Article 40: We have seen by now how the universe created man. No, nothing mentioned in the earlier contributions can be left out! Everything is needed for that one little girl, for that one boy, for every one of us.
No, we aren’t outsiders. There is not such a thing as a duo, the universe and us or, with a little bit more ‘ego’: ‘Me and the Universe’.
Our intimacy with the universe is far more deeper. The universe has created us. We are made of star stuff.
Neither you nor I would be here at all without…
… A universe expanding, during an inflationary epoch, due to the immensities of the energies involved.
… These immense energies cooling down – leading finally to the first elementary particles of matter (quarks, gluons, electrons) – and these particles forming baryons, like protons and neutrons, the building blocks of matter, of elements, everywhere in the entire universe. (Quantum physics prefers to speak about a quantum, plural quanta, the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction.)
… Hydrogen and helium atoms beginning to form – again, across the universe! – as the density of the universe falls. This is thought to have occurred about 377.000 years after the Big Bang, give or take a few weeks.
… The emergence of large-scale stable structures, such as the earliest stars, quasars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies and superclusters and the development of these to create the kind of universe we see today.
… Gravity amplifying the slight irregularities in the density of the primordial gas, and pockets of gas becoming more and more dense, even as the universe continues to expand rapidly. These small, dense clouds of cosmic gas start to collapse under their own gravity, becoming hot enough to trigger nuclear fusion reactions between hydrogen atoms, creating the very first stars. Large volumes of matter collapse to form galaxies and gravitational attraction pulls galaxies towards each other to form groups, clusters and superclusters. So, gravity (or ‘the curvature of space’) is the sculptor of the stars and the planets, everywhere in the universe.
… A universe continuing to expand, creating enough space for more and more stars and planets and galaxies to emerge, to exist and to die.
… Stars – in size varying from 0,1 to 120 times the mass of our Sun – taking their time to burn their hydrogen and helium and, provided that they are big enough, to cook the heavier elements necessary for human life, like oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus.
“Every carbon atom in every living thing on the planet was produced in the heart of a dying star,” says Brian Cox in Wonders of the Universe.
… Big stars being so generous to create even heavier elements, like gold and uranium, offering them, on their deathbed, in a supernova explosion.
… A ‘just right’ size for our Sun to live long enough, and a safe place for our Solar System, without having to pass more than rarely through the dangerous spiral arms of the Milky Way, home to a far larger concentration of supernovae, gravitational instabilities and radiation, that could disrupt the Solar System. This has given the Earth long periods of stability for life to evolve. The Solar System also lies well outside the star-crowded environs of the galactic centre. Near that centre, gravitational pulls from nearby stars could perturb bodies in the Oort cloud and send many comets into the inner Solar System, producing collisions, with potentially catastrophic implications for life on Earth. The intense radiation of the galactic centre could also interfere with the development of complex life.
… Time, deep time, enough time for the stars to do their good work of creating the building blocks of life, anywhere in the universe.
… A safe place for our Earth, not too close to the Sun – too hot! – and not too far away from the Sun – too cold! – but just right.
… Time, 1,5 billion years, needed for the cyanobacteria to detoxify an atmosphere of methane, ammonia and other gases – which would be toxic to most life on our planet today – and to continuously pump oxygen as waste in the Earth’s atmosphere. We can only be grateful to them.
Thanks to them, there arises not only oxygen in our atmosphere, but also a protective ozone layer around the Earth. This layer provides protection to the early life against the destructive ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. In case the bacteria had not done this, then life on Earth probably would not have developed. Now, however, life could evolve exuberant and abundant.
… Plants, colonizing the land during the Silurian, spreading an early terrestrial vegetation; animals, colonizing the land, during the Devonian, taking all the trouble of learning how to live on dry land; tetrapods, beginning to lay eggs on the land for the first time during the Carboniferous, allowing animal life to break away from an amphibious lifestyle, and apes, coming down from the trees and starting to exist and to walk upright on two legs on the plains of Africa.
… And, last but not least, an awful lot of luck of course, luck at least for us, like 65 million years ago, when an asteroid, hitting the Earth in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, allowed the smaller mammals, who survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, to diversify and spread throughout the world, to grow bigger and to occupy a wider variety of ecological niches, left by the killed dinosaurs.
No, nothing can be left out. The job of creating a little girl or a little boy can’t be done without anything mentioned above. Everything is needed for that one girl, for that one boy, for every one of us. This makes every one of us to be a child of the universe. How can anyone be an outsider? This is how the universe created man.
This is our home, our ‘ocean’… where we are all in the same boat!
Yes, we are all in the same boat, where – according to a brilliant mind, Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize Laureate, Physics, 1965, called by Lawrence M. Krauss the ‘Quantum Man’ and perhaps the greatest physicist of the second half of the twentieth century – laughter and human compassion are our highest forms of understanding each other.
How different are the paths walked upon by scientists like Einstein and Feynman from the paths travelled by guys like Buddha (Dhammapada) and Lao-Tzu (Tao Te Ching), and how similar are their insights and understandings of a New Man, a Homo Novus, one laughing about and being compassionate towards both himself and others, one conscious of the world without and within and one curious, full of wonder.
The highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!”
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
Special thanks to cosmology and theoretical astronomy professor Vincent Icke, for the series of 12 brilliant lectures he gave to celebrate the young life of his daughter, Julia, the one girl in this series: Everything for one girl, and to Kees Boeke, a pedagogue, for his wonderful book Cosmic View, The Universe in 40 Jumps, 1957, which, at an early age and maybe more than anything else, has aroused my love affair with the universe.