Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Get ready to rock your mind

Rock field on Mt. Jefferson, NH

When you pick up a lowly rock from the ground, you are touching something unimaginably incredible.   Yes, you have probably heard that a rock is a collection of minerals, and that minerals are made from elements, created by stars.  It’s all star stuff, the rocks, clouds and landscape you see in the image, and that’s pretty amazing, but there is even more to ponder.

Thinking about a rock is pretty impressive.  For instance, if you compress the age of the oldest rock on earth to a year, the pyramids were built a few seconds ago.  The elements that make up that rock are older still, perhaps almost as old as the universe itself.  So, twirl that rock round your fingers and then forget all that…

Imagine nothingness. 

A white dot pops into existence… welcome the universe.

This dot is so hot that the best minds among us are still wondering what it might have been like.  All that will ever exist lies inside this white dot.  It inflates, and as it grows all of the reality we humans know settles into being.  Inside the growing white dot are the laws of nature, like the fact that two bits of matter will gravitate towards each other, and the closer they get the more attractive they become.

Big Bang
NASA Illustration of a Supernova

Hydrogen is the first element that appears and it soon collapses into vast spheres.  With pressure comes heat, one of those natural laws.  Eventually the heat grows so great the hydrogen spheres ignite into nuclear furnaces.  Through more natural laws, matter begins to fuse together, and transforms into progressively heavier elements.  The new suns eventually use up all of the fuel and explode with even greater energy, and heavier elements are born.  The dust created by the supernovas in turn collects into more stars, and lo and behold we have all of matter.

Lagoon Nebula, NASA Image
It just so happens that because of the laws of nature, a very tiny amount of all that matter takes a different route.  If matter is traveling at the right speed and direction it will begin to spin around other matter through a balancing act between gravity and centripetal force.  The rock you are holding happens to be one of those bits of matter that, instead of falling into the sun, stayed in orbit as part of a planet or a moon, or perhaps a comet, meteor, or asteroid.  

I am writing this blog because of all the laws of nature have converged to make it so.  The rock in your hand would not exist otherwise.  Above all, the universe is the patterns within it, patterns that emerged with the big bang.  Next time you pick up a rock, look what rests between your fingers, know that you literally hold the universe in your hand, for all those patterns are there.  Feel the weight of the rock in your hand, and know it as expression of how attracted it is to the ground.  Twirl it around your fingers and wonder at the audacity of it all.