Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff — complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?
Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah, U.S.A.
The third week of August, 2017
(Written while the solar eclipse was going on.)
So. That’s that. The moon got between us and the sun. . . again.
A gazillion people saw all or part the eclipse. Here in southeastern Utah, there was only a partial cover at around 11:30 a.m. – like a cloud passing over the sun for a little while.
Two aspects of the event stand out in my mind:
The eclipse was accurately predictable at a time when so much of life seems not to be. And it was a fine thing to focus for even a short while on what’s happening way out in space beyond the Earth instead of on the usual daily news.
Astronomy for a little while, instead of Catastrophe.
The oncoming eclipse inspired me to update my reading about the Universe, quantum astrophysics, and stardust. The end result was a meditation on a chunk of cheese.
SWISS CHEESE AND STARDUST
There’s a block of Swiss cheese sitting out on my kitchen counter.
Warm yellow in color, with lots of big holes, randomly arranged.
(It’s not really Swiss, by the way – most Swiss cheese is made in the U.S.A)
But I digress.
It’s not that I particularly like Swiss cheese or even plan to eat this chunk.
I just want to consider it.
Swiss cheese is an active working metaphor for the nature of our universe – one that an amateur like me can grasp.
The latest theory says that our galaxy exists inside a huge hole in a universe which is like a block of Swiss cheese. We don’t know much about 96% of the cheese or why it has holes in it. But there seems to be an infinite amount of cheese in every direction – and the cheese is expanding.
My reading this week has been filled with concepts like these:
parallel universes, quilted multiverses, superstring theory, cosmological constants,
dark matter, dark energy, cyclical cosmologies, branes, quantum tunneling, conformally invariant supersymetric quantum gauge field theory, entropy of black holes, quarks, and cosmic jitters.
I could go on, spouting terms you never heard of or comprehend.
I especially like “cosmic jitters”, which is what I feel when I try to plow my way through the jungle of the vocabulary of quantum astrophysics.
The creative terminology of science is admirable, but unintelligible to me.
I am not dumb or stupid, despite what some people say.
I have two university degrees, an above-average IQ, and a long lifetime of paying close attention to the world of science, Astronomy especially.
But when I try to read and understand what the physicists are writing about the nature of the universe these days, I hit a mental wall, and go to bed with my thinking in confused turmoil.
And that’s why the Swiss cheese metaphor is so appealing.
The other development in astrophysics I can understand has to do with stardust.
The research is firm now that we and everything in our world and our bodies is a product of stardust. Atomic particles plus electricity plus time equals Us.
And the dust in our dwellings is largely a combination of meteor particles – micrometeorites – and flakes of human skin. I ran my finger across a high shelf and made a mark in the dust that lay there.
Me . . . I thought . . . and stardust . . . and a universe made of Swiss cheese.