This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Sunday, 25 November 2012
A Fall Of Stardust
Some years ago, I was reading over something I already knew fairly well – the Big Bang theory – when I suddenly had an epiphany. “Why,” I thought, “this means we’re all the same stuff!”
Let me try and explain what I mean. I assume we’re all familiar with the Big Bang, so I won’t belabour the point except to repeat that everything – everything – in the known Universe, including space itself, was born in a titanic eruption something like 10 billion years ago. In that instant, what the ovum-cephalics (that’s “eggheads” for you) prefer to call a primordial singularity was born, and in a space of time that was probably measurable in the milliseconds it gave rise to space, and time, and an expanding shell of gas and dust that cooled, and accreted, to form dust clouds and stars, and eventually planets, and – on at least one planet – oceans and land and ultimately fishes that walked in the mud and began to grow hair and walk upright, and finally we have Osama bin Laden and Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking and – well – Paris Hilton. All from that primordial singularity.
Do we know this happened? Yes, we do know this happened: we can still measure the background radiation of the Big Bang, and all the galaxies are expanding apart from each other, and this expansion is accelerating. If we calculate backwards, we can even arrive at the moment that the galaxies must have all converged at one point; and that point would mark the Big Bang.
We still don’t know what will happen to this expansion, whether it will go on for ever, as current measurements seem to predict it will, or whether there is enough “dark matter” – unseen and undetectable – in the Universe to make it fall in on itself by its own gravitational attraction, to form a Big Crunch and set off the cycle again.
A very long time ago now, while I was still a teenager, I wrote a very, very primitive science fiction story, full of bad science, called “The Fist Of God.” I still have it in typescript somewhere. It was about a gigantic starship that had gone out to the ends of the cosmos. It was a multigenerational ship, where entire races of humans lived and died even as the craft itself thrust on at relativistic velocities. And so far did it go that it actually experienced the Big Crunch and – here is where the bad science comes in – effects began to precede their causes, so people started undoing things, and unsaying words, and, in the horrible last line of that forgettable story, “The fist of god closed in.”
OK, back to the point. The stars are made of cosmic dust. They grow, die, and throw off shells of themselves in the form of matter which condenses to form new stars, and these in their turn contribute part of their mass to form yet more stars, and some of it forms planets as well. And on at least one of those planets, some of that stuff was worked into a strange helical strand that could replicate itself. This helical strand did all kinds of peculiar things, such as make a small man with a toothbrush moustache who in turn was moved to shut millions of human beings in concentration camps and to begin a war that consumed virtually all the world. Anyway.
The fact is that we are made, as Carl Sagan said in Cosmos, of starstuff. Therefore, we are made of the material that was born in the Big Bang – all of us. Far more than mere religious or ethnic or species affinity, we are the same…whether you like it or not, a Stormfront member is made of the same material, has the same origin, in fact is exactly the same as a !Kung Bushman, and a Taliban trooper has the exact same makeup as an Amsterdam stripper.
There’s more I could go on about, of the insignificance of earth in the midst of cosmic infinities, but think of this: your worst enemy and you are made of material that came into existence the exact same instant, in the exact same way, and was the exact same material, in fact.