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Saturday, June 9

The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding

June 5, 2007
New York Times Essay - by Dennis Overbye

(here is a link to the same essay for use when the NYT one expires)

Right after I read this essay, and the goose bumps on my arms went down a bit, I switched gears and started surfing my favorite music blogs. Talk about creepy.....check out my first stop:

Mars Needs Guitars blog (from the moon mix post)

This is one of the coolest pictures I'v ever seen:
a composite of images taken roughly every two minutes beginning shortly after Sunset, following the rising Moon as it moves up.

here's the link to check for their (NASA's) astronomy pic of the day
(Check out a few of the pics to set the mood prior to reading the essay.)

Excerpts from the essay:

If things keep going the way they 100 billion years the only galaxies left visible in the sky will be the half-dozen or so bound together gravitationally into what is known as the Local Group, which is not expanding and in fact will probably merge into one starry ball.

It is hard to count all the ways in which this is sad. Forget the implied mortality of our species and everything it has or has not accomplished. If you are of a certain science fiction age, like me, you might have grown up with a vague notion of the evolution of the universe as a form of growing self-awareness: the universe coming to know itself, getting smarter and smarter, culminating in some grand understanding, commanding the power to engineer galaxies and redesign local spacetime.

Instead, we have the prospect of a million separate Sisyphean efforts with one species after another pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down and be forgotten.

Worse, it makes you wonder just how smug we should feel about our own knowledge.

The proximate culprit here is dark energy, which has been responsible for much of the bad news in physics over the last 10 years. This is the mysterious force, discovered in 1998, that is accelerating the cosmic expansion that is causing the galaxies to rush away faster and faster.

As this universe expands and there is more space, there is more force pushing the galaxies outward faster and faster. As they approach the speed of light, the galaxies will approach a sort of horizon and simply vanish from view, as if they were falling into a black hole, their light shifted to infinitely long wavelengths and dimmed by their great speed. The most distant galaxies disappear first as the horizon slowly shrinks around us like a noose.................

I know most of us can't wrap our heads around a billion years, nevermind a HUNDRED billion, but can you just imagine that last and final expansion moment -- our universe finally gets that peace/love/harmony thing figured out and then ZAP!!

"It took you long enough!!" (~~~~?)

Now wouldn't that just be the cruelest joke yet?

My imagination is running wild at the moment, thinking about this "other side".

This blonde has one simple (?stupid) question I pose to our readers:

What do you think we are expanding into?

crossposted at BigBrassBlog

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