Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field...Gravitational Lensing, Superluminal speeds...and the mind of God

My father-in-law is one of the smartest men I know. He is always studying...searching...learning...questioning. I try to do the same, so he sends me interesting links from time to this one:

Go and watch it...then come back.

Wow. Pretty incredible, isn't it?

I was drawn to astronomy, and then all of the quantum fields, at a very early age. I wrote a paper on gravitational lensing, and its implications on whether the universe was finite or infinite,expanding or static...and whether or not it might have started to contract already.

That was in 1970 when gravitational lensing was still just a theory. Actual proof didn't come until observation of so-called Twin QSO SBS 0957+561 in 1979 confirmed it. (You can find out about it here:

That led me to a second paper, one that I labeled "The rubber band effect". Basically, it had to do with the hypothetical outer limits of the universe causing a snap back of the mass towards its own center. This "snap back" could, in theory, cause the collapse to approach, and then pass, the speed of light. Our knowledge, or ability to prove such an occurrence, would depend on the point at which acceleration passed the speed of light. If it occurred late enough in the collapse, there might have been enough time for the light from the farthest galaxies that began to move inward to reach us before it was too late. If it occurred too early, we would never know it was coming.

Picture a train, speeding away from you, its tail lights fading in the distance. Now imagine that train going faster and faster, until it hit some unknown outer boundary that caused it to sling shot backwards. How would you know? First, you might see/sense that the distant train was slowing down. It might even appear to hang momentarily between going forward and heading back. Then you would see the lights on the train begin to get brighter and brighter as the train grew closer. But, what if, at some point, the train began to move faster than the lights? When would you know that the train was getting close?

Not until it ran you over.

Both papers were filled with the requisite formulas. Both were met with eye rolling and quiet derision by everyone in the department. By that time, at fourteen, I was laughing called "The rubber band boy"...except for one professor. He took me to lunch not long after.

His opinion mattered a great deal to me. He had told a story my first day in class that I never forgot.

I know most of you won't continue taking classes in astronomy. For most of you, it is elective class. You must take to graduate. I know how boring elective class can be. I go to small school back east...I don't know if you ever hear of called MIT. I must take music appreciation class as elective. I do very bad in class. Only get B. Teacher teach only to those who know music. Not the rest of us. So, I try to do different. Make class fun for everyone. Not too deep. You have questions, you ask. I make time for all.

I looked up his CV later that day. Dual Doctorate from MIT. At Twenty something. His GPA was on file. get the idea. That B in music appreciation was the only grade lower than an A he ever got. So smart he made me feel like amoeba slime. So personal and caring, he made me feel I belonged. We had become close in the years I had been there. So, I was flattered and happy that he wanted to take me to lunch. A little apprehensive as well. I needn't have been. He was as caring and kind as always.

He had, of course, read both of my papers. He felt that each had merit. That I had merit. But not the wisdom that comes form experience.

Your papers are very good. Make people think. Too much.

What's wrong with that?

You make them think about things they don't want to think about. They are mechanics, not philosophers.


I will tell you story. My grandfather tell it to me many years ago, before I come to this country to study at MIT.

Long ago, men realize they live in a house. House is very nice. Perfect for them. But they know they not build it. Where does house come from, they ask? At night, lights come on. Some of the people worship the lights. Then, the mechanics come. They study the lights. Watch how they work. Follow cord down to plug in wall. Lights are not Gods, they say. Power for lights come from wall. People ask how power gets in wall. They worship wall sockets, wall and lights. Mechanics study for long, long time. They take wall apart. Find wires. Follow wires to outside wall where two BIG wires come into house. Wall sockets, wall and lights not Gods, they tell people. Power comes from these two big wires. People worship big wires. The people believe that someone had to make the house...the wires, the lights. Mechanics get mad. They tell people that the house, wires and power have always been there. There is only the house.

Finally, after many years, the mechanics go outside. At night. All of the people talking about who made the house drives them crazy. They look around. There are many houses. Many lights. Hundreds of them. The people marvel. Who made so many houses, they ask? No one, say the mechanics. They just are.

More years go by. A group of mechanics walk out of the neighborhood. Up a hill. Look around. There is a whole city beneath them. Millions of lights. They are afraid if they tell the people, they will really believe someone must have made it all. But, a wise old mechanic calms them. He tells them to bring the people out to see the city. Once they see it, most of them will believe whatever the mechanics tell them.

He is right, of course. The people are overwhelmed. They can't even plug in a lamp, let alone understand where the light comes form. The mechanics are smarter. They say the city has always been there: it's always been there. They say their house is just a small, insignificant house in a big city: the people believe them. Oh, a few still believe that someone made the city...but most just want to enjoy the lights and warmth of the house. Not think.

You talk about God. They can't laugh at you. You know too much. So, they make small jokes. Rubber band boy...and they hope you go away. Study something else.

What do you think?

I do not believe in God the way you do. I don't know if I can. I would want to ask Him things...not about the house, or the city...about the people. If I were God, I would not make people that do what...bad things. Very bad things. But, I have seen too much to believe that everything just is. Big Bang, Big Crunch...Big Bang, Big Crunch...for always? No. I think maybe I believe in Einstein's God. Something is out there. Something made the city...the house...the people. Something. But what, or who? I don't know. I'm just a mechanic...

Not hardly. Is that why they hate my papers?

Some...not all. You don't understand what your last paper least, what it means to them.

What does it mean to them?

If you are right, if snap back can go faster than light, when could rubber band have started snapping back?

Anytime, I guess.

So, when could it hit?

Anytime... see now? Your face says yes, you do see. If whole universe could blink out, anytime...without warning...what will make people in the house play nice with each other? The mechanics may love chaos as theory for universe...not for their own lives. Survival of fittest? Mechanics not very fit, and we know it...I think.

You think people everywhere would just go nuts? Riot, steal, kill...all of that?

Why not? If no one built the house, the city...who will make them clean up what they break? Especially if it's all going to break soon anyway. Now, you never tell you really believe paper you wrote?


Then why you not afraid it happen tomorrow? Or today?

The answer is in my Bible...I don't think it will happen for at least a thousand years or so...but we might see signs soon...I don't know.

I hope you are right. In the mean time...I will work on the lights, like a good mechanic...and keep my questions to myself. Your God has a strange sense of humor.

I left the department not long after that. I was already a heretic at church...didn't need to be one in physics as well. Besides, they never even talked about, let alone wanted to play, sports. And they never, ever talked about girls...God's most glorious creation.

If you live in a city, like I do, it's hard to really see the stars at night. But, I grew up part time on a reservation in Northwest New Mexico. The way you could see the stars there...I go back in my mind...and marvel...

People used to ask me, how I could believe in God, knowing what I knew...

My answer back then was the same as it is now...

How could I not?

Hebrews 11:1&2

II Peter 3:10-14

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Christopher Blake is a loving husband...devoted father...minister...crippled more than a little rough around the edges...