What Lies Beyond

As you look into the night sky; and remark on the beauty of the universe in the shape of stars and nebula, you may at some point if given enough time, come to a realisation. These beautiful wonders, that have guided humanity since the dawn of our time, that have inspired poetry and created great works of art; may no longer be there. Light is the fastest thing that we understand. Nothing we perceive is greater than the speed of light. And yet even it, is finite. And the great span of distance from where we are, to where the stars lie beyond, is so great, that it takes finite definable light considerable length of time to reach us, and display to us the grandiosity of the stars, and nebulae, and everything beyond our world.

Potentially, these works of awe may have existed a length of time so greatly long ago, that the stars have not only died – but have dissipated and spread the elements of life into the universe since then. They may have brought about life in other parts of the universe, a life that may be so intelligent they too have used it to guide themselves through the dark, and used it to create light in works of art. How fascinating it is to think, that balls of light, crucibles of elements and life may have in turn brought about more life in new form, in places we cannot even hope to see. They may have inspired entire civilisations worth of culture, in what lies beyond.

Image result for pillars of creation
Pillars of Creation – A long dead mix of star and nebulae. This is a real image, taken from the Hubble telescope. Courtesy of NASA.GOV

They have done this, and they have done it so long ago, that cultures we may never meet, have already came and went based upon them. Yet still we see their awe. With certainty – stars will come and go – and yet still they inspire long after their implosion. It serves as evidence – that long after something dies – it can still be experienced.

Imagine you are in a room, and you are with one other person, facing them directly, as it would not be uncommon for you to do. You’re talking about something trivial and generally just spending time with someone you enjoy. You may smile and feel so in the moment with someone at that time, which is beautiful and remarkable in every way. But on a scientific level – there is a delay.

There is a delay between what happens for the self, and what the other person will see. There is a delay in sound. Sound travels at the speed of about 345 m/s, meaning that if this was a particularly massive room, a ball room perhaps in some large palace in Germany, that was this distance from one end to the other, if you stood at one end and your companion at the other, then there would be a one second delay between what you said, and when they heard it.

Now, when we actually experience this in reality, talking to our friends in close proximity, this delay is remarkably small. So small in fact, that relatively it is negligible. However, let’s not forget… it is still there. There is a similar delay with light – except that light travels significantly faster than sounds, at about 3 * 10 ^ 8 m/s (30’000’000’000 m/s), meaning that the delay is even more negligible. However, it IS still there.

To reiterate, what this means is that every time you talk to someone. there is a delay in when they say it, and when you see and hear it.

The complexity intensifies however, when our understanding of the universe and technology increase greatly. Let’s suggest that some far away intelligent being can view that conversation you are having with your friend; that they can view it on their version of a telescope which can see unimaginable distances away, and perhaps even translate what you are saying via subtle movements in your mouth and vocals cords, into whatever language they speak, effectively meaning they can see and hear you. The problem is, that if they are doing this millions of light years away from you – by the time they see it, it will have happened a long long time ago. Millions of years ago in fact.

But they are seeing and hearing it right now, to them, and yet you and your friend would have lived and died millions of years before. So how can this be?

Well… actually… this is exactly what’s happening with humanity and the stars. The two examples differ in negligible ways. So why even provide the two examples to say the same thing?

The reason being, it is necessary to humanise the following question; if everything we do is technically in a delay – if everything that we see and perceive is technically a memory – if all of time is relative to the person observing it, and there is no definite point of certainty – when does something, or more specifically someone… die?

If your friend perished in some terrible accident, to you they would be “dead” and naturally you would be very sad about it, and yet at the same time, this intelligent being could be observing them in their now, and viewing some certain events that happened before they were killed off in the third act. So they are dead to you, but not to this other being, who still sees and hears them, millions of years later.

It would seem then, that as the problem continues, the true crux of the issue – is that the general person still views time as an absolute constant, rather than simply constant – to you. In other words, relatively constant. Which is of course is an oxymoron.

What lies beyond, is not only new worlds, homes, discoveries, people, and cultures, but also the past, present, and future, simultaneously and all at once. It’s all just based on the perspective by which you view it.

Some comfort you can take from this, is that friends and family whom you have lost, some time in the past. No matter how long ago it was, they are not truly gone. Sadly, they are only gone, to you. But they are still smiling, and being happy, and looking at you with adoring eyes, from someone’s point of view, somewhere. Someone, somewhere, may be looking at you both in the past, with wondering eyes, and thinking, “They look happy.” And if some future technology could transport you an unimaginable distance away in an instant ( perhaps some quantum entanglement one day may teleport us ) then you could too, sit and view this person and you, watch each other with those same adoring eyes.

What lies beyond, is the past, future, and present; it’s the now and then; it’s the you and I.

Think of that, as you look into the night sky.

 

 

Dear Dr Hawking,

If I could borrow your time for a moment.

As someone who is fascinated by the stars, by the infinite cosmos, all that way from the splendour complexity of galaxies and quasars, to the mischievous cheating of quantum mechanics, you inspired me. To learn. To grow. And to pursue a path of knowledge, everyday. I find myself fortunate to have many people in history whom inspire me, but I am undoubtedly touched by your universality.

There are names whom we hold dear in science, with the list exhaustive and debated.

Albert Einstein. Isaac Newton. Dmitri Mendeleev. Mary Curie. James Watson. Francis Crick. Maurice Wilkins. Rosalind Franklin. Alexander Fleming. Anders Celsius. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Jane Goodall.

However, one certainly lacking in divisiveness, was you You were iconic. You are iconic. You were wonderful.

An irrefutable example, of triumph by the mind, when the body fails you. A scientist, a physicist, a teacher, a student, an unstoppable force. You showed the world how a bit of stubbornness to the cause that is the universe, and positivity in the face of literal certain death, could go so far.

You fathered theories on how our universe concerns to conduct itself, and helped us understand our brief history of time.

There are certain people whom I am saddened for the world, when the opportunity for fresh adventures with them is revoked. And you were certainly one.

At the same time, I am humbled by the fact that you shared your knowledge, so that even in your passing, we are left enlightened. And we will persist. We will continue our pursuits.

In this life, work to leave some part of you left, when you pass. And you undeniably did this. The whole world over will remember your name, and as they share unique stories, and opinions with you in mind, we will be reminded that you never will truly leave us.

Thank you for your time, Dr Hawking.

See you among the stars.