eruption, that means from our present day position, those dimensions offer us the opportunity to go back in time till their originating point but not an iota further.

2. Based on observations of a million galaxies and further deductions, WMAP helped astronomers determine the composition of our cosmos:

2.1. Hard visible material: 4 %
This is real matter in the form of atoms.
- Total galaxies: 200 billion. This is 1/200,000th of what the probe surveyed!
- Each galaxy contains 200 billion stars.
2.2. Dark matter: 23 %
This should be another substance that outweights all the atoms in the hard visible material but as of today, nobody has the slightest clue about what this stuff could be, thus the name dark matter.
2.3. Dark energy: 73 %
This force seems to expand the universe at an accelerating rate. Again nobody has the slightest clue what this energy could be, thus the name dark energy but what seems sure is that the basic features of inflationary cosmology fit with observational data.

3. Our universe should be expanding at a rate of 71 km per second per megaparsec (3.26 light years).
The accepted speed of light is 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second giving a light-year as about 6 trillion miles (9.66 trillion km). Our universe's expansion should thus be approximately 1 km per 31 trillion km (1 mil per 19.5 trillion miles).
An image of a faint galaxy referred to as "Sharon," was taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and reported last year as being 12.5 billion light-years away. That distance is equivalent to looking back in time to about 600 million years after the Big Bang. Some astronomers calculated that our expanding universe is in the from of a football. The light we see represents activity that occurred very long ago, thus we deduce that our universal football has a maximum radius in the range of 13 billion light years. So the expansion of our universe would thus be some 283,000 km per second! Whow.
To put this information into perspective, let us remember that OUR galaxy contains about 100 billion stars, most of which are concentrated in a thin disk about 100,000 light-years across and 3,000 light-years thick.

Think about it, what are we in all of this?
This question induces philosophical ruminations but what about its more direct implications on our human collective conscience? Our knowledge about our universe has dramatically increased these last decades and more and more we look at ourselves from a more distant perspective. We see ourselves in a bind and without any way out of all and everything on earth which somehow imposes a deeper form of social bond but simultaneously our increased knowledge and transformed conscience gives us more individual latitude to interpret reality. It seems thus that 2 opposing trends are at work: deeper social bonding and increased individualism. Common logic would have that such an opposition would lead to annihilation or at least to weakening but I think that the opposite is most likely to occur. For one, I think that more knowledge does not mean that knowledge will be able to explain everything and the recognition of this very limit will lead to more openness, to more acceptance of a different view. Secondly, stronger bonding does not necessarily imply uniformization, on the contrary, it is more likely to foster more tolerance for the search of explanations and thus more tolerant of differenciation.

The implications for art and design are enormous. I'll try to come back to this subject within the next few days.

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