Ignorant musings

by Asifur Rahman Khan

ang01The age-old question ‘why are we on earth?’ has elicited thousands of philosophical theories from thousands of philosophers for thousands of years that a handful of scientists have tried to invalidate over the duration of mankind. Of course, success came very slowly. Maybe that is why, for a long time, we all believed that the earth was not round, that we were at the center of the universe, that the sun went around us. Blah, blah and more blah!
But the best part in this war against ignorance is the fact that the more questions we answer, more questions seem to pop up like Hydra. This made the old adage – ignorance is bliss – truly a motto to live by, because the questions that pop up can really muddle the mind. You see, after a while, the more questions you answer, the more you realise that infinity is really close by. Exploring infinity is not for the mortal mind.
For instance, before we ask ‘why we are on Earth?’ let’s ask a simpler question – why are we in the universe at all?
You see, to answer the question, we need to see where we are. So let’s look at the bigger picture. The universe is huge. Maybe huge is not the right word. Maybe I should mention that the universe is so huge that the night sky we see is only a small part of the universe. To put that into perspective, if the entire universe is contained within Dhaka City, then the night sky we see is just a football, placed in the middle of the Mohakhali Flyover. Sounds ridiculous? Look for the definition of ‘observable universe’ in Google. Be happy!
Anyway, if the entire universe is contained within Dhaka City, then each person is a galaxy. Do not take this literally, because Dhaka City has a bit more than 15 million dwellers, while the universe has more than 200 billion galaxies. Our sun, a yellow star, resides in one of the 200 billion galaxies, known as the Milky Way which itself houses several million stars. Finally, orbiting the sun is Earth, the third planet falling smack in the middle of the goldilocks zone around the Sun. Yes, we live there, where we breathe the same element that rusts iron. I hope the irony is not lost on most people.
ang02The route to where we live was not really hard to find, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope. The bad news is, we know where we live without knowing why. No one wants to face bad news, so we complete our graduations and work in order to live our life in pure bliss.
The sad news is, none of the planets around none of the stars in none of the galaxies that we have detected through our many detection techniques have revealed even the slightest hint of other life forms. So we are all alone in the universe. Well, not so alone. The hunger problem and the poverty line of the world are increasing day by day.
More importantly, in this question of finding answers, scientists have faced a more puzzling question in the form of values. It seems that there are twenty odd numbers in the universe (value of pie, the charge value of an electron, the value of the strong nuclear force, and others) that cannot be tampered with at all. Why? Because tamper with any of the value even slightly, and by slightly I mean to the twentieth decimal point, and the universe will cease to exist. How did the values get so finely calibrated? Why are they so highly calibrated? Who calibrated them? See, this is the part that makes scientists believe in a God!
Everything about the universe is a mystery. By calculating the red shift (measuring how much the electromagnetic waves off celestial objects are stretched) of the most distant galaxies, we knew since 1932 that the universe is expanding. Of course, this expansion was happening before 1932. But then, the startling discovery was that, this expansion is accelerating. What is more astounding, this acceleration is increasing without any hint of stopping. What is the universe expanding into, who knows?
Even the content of the universe is a mystery. Sure, everything is made up of atoms, and atoms make up everything in the universe. But that was in class six. And the world is full of doctorate people to show us that there are many more things to do a doctoral thesis on. And so, when scientists were studying the rotation of the galaxies, they found out that the galaxies had far too less mass to explain the speed of their rotation. By their calculations, the mass needed to explain the rotation speed has to be much larger, approximately, about ninety per cent more than what we can see. So where is the missing mass? Again, no one knows.
Somehow, we can’t see, much less detect the mass that accounts for ninety per cent of the mass of a galaxy. And this is the case for every galaxy in the universe. And so we have a universe where we can’t detect ninety per cent of its mass. Even with the most modern  technology at our disposal, we can’t detect it. Zero per cent.
We call it Dark Matter. Fitting, right? Now imagine the universe as Dhaka City. If we incorporate the Dark Matter observation into Dhaka City, I think only the airport will be visible. Everything else will be invisible. Undetectable!
So we have a universe where its expanding without any cause, filled with mass that we can’t detect. Moreover, we have a theory that does not make any sense, i.e. quantum mechanics, yet is the strongest theory to answer everything about our universe. Apparently, gravity is the force that shapes the universe, but is still weak enough for me to jump when I see a cockroach. How can a weak force prevail over large distances?
So the next time you wonder about your bank balance or thinking of joining a bank to never worry about your bank balance, think deeper. The average life expectancy of Bangladesh stands 70.30 years. Spend this time on Earth wisely. Think more about the universe around you. Believe me, the second you start, from that moment onward, you will never be confined within the confines of the materialistic world.
Then again, what do I know?

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