Dark Matter, Does it?

“If the multiverse idea is correct, then the historic mission of physics to explain all the properties of our universe in terms of fundamental principles–to explain why the properties of our universe must necessarily be what they are–is futile, a beautiful philosophical dream that simply isn’t true. Our universe is what it is because we are here. ”
Alan Lightman, “The Accidental Universe”

Astronomy week, when the class and I read two essays, one about the relationships of the sun, moon and Earth–and one human to another, and one about the aim of science to figure out who we are, why we came to be, is an exciting week for me.

I wax on about the mysteries of the universe, the idea of the multiverse, Big Bang, Intelligent Design, Newton and the Theory of Gravity, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, ten or more dimensions of space, quantum theory, quarks, string theory, Inflation theory, dark energy and matter, the complete absence of a theory on how the human brain creates consciousness, and the overall pursuit of a fully coherent cosmos that adds up to us–what scientists had hoped to achieve through speculation, calculation and logic, beginning with observing natural laws, up til recent history when the Hubble deep field experiment revealed the probability of a multiverse.

The project to discover the cause and effect chain to everything had to be abandoned with thrown up arms, seemingly also abandoning the aims of the preceding thousands of years’ work. Alan Lightman writes about this interrupter known as the multiverse in “The Accidental Universe.” And when I ask students, who look at me as if I am on a 70’s psychedelic trip, what this all has to do with them, their reality right now, no one can answer–not even the ones who desperately want to answer something, anything.

Like history, the cosmos is just too far away. They cannot feel it, not even as a dream they may have had and can recall in that hazy sense of remembering a distorted reality deeply imprinted in another realm of consciousness.

“Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.” Lightman

And so students interpret that faith in the unknown not as the spurs to discover what is out there but as the sigh of futility. It has so little to do with their immediate aims–surviving school, work and social media.

But it is human arrogance to require relevance to the human condition. Or that the multiverse is created in our own image, running round ourselves like the orbiting moon to Earth, Earth to the sun.

“The disposition of the universe–that crazy wheelwright–designates that we live on a wheel, with wheels for associates and wheels for luminaries, with days like wheels and years like wheels and shadows that wheel around us night and day; as if by turning and turning, things could come round right.” Amy Leach, “You Be the Moon”

I miss the eloquence, enthusiasm, sincerity and passion of this scientist to make the real imaginable and the imaginable real:

The Measure of the Times

  

Rousseau walks on trumpet paths. Joni Mitchell, “The Jungle Line” in Hissing of Summer Lawns.

I always wondered what Joni meant in that line from the “Jungle Line.” At first I thought she meant Jean-Jaques Rousseau, the philosopher of Confessions and The Social Contract fame. In college I read the former and only remember the book as a journal of the man’s affairs, extra marital and political, and wondered why he ranked as an important philsopher since the content seemed trivial. I later revised my opinion after reading The Social Contract, the underpinning of early social justice and democratic government theories. 

I once searched for a Rousseau painting with trumpet paths when I realized she referenced the painter not the philosopher/author. I had never seen nor recalled seeing a Rousseau painting and the internet was not at my disposal then. The Hissing of Summer Lawns album came out in 1975. I checked books and found Rousseau’s work, which I found pleasing, colorful and fun. The man appeared to have a sense of humor, squeezed joy from days. Unfortunately, I broke the limited art world I knew then at the ripe old age of 16 as serious and unserious art, Rousseau deemed too childlike to be serious.

Today I read the following:

With a kind of perverse timing, the child’s paradigm emerged in art at just the moment when Newton’s mechanical view of reality was most triumphant. The Chinese yin and yang symbol is a graphic representation of this relationship between opposing principles. The rival viewpoint makes its first tentative appearance at the height of the power of its complementary obverse.

How very appropriate that just before Einstein’s discovery, a naïve artist like Rousseau, whose paintings could be the settings for fairy tales and who routinely distorted forms, would be hailed as one whose view of the world was a valuable contribution! It is an amusing exercise for anyone to specualate upon the reception Rousseau’s work would have received at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Then the Humanists were proclaiming that man was the measure of all things. For a long time, children were not to be trusted to measure anything. Leonard Shlain, Art & Physics

At the tender young age of 55, I understand Rousseau with his child-vision. The world he paints for his audience is important to see, again and again, not just as counterbalance to the cynical, practical world of the adult in politics, technology, science and economics, for instance. But to remember the special conception of space and time that children hold. They experience lengthened time and unconfined space compared to their parents’ lived time-space. Children know the science of happiness instinctively.

Earlier in class, before I read the above Shlain excerpt, I reminded students about child time vs. adult time, temporal elasticity, and technology’s time effects. Hopefully, my stories illustrated time’s illusion, for example experiencing child time as a dragged-along, unwilling captive of Mom’s department store shopping as a 7 year old or an 18 year old sitting in a two-hour lecture course at 7:20 a.m. (mine) as opposed to sleeping or playing/partying with friends for the equivalent time. Time slows or speeds accordingly even as time ticks unceasingly in even increments.

I was not much younger than my students now when I first heard Joni’s lyric and then went searching for Rousseau. And it was only a matter of hours between narrating child-like time visions in the classroom and reading Shlain’s commentary on Rousseau’s yin to Newton’s yang or vice versa, the innocent artist and sophisticated astronomer, ending with the situationally ironic children as the measure of nothing.

I love that the world and mine are round.

  
credit: wikiart.org