The Radiant Heart of the Cosmos

Posted on 1 January 2006

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If I make a scientific inquiry into my body, I first find it is made of matter, like rocks and trees and rivers. As I look closer, I see that the matter of my body is animated, that it is alive. The source of this life is the energy from metabolism of food and drink that I consume, which is burning in me during respiration as I breathe. If I trace this energy, I see it comes from the plants and animals that I eat, and if I trace it further, I see that it comes from photosynthesis, which comes from the sun. Thus I come to realize that every movement of my body is powered by sunlight. And I begin to see this in all of nature: the rains fall because the sunlight has evaporated the water and lifted it up, thus the rivers rage is the sound of sunlight. The winds blow because the sun heats up some land more than others, thus the soft breeze is the caress of sunshine on my cheek. The lion’s roar is sunlight in ferocious expression, and everything humans do with machines is just sunlight in its array of forms. Electricity is pushed through our wires by the river’s sunlight power, and even the burning candle is the release of sunlight energy stored in the wax. All life on earth is powered by the sunlight, and has its source in the radiant sun, which shines selflessly in all directions endlessly.

If I look deeper, I will discover, though, that there is an exception. The energy from nuclear reactions here on earth comes from splitting atoms, and releasing the energy stored in them. What is the origin of that energy? Science now tells us that all the heavy elements on earth were created in a star that lived long ago. At the end of its life, it exploded in a supernova, and the huge energy of that explosion was stored in heavy elements such as uranium. So, although it is not the sunlight of our sun now, when we split the atom, we are releasing the energy stored in that atom during that supernova explosion. In fact, all the heavy elements on earth, such as carbon and oxygen, were created by that sun from hydrogen and helium during its long life. The very material existence of our whole planet, with its rocks and earth, with its water, its air, is derived ultimately from that star. Without that star, there would be nothing but hydrogen and helium. All the heavier elements are, as it were, created from these lighter elements by sunlight.

If we trace our origins back further, though, we see that all the heavy elements and the energy that animates them comes from stars. But where do these stars get their energy? This is mysterious. The force of gravity brings together the light elements in space, and when it compresses them very tightly with its powerful force, they fuse together and release energy. That energy that is released has its origin in the fact that these light elements were separated in the first place. And the energy of that separation is the mysterious expansion of the space of the entire universe! So, it is the expansion of space itself that is responsible for the energy that the stars release.

Even more mysteriously, this expansion of space is also what created the lighter elements in the first place. For, before space had expanded and cooled the universe, all these lighter elements were very hot and close together. And even eariler that that, the energy was so high that the matter ceased to exist at all. The whole universe was pure radiance, with no obscuring matter at all. As the universe cooled and expanded, some of its radiance “crystalized” into matter, much like how water freezes when it cools to form pieces of ice. So matter itself, as Einstein has taught us, is really nothing but energy.

Even earlier, when the universe was very, very small, the energy was so extremely high that the radiance merged with space and time. Then, there was no container and no contained. No space, no time, no radiance. All distinctions dissolved, and even the very “expansion” of the universe was no more, since space was no more.

So, if we trace our heartbeat back to its ultimate source, we find the radiant heart of the cosmos, we find all of space and time, and the mysterious power of expansion of space in the bosom of the cosmos that gives rise to matter, and the power of the suns, which is nothing but a recreation of that original radiance at the source of the universe. And our heartbeat is nothing but a recreation of the sunlight. We are powered by, and constituted by, the radiant heart of the cosmos.

This is the story of modern science. What a marvellous symbol!

(Originally written 2/28/2001)

(If you enjoyed this, you may also like Genesis: A Creation Story Inspired by Modern Physics)

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Posted in: Science