04
Oct
07

The Heavens ?

Occasionally, during the course of reading, one come across something of such profound insight and meaning, which captures the essence of life’s deepest mysteries. I wish to share under noted excerpt from a book ‘The Quantum Dice’ by a Russian scientist prof. L.I. Ponomarev.

starry-night-c1889-print-c10281619.jpeg

Starry Night, c.1889 Vincent Van Gogh

Gazing at starry skies has at all times evoked some obscure discomfort in the human soul. Advances of the newest knowledge have changed little here: the mysteries of the skies have not vanished, they have just become more distant.

About heavens we know quite much now. Our Sun is a run-of-the-mill star among one hundred billion other stars that inhabit our Galaxy, and the latter is simply one of many-many billions of similar galaxies scattered all over the visible part of the Universe. Our Earth revolves at 30 kilometres per second around the center of the Galaxy, which also flies along at 600 kilometres per second to God knows where. Space distances are unfathomably gigantic and they overpower our imagination by their unimaginability: from the nearest star Proxima Centuri light travels to us for 4.3 years, from the Galactic center 30 thousand years, from the Andromeda nebula-the nearest large galaxy-2 million years, from the visible boundaries of the Metagalaxy more than 10 billion years. We know now the size, mass, temperature and composition of the stars, why they glow, how long they live and why they explode-we know quite a lot really.

But perhaps it is for this reason at midnight, when silently opens up the window into the starry abyss, man suddenly becomes gripped by the keen sensation of being forlorn on a tiny island in the ocean of the Universe. He all of a sudden comes to comprehend the precariousness of the phenomenon of life, which by some miracle has stuck to the frozen crust of a planet that is not inside and that is rushing around the Sun 20 times faster than a cannon ball. In such desperate moments man is only helped by the ancient heat of the hearth, the eyes of his children and the hand of his friend.

In olden days, salvation from the fear of the heavens was sought in religion. In our enlightened age the ends of the logical inferences and obvious sequels of exact sciences are generally not drowned in the bottomless well of faith. We derive strength from the awareness of our belonging to the human race and from faith into yet unclear predestination, from the admiration at the power of the human reason and the recognition of the laws that man has cognized.

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3 Responses to “The Heavens ?”


  1. October 4, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    great! beautifully written – great choice as usual – i love the new colors of your blog too.
    i recommend this book http://www.amazon.com/God-Not-Great-Religion-Everything/dp/0446579807
    being an engineer by education and a logical person (in spite of the flowers and pictures you see in my blog), i have never needed the heaven/hell combo to be a good human being.

  2. October 5, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Ajay,
    I frankly feel overwhelmed.
    This was as usual a wonderful surprise, we have come to expect the five star stuff only from your ‘The Chef Recommends’ menu, but astronomical / cosmological excerpts always ring a special bell in my heart. I had no special love for astronomy nor the sense of vague fear or foreboding it drags in, nor the question from question sort of confusion it drags in till a twelve your old niece literally hung me up to dry on an indifferent peg of childish queries. I was embarrassed to be able to answer no more than two queries from her prattling questions that went past midnight. Thus, somewhere in mid 1970s, I was forced, to visit several libraries in quest of kiddy queries like how large is the universe? How many universes there could be? When will be able to visit the nearest star? What will be the future of the universe, how many stars are there… ad infinitum.

    The upshot of the affair was, I pioneered Vyom Vihar ( Space Excursion for the Sanskrit-challenged) in Baroda with several amateur astronomers, scietists and professors. The timing was neatly perfect. The first planetarium was coming up, and during a bout of malaria that left me depleted with medicine that sucked the last milligrammes of energy from my bones, once as I lay in my lonely bed fantasizing about ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ which was being blasted at painful volumes through an Akai stereo-system, I was approached by three Czech astrophysicists to help them slap up the best combination of background music for the Planetarium. In spite of my weakness, they virtually lifted me off to their ultramodern building, and in three days we had stuffed their computer with lots of Pink Floyd, Jetrho Tull, snatches from Miles Davis, Earth Wind and Fire, et al, to everyone’s satisfaction.

    Vyom Vihar expanded to 150 members, we saw a hundred films courtesy USIS, on space, astrophysics, cosmogony, and we went for night star gazing with amateur experts (oxymoronic but a fact of life). We had lectures by the best. Dr. Vainu Bappu once spent a long time with us, lots of scientists from everywhere, passing thru’ Baroda spoke to us, interacted with us… and our queries grew more and more sophisticated. One Dr. Potdar who did his Ph.D. in ‘Colliding Galaxies’ was extremely fond of me and gave me a wealth of literature to read and absorb. His replacement, one Dr. Kulkarni was equally passionate and helpful. As often happens, the activities died when egoes clashed and politics took over. I left them.

    Before I left, I observed a few very relevant things which I am dying to share with you. One talented painter, M.R. Renjan who was terribly enthusistic about VV and its series of lectures, decided to quit one day. I coaxed the answer from him, as to why… he said, and this is worth pondering upon : ” I fail to understand in depth the meaning of zeroes, you know, millions, billions, trillions and zillions. If I cannot perceive the distances, I lose the thrill that you science guys get from grasping how far an object is, or how fast something travels. ” Second, another musician and artist, Satish Patel who grew up on East Africa, and one who did not quit till we all quit, had this take :” How can one afford to be ignorant under this vast sky….?” In answer, many more curious souls joined in.

    Later I tried the same at Pune, through Akashmitra, an amateur astronomers’ club and gave lots of Power Point presentations to kids, housewives, scientists, engineers, and the usual motley assortment. My favourite then was a class VI girl named Rucha whose enthusiasm and mastery over the sky matters was astounding. Somehow, changes in life and lifestyle have prevented me from exploring the inner space and the outer space as much as I would have loved to.

    Your choice of article rang a ‘glockenspiel’ in my heart !

    Cheerz!

  3. 3 Entropy
    October 5, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Michele

    Thanks for heartening comments and pleased to note your appreciation of the my new blog theme. In fact your blog presentation ( especially Fonts & sidebar font color ) has been my inspiration. However I am not really savy with CSS, HTML etc ..

    Will refer to suggested book.. In the meantime pl care to refer to this blog post for interesting info..

    http://anne-blythe.blogspot.com/2007/10/are-you-bright.html


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