The Unknown

You know how kids sometimes go into why-mode and ask the elders why something is? I did that same thing but when my parents couldn’t answer the questions, I started letting my imagination take over. When my dad first explained to me about outer space, I was beyond thrilled. It was like he had opened a door that led to the rest of the universe. I remember him telling me that when you look up into the sky, into the blackness, you’re looking into forever. That if you drew a line from here to there, there would be no ‘there’ to connect to. It blew my mind away. I remember the next day telling my teacher about what my dad had told me. She was as impressed as any teacher would be that had a student go off topic, meaning, she was kind when she told me to go and sit back down.

Since then, I have made it a point to learn about the cosmos, to try to comprehend what is out there. I learned about our solar system, I learned about our galaxy, the stars, the clusters, the nebula, the gasses, the radiation, the cold. I fit all of it into my young mind. I wanted more. I learned about other galaxies, supernova, quasars, plusars, and black holes. I was sucked into staring at the pictures, the graphs, the charts, all for the sake of trying to fit the structure of the universe into my head. The near sky moved but the distant sky did not, at least not in any way that I could see. I knew it did, I just couldn’t tell. Galaxies seemingly frozen in time, but rotating incredibly fast. What was beyond that point? Clusters of galaxies, dark matter, gravitational lenses. Further? Severely red-shifted galaxies who’s light I see today was cast 14 billion years ago. Further? The cosmic microwave background. The fuzz that makes up the background of our universe. What’s beyond that? Speculation. Wonder. Another kid like me contemplating the same thing.

Once I had reached the point where I knew we could not see further I started thinking smaller.

I see myself in the mirror. I see the skin that makes up my face. It’s made of millions of cells. Tiny factories, bonded together to make me. The cell itself is made up of smaller structures. Bonded molecules of differing shapes and reactivity. What is a molecule made of? It’s made of smaller items, called atoms. The first thing I wanted to see was the existence of an atom. I delved into science books and over time found that the scanning electron microscope could actually show the shapes and sizes of molecules and the atoms that made them. This was utterly fascinating to me. What was the limit? How much smaller can we go? Then came the quarks! These are what make up the protons and neutrons which are necessary for atoms to even exist. What are these things? They’re all leptons.
Then there’s the idea that matter is just a state of energy. This is E=MC². I learned about particle accelerators, and even grew up in a town that had a cyclotron.

Over the years I have built up a conceptual image of the universe and how it works. I have no idea of the math behind it all.


~ by aeroslin on July 4, 2012.

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