Cultura Brasileira: no ar desde 1998

Where do we come from (from the Big Bang to the present day)

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Picture of the Universe taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of years ago, long before the invention of Radio, Television, Internet, Mobile Phone and other modern wonders, the Greatest Show on Earth, the privileged object of attention of young lovers and scientists eager to find out, were available for free, at reach of all: look at the night sky. So, you could appreciate the great beauty and wonder of those bright spots up there – what we today call stars and other celestial bodies – what would they be or mean to our ancestors?

 

The Greeks and the Babylonians discovered that some of the bright spots, instead of simply rise in the East and sat in the West, as most do throughout the night, gave stray rounds - seemed to go back and forth, looping ... - And, of these, christened "The Planets" - the Greek word "Wanderer" - giving them the names of the gods of his time: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn ...

 

The impressive capacity for observation and mathematical calculations of the classic Greek allow them to know that the Earth was round and that the "Wanderers" were closer to our planet than the other stars. Ptolemy (90 - 168 of Our Era) first postulated the heliocentric system with the Sun (Helios) in the center of our Planetary System, which explains the movement beautifully apparently "wanderer" of other planets also around the Sun but in different orbits.

 

Unfortunately, with the advance of religious fundamentalism in Europe, that knowledge was buried for more than a thousand years (the religious dogma of the time placed Earth at the Center of the Universe and severely punished those who disagreed, scientific thought getting banned, persecuted, anathematized in period). The Heliocentric system was only rescued by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) and developed by Johannes Kepler (1610-1630). It was, in general, the continuing discovery of Ptolemy 15 centuries later ...

 

Without the obscurantism of the "Thousand Years of Darkness" - particularly among the V and XVI centuries – how far, I wonder, would we have advanced in physical and biological sciences ...

 

By publishing, based on findings of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Kepler the "Dialogo di Galileo Galilei sopra i due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo Tolemaico e Copernicano" ("Dialogue on the two main systems of the world") in 1632, Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642), already old and worn by then, was submitted to the instruments of the Holy Inquisition and forced to recant and spent the rest of his days under house arrest. In 2000, finally, the Roman Catholic Church pardoned Galileo for daring to publish the truth in times of prohibition. With that act, the Church finally acknowledged that the earth is round, rotates around its axis; the sun is the center of the solar system around which the planets orbit, the Earth being one of them of so forth as any kindergarten student nowadays knows.

 

The Enlightenment brought new winds to the freedom of science and further improvements in facilities for observing celestial (better lenses, better telescopes and the development of a methodology free from pressures or considerations of superstitious nature) resulting in the discovery of many other wonders in the firmament.

 

One note: while Europe was illuminated by bonfires burning scientists, "witches", Jews and heretics in general in a climate of paralyzing fear, the emergence of a new religion, Islam, at the Arabian Peninsula in the eighth century with the recommendation Mohammedan "Search for knowledge even in Hell" explains many advances impossible in Europe, like the invention of the astrolabe, an instrument that, based on observation of the stars, allowed locating the city of Mecca accurately from anywhere in the desert for prayer. Always valid to emphasize how much that instrument was useful for the Great Navigations from the sixteenth century forward.

 

Of course, as usually happens with all religions formally established obscurantism also took over the Islamic world, but a number of celestial bodies discovered by observers in the Arab Middle Ages still retain Arabic names (Almagest, Rukbat, Aldebaran ...); a tribute or a reminder of the moment of freedom experienced in the first scientific glosses of the Islamic religion.

 

In the 20s of last century, astronomers have looked into the matter of stars and star clusters. Highlight for Edwin Hubble (1889 - 1953) who in 1923 discovered that there are other clusters of stars bigger than the sun outside the Milky Way, and these clusters,  latter called "Galaxy", the first discovered being the Andromeda Galaxy , much higher than the Milky Way two million light years far from our Sun.

 

Light-year is a measure of huge distances. A light year is the distance light travels in a vacuum during one Year. One light-year is therefore equivalent to about 10 trillion kilometers, about 6 trillion miles. Measuring the speed of distant galaxies, the astronomers also discovered that they were moving away from each other, the Universe was expanding! More recently, observations of the Hubble Space Telescope have allowed us to conclude that the universe is still expanding and the galaxies, rather than slow down are moving away from each other at increasing speeds. This is surprising and astronomers constantly seek a plausible explanation for this phenomenon, because the gravitational forces of known physics (classical and Einstein) should make the expansion velocity decrease, instead of being (and are) increasing! The research in search of a serious scientific explanation following ongoing, ranging from the proposal of a qualitative leap in knowledge of physics to the existence of a type of force or matter that has not been able to detect with our instruments.

 

In order both to technological advances and the difficulty in observing the celestial bodies of the soil here, under a thick layer of atmosphere and pollution, April 24, 1990 a joint project between the European Space Agency and NASA, a telescope based on a Artificial Satellite Orbiting the Earth, was released and named "Hubble" in honor of the great astronomer who discovered the existence of galaxies and that they were expanding. From his accurate observations we now have magnificent images of the universe we live in and how to observe a distant star is in some way, is looking into the past (one star more than 5,000 light-years away may not even exist anymore, but only now its light reaches Earth, for example) brings us ever closer to the actual knowledge of "how it all started."

 

Scientific theories are facts, let us not forget this. A scientific theory is a fact proven by independent observers at different locations and circumstances and given the name "theory" as it can be - and always is - enriched by new discoveries and knowledge. In this sense we can speak of the “Theory of Gravity”, in The “Theory of Electromagnetism”, in The “Theory of Evolution”... These are facts, but facts that are enriched with the advancement of research. Caution: Do not go to jump off the top of a building claiming that “the Gravity is only a theory”, agreed?

 

Tour for a joke? The Brazilian Economy under the Labour Party (mis)government resembles that guy who, falling from the top of a skyscraper, while passing by the 54th floor said to himself: "so far so good ..." In either case the end will be monstrous….

 

 

 

 

Back to the Universe: currently the most popular theory about “how it all started”, until the formation of the Milky Way, Solar System and Earth part of the concept called “Big Bang Theory”: generally speaking, all matter, space and time were compressed into a single point (there are theories about the origins of this point in due course return to the topic) that exploded some 15 billion years, giving rise to all matter, space and time of the known universe.

 

Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996), astronomer, cosmologist and renowned science communicator, in their search for simpler an intricate knowledge of a vast expanse fabulously, created the "Cosmic Calendar" compressing about 15 billion years since the Big Bang up to the end of the twentieth century in a year. In the Cosmic Calendar, each month has 1.3 billion years, each day represents 40 million years and each second spans 500 years of our history. On this assumption, which makes it simple to understand a fabulous expanse of time, we have the following:

 

If the Big Bang occurred on January 1, the Milky Way was formed around the month of May and other galaxies also appeared in June, July and August. The Sun, our star, only emerges in mid-September and life shortly thereafter.

 

Imagine a scale that allows us to represent the Cosmic Calendar size of a football field divided into 12 squares, each equivalent to a month. In this representation, all of human history (all pharaohs, religion, war, peoples and cultures known to Mankind, in short) occupies a space smaller than a tennis ball.

 

Where it all began with the primordial explosion that led to the condensation of matter: gas, dust, stars, galaxies and, at least in our little corner of the universe, planets, life, intelligence, men and women interested in knowing how it all began …

In this scale, we have emerged so recently that, on the cosmic scale, all the familiar events of our history occupy only the last seconds of the final minute of the day on December 31.

 

Sagan suggests also that some of the critical events for the human species (apart from the known history) began long before, just minutes before.

 

When we change our range from months to minutes, we see the first humans making their debut on our planet at about 23:30 on 31 December.

 

With each passing minute cosmic every minute of every 30,000 years, we began the arduous journey toward understanding of where we live and who we are.

 

23:46: There are only 14 minutes on a cosmic scale, humans learned to use fire.

 

23:59 and 20 seconds: the evening of the last day of the cosmic year, in the twenty-third hour, in the fifty-ninth minute, the twenty-second, our ancestors began domesticating animals and plants in what is known as the “Neolithic Revolution”. The human talent is beginning to be used for making tools.

 

23:59 and 35 seconds: some farming communities are developed within the first cities.

 

Again: we humans appear together on the cosmic calendar so recently, that the records of ALL human history occupies only the last few seconds of the last minute of the day on December 31.

 

In the vast ocean of space and time that this schedule represents all our memories are confined to a small dot on the bottom of the "football field" we think.

 

“All the people that existed, lived somewhere in here. All these kings and battles, migrations, and inventions, wars and loves. Everything happened in the history books in the last 10 seconds of the cosmic calendar”, says Sagan.

 

We are just awakening to the vast oceans of space and time of which we emerged. We are, finally, the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution ...

 

 

Below is an excerpt from the Video "Cosmos", volume 1, explaining the Cosmic Calendar

 

 

Lazarus Curvêlo Chaves - 25/05/2011

 
 

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