Science’s Amazing Progress in Knowledge
What is it that we stare up at on a clear starry night? The spectacle is spell-binding, indeed. But recent scientific researches into these heavenly phenomena have us all but wondering whether we are just chasing after ghosts that flit across as cosmic fantasies or, perhaps, and more in line with facts, whether we are just looking at mere adornments as the Qur’an calls them.
Something has, as the cliché goes, terribly gone wrong with the sciences. The three major disciplines of science: Cosmological, Physical and Biological are racing with each other in torpidity and indolence. No discovery, let alone stunning, not even a startling one, has been made since several decades. (Higgs-boson was no ground-breaking finding because it had already been theoretically predicted). Otherwise, science is waiting for its own Mahdi. Tears have dried, mourning is becoming tiresome, but good luck of the kind experienced in the past does not evince any sign of return.
Take, for instance, Cosmology, how much do we know? Well, the answer is, we know a lot; enough to fill a library.
Here is a short list of cosmological knowledge:
The Earth goes around the Sun, the moon around the earth (and so around the Sun also). There are eight Planets in the Solar system. The Sun is rotating around the center of our Milky Way galaxy to make a full round in 230 billion years. Our galaxy has 250 billion stars like our Sun (which is actually a star). The nearest next Star is Proxima Centauri which is estimated to be 4.2 light-years away from the Earth. The next nearest is 9.5 light years, and the next (ignoring smaller ones in between) is 25 light years. Milky Way is 100,000 light years wide. The observable universe is estimated to contain 200 billion to 2 trillion galaxies.
The universe is, at the moment, 93 billion light years end to end, and it is expanding at almost the speed of light 300,000 km/second. (As we slog to the moon in three days, light rays come happy from there to us in one second).
The moon is lifeless and promises to remain so until some four billion years from now when the Sun will be ready to breathe its last and go cold, by which time the moon would have disappeared. Averagely, every Star, huge or tiny, should have at least one planet orbiting it. The closest habitable planet discovered is 420 light years away orbiting a Star called Coku Tau4. (https://www.pinterest.com)
About the origin of the Universe: calculations take us back to Planck time 10-43 seconds after the Big-bang event that took place when the universe was 10-33 cm across, and the temperature 1032K. That was about 13.8 billion years ago, and since then it has been expanding on all sides.
Then there are black holes at the center of every galaxy (and at every odd place) swallowing stars and other space materials – millions of tons. A black hole is a region in space with such strong gravitational force that nothing, not even light, can escape from its gravitational pull. That is why it is called a black hole. A spoonful of material in a black hole would weigh thousands of tons on earth.
Thus, we know a lot in Cosmology. A lot, indeed!
But hold on. Almost all figures above are approximate and controversial.
To start with, it is now being said that the original event (the Big Bang) was neither Big nor was there any Bang.
“The problem is that popularizations of the Big Bang as an explosion that took place at some location, sending stuff in all directions, are blatantly wrong. Try to unlearn this “intuitive” but totally misleading picture.”(Viktor T. Toth, IT Pro)
But, to some people’s discomfort, in view of new data, there is a question mark before the Big Bang theory, no matter how defined. It is because:
The Big Bang theory violates the First Law of Thermodynamics. …it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. …and, Static universe models fit observational data better than expanding universe models. …
The Static universe models fit observational data better than expanding universe models. …
The theory of Big Bang violates Einstein’s General Law of Relativity. …
That is, if Big Bang theory is right then, Einstein’s theory of Relativity is wrong, and if Einstein’s equations are correct, the Big Bang theory is wrong.
Another idea drives nails into the coffin. It says that the Big Bang never happened:
Far-ranging and provocative (Eric Lerner’s book), The Big Bang Never Happened is more than a critique of one of the primary theories of astronomy – that the universe appeared out of nothingness in a single cataclysmic explosion ten to twenty billion years ago.
Let’s visit a black hole before they disappear. Their fate hangs in a balance. Several questions are unanswered, e.g.,where do the trillions of tons of compressed material in the black hole go? There are no definite answers but abundant speculations. A scientist envisages that it becomes what is called as a Worm Hole, traveling through which the contents of a black hole go into another Universe. There are other speculations. Another speculation about them is that:
Like cosmic ghosts, miniature black holes may be zipping harmlessly through Earth on a daily basis, a new study suggests. (Ker Than, National Geographic News, May 27, 2011)
Fly down to our Galaxy: Shapley (Harlow Shapley, American scientist, d.1972, after whom a super cluster is named) believed that our Milky Way galaxy was 300,000 light years across, but, according to the calculations that Hebert Curtis used, the Milky Way is just 30,000 light years in diameter. In a debate, Shapley argued in favor of the Milky Way as the entirety of the universe. That is, according to him this galaxy is the universe.
We have given above approximate figures about the number of galaxies in the universe. The following may be noted:
Research released in 2016 revised the number of galaxies in the observable universe from a previous estimate of 200 billion (2×1011) to a suggested two trillion (2×1012) or more. (https://en.wikipedia.org)
Noticeably, there is some difference in the scientific figures between 200 billion and two trillion which can be expanded as two trillion minus 200 billion = 1,998,000,000,000. There are this many galaxies in our observable universe.
Here, take another hit:
The image of our Milky Way galaxy has been that of a disk with a bulge in the center, as below:
But now, according to latest findings, a different image emerges:
Here are some details:
- Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is ‘warped and twisted’ and not flat as previously thought, new research shows.
- Analysis of the brightest stars in the galaxy shows that they do not lie on a flat plane as shown in academic texts and popular science books.
- Astronomers from Warsaw University speculate that it might have been bent out of shape by past interactions with nearby galaxies.
Let’s visit the stars. We said above that there are 250 billions of them in our galaxy. Well, that was not very accurate. Because it is said that there are 250 + or – 150 billion stars. In other words, the figure could be 400 billion, or maybe 100 billion stars. Like poetry, we may not look for grammatical accuracy in cosmological figures.
Getting closer to our Solar System, we said there are eight planets circling the Sun. As soon as you make a number agreed upon by most cosmologists, some others protest: no, there are nine planets. But as soon as the noises subside, some others cry out: it is ten planets.
Leaving them to sort it out between themselves, we can look at travel promised between stars. What is known as interstellar travel has been promised as a reality that will come true one day. Let us see: The nearest planet that can support life is circling the Proxima Centauri. It is 4.24 light years from the earth. Converted to kilometers, the distance would be: 40208400000000 km.
However, both the identity as well as the distance are scientific guesses. Science says that Proxima Centauri is 4.24 light years away. Well, they say, “is”, as if the star is there in the sky. But it is not. To be precise, it was there some 4.24 years back, and is not there anymore. That is because all interstellar bodies are on the move. The light that started from Proxima Centauri, as recorded by earthly telescopes had started 4.24 years ago. During these 4.24 years, the Star has moved away. Away to where? Well, nobody knows where it is now, nor we will ever know.
So, what about the next nearest to us, the one which is 9.5 light years away? Well, neither do we know, nor we will ever know till the end of our lives because the Star was there 9.5 years ago, is no more there, and has moved out without we knowing the direction in which it moved. Perhaps it is dead by now. And, that applies to the 10,000 Stars visible to the human eye in a starlit night. Not one Star is in its place, and we can safely say that whatever is visible to us is a mirage. None of what you see there, is there anymore.
In fact, the whole universe, seen through the most powerful telescope, whether from the land or from space, is no more than a charade, since what is visible now at the edge of the universe at the distance of 13.8 billion light years away, disappeared out of sight 13.8 billion years ago, and so, we will never know how big our universe is.
“We do not know. Moreover, and what is often missed in the public debate; The Big Bang model does not concern itself with these questions. One cannot positively assert that The Big Bang was the actual beginning. In all likelihood, it wasn’t. (Quora Digest)
Yes, we do know that the number of atoms in the universe is 10 to the power of 80, i.e. 10 followed by 80 zeroes or 1080: 10, 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 00.
Yes, there are so many atoms in the universe. No joke this.
Consequently, sufficiently alarmed by now, we may not discuss Dark matter or Dark Energy because we have never seen them. Like gravitons, we will perhaps never see them. They both account for more than 95% of the stuff that makes up our universe. So, what we see is no more than 5%. The rest is missing. The rest is there only in mathematical calculations.
The Grand view: Now, if you are in the skies, you should expect a jolt. In this case, it is that of the views of the sky available to us. In a dark night and in a dark place, what you see is stunning. Some 10,000 Stars (as they say) forming a brilliant and splendid view, made available to us, is breath-taking.
Staring at them one begins to wonder about computer-generated positions of Stars. Could the positions be correct? We know that the gravitational pull of matter bends the light as it pass by them – starting from say a distance of 13.8 billions. How many times the light rays would have been bent by the trillions of Stars on their way? Are the computer-generated images any accurate? Are we looking at a fantasy?
Is it all anymore than the Qur’anic description (67: 5): “We have, indeed, adorned the nearest heaven with lamps”?
Is it any more than an adornment aimed at pleasing us?