Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Most Astounding Fact About the Universe

An interesting article in Forbes asked the question: What Is The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe?  The answer by a noted astrophysicist, author, and blogger Ethan Siegel was “that it exists in such a way that it can be understood at all”.  To me, the most amazing fact about the universe is that most of it missing – at least from our point of view.  As he noted in his post, science tells us what we know, but what to me is also very important about science is that it tells us what we don’t know.

And for what we can see and measure in the universe – repeatedly by many observers – most of it cannot be seen.  Indirectly measured but unseen.  It is as if we have come full circle to where we were several thousand years ago when the prevailing theory of the universe was that the earth was the center and everything in the universe revolved around us.  We could see, measure, and note with only the naked eye what was going on in the sky above us, but concocted religious/mythical theories to explain it.  That religious connection proved to be a sticky problem when better observations and calculations where later developed.

Like now, the ancient math back then was accurate.  Several different civilizations around the earth knew when and where a heavenly body would rise and set, but couldn’t explain why.  Built 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is still accurate today.  We could even track and predict those five stars that seem to wander the heavens – what would later become known as planets – but once again, we could not explain why.

The theory of Dark Matter and Dark Energy may explain what we are seeing, and the theory goes that dark matter is everywhere.  But a recent MIT observation could not find any evidence of dark matter within our own solar system (So long ago, I can’t find it on the Internet.), however it was confirmed later by two Russia astronomers in the summer of 2013.  Soooo, where’s our dark matter?  These observations sort of begs the question of the dark matter theory.  Currently, according to the theory, the only way we can see dark matter in our own solar system is to be standing still while it passes by several light years away from our observation.

As for proving astronomical theories locally, in the late 50’s astronomers were able to solve a problem with observations of Mercury’s orbit and Newton's law of universal gravitation using Einstein’s special relativity theory of gravity and wrapped space.  However, there is still a major unknown in trying to combine special relativity and particle physics, but that’s a subject for an entirely different post.

At any rate, looking back at how wrong those earth centric theories of the universe were, they at least got the moon right.  It does circle the earth.   Let us hope that our theories of the missing universe have a higher percentage of accuracy, but since most of the universe is missing, and that fact alone could affect what is really going on, makes it the most amazing fact about the universe.
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