Wednesday, January 28, 2009

David Block - Shrouds of the Night

NVDL: I attended David Block's presentation last night. Fascinating, although I am probably one of a minority somewhat irritated by the hints that we live in a benign universe designed by God (and personalised, I suppose by Jesus). Other than that Block takes one on a mesmerising journey - he ponders why time defies definition (I once, as a teenager, defined time as the movement, or change, of moments - was intrigued to find this postulation not too far off)...and also the origin of the first photograph (in 1826).

Block also describes Dark Matter, and reveals how Aboriginal X-Ray art (pictures depicting the insides and outsides of animals) have been analogous to infra=red scans showing the true nature, the skeletal cores, of Galaxies.

I agree with Block that in order to advance we need to marriage the artistic/creative centre of the mind, with the logical,scientific centre. I don't know too many people who practise this, but I do. I've often defined myself as a construct of magic and chaos - which is art and science/logic respectively one might suppose. You decide which is which, although as far as I'm concerned they're interchangeable. Logic sometimes breakdowns and becomes chaotic, as it does when we ponder, through logic, the existence (or not) of God.

Is the universe designed or did it make itself?

What if some combination of the two is the answer.
The answer is as simple or as elaborate as the story of your creation (it may help to use the word conception to be more specific, even graphic, for the sake of this analogy), and here's a clue, it's not at all personal or subjective, but nevertheless marvellous.

Your parents made you, and yet they did not.
They simply set in motion a design that acted itself out.
Your existence was directly the result of their act of procreation, however beyond the moment of cellular fusion, your father, not even your mother, had much influence in what was set in motion beyond that. Your mother could not have done more or less for you in utero than one can change one's ability to grow old - it is a natural process that is designed into human beings.
Please don't tell me that every such process has a man with a beard making notches off a clipboard.
This design has been borne through the universe through aeons of time. Yes, there is an intelligence in here, and out there. But it isn't personal. It's been built up through endless time, and the endless possibilities that are part of time. You and I are very old. We, our type, have come a very very long way to get here.
But because a plant or a drainage basin is elaborate in its design doesn't presuppose a guiding hand. It simply means that a gradual process can change to become infinitely intricate overtime.

Stated otherwise:
Your parents themselves are objects of the universe. So are you. In them and in you is a glimpse into the intricasies of the universe. You are the universe, and you are not the universe. The universe is you, and the universe is not you.
The universe created itself, the universe designed itself.
You are created but have also created yourself and continue to design yourself - through your habits, thoughts, changes. Both processes continue simultaneously, each influences the other, is the other, and is not the other. How many dimensions are involved in that statement? A few. And we need many of our faculties to imagine the logic of it.

Even Simpler:
Your parents themselves are objects of the universe.
The universe created itself, the universe designed itself.
And then, through this process, created you.
It was a personal process in a sense (because it's you), just as it was simply another process.

This is how everything came into being. Because we are ourselves, we cannot help but ask a personal question to the anonymous halls of space and naturally, we hope for a personal answer. The answer is there, but it is as personal as we mean, or imagine it to be. And the real nature of the universe is that it is not as personal as we mean (want) it to be. Of course, as little bits of universe ourselves, we can in a small way actualise the personable-ness of the universe. But if we are fair, other than our own imaginations, the universe outnumbers us, and doesn't pay much heed to our thoughts, or what we do.

In this I am not referring to self-fulfilling prophesy on Earth (where we may draw some experiences to ourselves). I am saying the universe is far too extraordinary a place to slow down and diminish itself in order to reflect/hold its horses/pay urgent attention to a person on one planet. Instead, while we walk the Earth with our thoughts, faraway planets and places we will never see or fathom whirl themselves into existence, or out of it.

You must imagine merely that planets and stars roll through the universe unconcerned whether we drive our cars, go to church or recycle our plastic. All these activities are a speck on a speck on a giant dustball in a sandpit of dust grains, in a desert of sandpits, in a planet of deserts, in a galaxy of desert-filled planets, in a universe filled with millions of galaxies...

Is the universe designed or did it make itself? The answer is both.

And if you like, neither.

(To some extent the answer is relative to how you see yourself...and your own existence, iow, you're entitled to a subjective view which may or may not be sentimental.)
There you have the compartmentalised question answered in a new way of thinking, which is to connect and cathect ourselves to everything else.

As long as we believe ourselves apart, or special to the other elements of the universe, we fool and delude ourselves, and remain lost in the darkness.

Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London at the remarkable age of nineteen, David Block is held in the highest esteem in international astronomical circles.

He has a M.Sc. in Relativistic Astrophysics and a Ph.D. in Astronomy, and is Director of the Anglo American Cosmic Dust Laboratory at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
He has conducted research at some of the world's greatest universities and observatories in Europe, mainland USA, Hawaii and Australia. He is the only South African astronomer to have had his research featured twice on the front cover of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

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