28 March 2007

All the science in the world

"Danger, Will Robinson" post!
Not too long ago, my husband and I watched one of the shows in the series, The Hawking Paradox, based on the scientific discoveries of – three guesses – Stephen Hawking. So for the past, I don’t know, 30, 40 yrs, he’s been studying black holes as part of his research on the big bang theory. (Caveat: I’m no physicist. I don’t claim to be. What I’m writing is an example of Western culture, so bare – or is it bear? – with me while I attempt to explain something over my head.) At some point, Hawking looked at the evidence and said that the matter (or information, as this show termed it) being sucked into the black hole doesn’t just compact more and more to some crazy density, but when the black hole disappears (if I remember correctly, he observed the disappearance of black holes – not that he ever saw the black holes themselves, but a black spot that scientists assume are black holes, so I guess observing the disappearance of a black hole would be to re-see matter, see something where the black spot was – oy vey), so when the black hole disappears, so does the matter.
What! the other scientists exclaimed. That goes against one of Newton’s laws (the one that says that matter doesn’t disappear, nor does it appear, everything is here – I’m wording that terribly, but as I said, not the scientist, and I think you guys all recognize the law I’m trying to describe, albeit pitifully). Proofs and more proofs crowded chalkboards and composition notebooks everywhere. (Anyone see that play, Proof ? Excellent play.) And you can imagine the implications – if there are black holes in the universe being sucked away, how long until everything is sucked away. And if there are black holes in the universe, then there are black holes in our own brains sucking away our memory (yes, I can see you all falling back on that one as an excuse – sounds like a Calvin excuse for not finishing his test). Then Hawking stands on the stage of some major convention (last minute, of course, and everyone makes way). I’ve found the answer! You see, he says, there are black holes and they disappear and take away this matter (or information or energy), but it’s okay because there are parallel universes, so it’s all good. Even Stephen. The media went wild, and the physicists thought Hawking had one too many knocks to the head.
Now here’s my point with all of this. A few years ago, I read C.S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image (highly recommend it for any of you who enjoy the study of culture). As we all know, Lewis’ specialty at Oxford was Medieval and Renaissance literature. This is his text book of sorts. I love studying other cultures, especially the medieval and its transition to modern and enlightenment, because it helps me better understand the culture we’ve been in and the transition we’ve been experiencing. The best part of TDI was the epilogue in which Lewis says that he doesn’t mean to highlight the Medieval Model (Lewis uses the term Model where we would use culture or worldview) as the epitome of mankind. He doesn’t think we should go back to it. He thinks Models/cultures shift, and that’s okay.
But let me get to my point with this post (the crowd cheers).
Here’s what Lewis says about how science fits into all of the model-shifting:

“The demand for a developing word—a demand obviously in harmony both with the
revolutionary and the romantic temper—grows up first; when it is full grown the
scientists go to work and discover the evidence on which our belief in that sort
of universe would now be held to rest. There is no question here of the old
Model’s being shattered by the inrush of new phenomena. The truth would seem to
be the reverse; that when changes in the human mind produce a sufficient
disrelish of the old Model and a sufficient hankering for some new one,
phenomena to support that new one will obediently turn up. I do not at all mean
that these new phenomena are illusory. Nature has all sorts of phenomena in
stock and can suit many different tastes” (p. 221).

In other words, there’s enough science in the world to prove anything, and the science now is shifting to suit the next paradigm, just as it shifted to support the modern paradigm. We’re not always improving, as Modernism claimed. We’re just always changing. And now we have alternate universes, possibilities of life on other planets, and What the Bleep? to sustain our chosen path.
In missions, I repeated this mantra: It’s not wrong, it’s just different.


Willowtree said...

Geek alert!

Heather, Newton's 3 laws all relate to motion.

I think that what you are referring to is this The Law of Conservation of Matter.

"Everything in and on Earth is made of matter. The amount of matter on Earth does not change. Matter is only changed from one form to another. Matter changes physically and chemically all the time; however, the total amount of matter always remains the same.

This is known as the Law of Conservation of Matter. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change from one substance to another."

Heather said...

yeah. that one. that's what i said.

Claudia said...

I love that stuff even though like you, I don't really understand it very well.

L.L. Barkat said...

So, here's my question (questions?):

is there a traffic jam between the universes? You know, are the parallel black holes colliding as they get sucked each into the other universe? Who picks up the tab on this collision, if it's happening? Is there insurance?

Erin said...

Heather, I just read these stories in Yahoo's coverage of the ten best April Fool's Day spoofs. We really can believe anything if we want it bad enough, can't we?

-- In 1998, a newsletter titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason carried an article that the state of Alabama had voted to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0.

-- Noted British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on the radio in 1976 that at 9:47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, in which Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, would cause a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth's gravity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of the planetary alignment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds of people called in to report feeling the sensation.

-- Discover Magazine announced in 1995 that a highly respected biologist, Aprile Pazzo (Italian for April Fool), had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. The creatures were described as having bony plates on their heads that became burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speed -- a technique they used to hunt penguins.

Pamela said...

I believe in black holes.
Thats where all my socks are - and the entry to the hole, is of course, located in my washing machine.

I heard another theory the other day... that the density of the collapse did not allow ANY LIGHT TO ESCAPE and so it really truly was all there, but no one could see it. There is nothihng to see in total darkness..... which is a commjon occurence in so many people's lives.