4. Chaos: Void, Carnival
Image: Ai Wei Wei, Bang, 2013. It’s art or not art... It’s not the thing I care about the most. I care if I can provide a new condition, a new perspective, and from that angle, see something completely new…for me and also for others. So that in the new condition people can look at the world differently and draw different conclusions (Ai Weiwei, 2013).
Slide 1: It has only been in the last 40 years that we could trace human history back, with any certainty, to a time before writing, (invented approximately 5,000 Years Ago). The consensus among scientists today is that the universe began with the "Big Bang" 13.7 Billion Years Ago (BYA). It all began with energy, a few simple subatomic structures, (quarks, Leptons, and gluons), which would soon coalesce into Hydrogen (H) and helium (He), and a small amount of lithium (Li), and what we call "Dark Matter," that would evolve over time to form the astonishingly diverse and complex universe. This has now become our 21st Century 'Origin Story'.
Slide 2: Until the invention of the high-powered telescope at the end of the Nineteenth Century, we had no conception of a universe that existed beyond the stars we can see with the naked eye. We now know that the Milky Way, (approximately 100,000 light-years across), is a small quiet part of a vast universe consisting of billions of galaxies.
Slide 3: At the beginning of the 20th Century we still thought, as Aristotle did, that our universe was infinite and perfectly balanced in what was called a "Steady-State". We now understand that the universe is continuing to evolve and it is not just expanding, it is an "inflationary system" that is expanding at an accelerated rate; it seems to be heading for thermodynamic equilibrium.
Slide 4: The force that resists expansion is gravity. It has been argued that "Gravity is the Architect of the Universe we know today, however, gravity is no match for the expansionary forces. Space and time expanded with the Big Bang, the force of gravity formed the first stars, and the universe became more complex. Each of the first ancient stars had a beginning, middle, and end. When Stars die they form heavier, more complex elements. 8 Billion YA, our universe had finally produced the 92 stable elements that make up our middle Aged universe. When our sun and planet earth was formed approximately 4.5 BYA, planet earth contained the diversity of elements (water, carbon, oxygen, etc.) that made biological life possible. We are all made of the dust of the first dying stars.
Slide 5: This emergence of complexity appears to contradict the 2nd law of thermodynamics, (the theory that energy dissipates into less complex forms, as measured by entropy), we now know that because the sun provides "free energy" to our planet, even more complex structures can emerge, if only for a brief time. Our universe will eventually come to an end when all the energy dissipate billions of years from now.
Slide 6: In 1572 everyone witnessed what appeared to be the birth of a new "star" (actually a supernova) that was so bright it could be seen in daylight. This unexpected appearance challenged the belief that the universe was perfect, infinite, and incapable of change (Wooton 2015).
Slide 7: Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), the greatest astronomer before the invention of the telescope used a large quadrant to study the heavens. Because the new star (1572) unmasked the belief that "the Ancients knew all,"empiricism was enhanced as the new method of the scientific age (Bacon, 1561–1626). Soon the invention of the telescope and the microscope (in the 1590s) launched our present era when new tools (new technologies) continue to spur new interpretations for what our place is in the universe.
Slide 8: The origin story of our universe begins with the creation of space and time, the force of gravity, and the first elements; hydrogen (H), helium (He), lithium (Li) to form structures of matter.
Slide 9: During the first 100 million years the universe was hot, chaotic, dark, and formless.
Slide 10: At 200 million years the universe becomes more chunky, the (still mysterious) force of gravity emerged to create a universe that was more structured. This made way for the construction of the stars that would die and in the process create more complex elements.
Slide 11: After 8 Billion Years the universe had produced the full range of 92 elements that exist today. The earth and the sun would not form until another two and a half billion years, 4.5 Billion Years Ago.
Slide 12: 300 years after Tycho, in the 1870s, the Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev published the first periodic chart of the elements. His chart organized the elements by atomic weights, which left empty spaces where he predicted that new elements should exist; boxes that were eventually filled in over the 20th Century.
Slide 13: Although most scientists believe in the Big Bang, we understand it metaphorically. Scientists will continue to gather evidence using new technologies, but as effective as these are, the sense that the Big Bang begins our origin story can never be a literal or objectively proved. We interpret evidence imaginatively; not objectively, but metaphorically, based on our embodied experience.
Slide 14: Today the remnant of what is now known as Tycho Brahe's Supernovae is in its chaotic turbulent stage, (450 years after it first shocked European confidence in the known world). It is at work creating the complex elements that will self-organize into a future solar system with planets and stars, and possibly, new forms of living matter; life.