Human Race – Whither bound?
Abdul Kalam, our former President and one of the foremost space scientists had, while addressing the students of Periyar Maniammai University exhorted the engineering students of the University to take up communication engineering to find a way for transporting the population from this dying planet to a livable planet.
A similar apprehension of the planet being livable after 100 years was expressed by Stephan Hawking in the following words:
“In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?”, …….. “I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question, to get people to think about it, and to be aware of the dangers we now face.”
He expressed concern that life on earth is at risk even from “a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of ”. He views space flight and colonisation of space as necessary for the future of humanity. A screaming headlines in “The Times of India” dated 14th August, 2015 reads “Climate Change – Crisis Here & Now – Rising Sea Level, Coastal Erosion, Destruction of mangroves – Challenges to Tamil Nadu”.
In Zeitgeist Conference organized by Google in 2011, Hawking lamented, that we cannot find answers as regards future of mankind in our philosophy, since philosophers have not kept pace with the development of science.
Astronomy – Its past history
Astronomy had always a fascination for scientists and seers. All civilization had concerned itself with astronomy. In India, astronomy was hijacked by astrology with the knowledge gained thus far having become sterile with further development of astronomy totally ignored. It is indeed the most unfortunate development apart from being the base for superstition linking the movement of stars with the future of individuals populating this planet.
As Freud would point out that, man considers himself as the centre of the universe, so that it was natural for him to infer the earth to be the planet around which Sun and stars rotated. Astronomy, however, branched off into many other sciences including space physics, planetology, cosmology and life sciences. The progress was tardy but it is within the last 500 years that there has been increasing consciousness of the space around us.
All civilizations the Indians, the Babylonians and the Biblical cosmology considered the earth to be flat floating in “waters of chaos” designed by an invisible force with the universe itself limited to solar universe, which you could see with a naked eye or an imperfect telescope.
In the second century A.D., Ptolemy propounded the theory with the earth at the centre based on Aristotle’s observation seeing the universe as geocentric with the Sun travelling in the orbit of the earth. In Medieval Age, universe was conceived as finite in time with a beginning and an end. Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jewish philosophers were one in this view of the universe. It was only by the 12th century, there was some reference to the possibility of being other universes with God filling up the vacuum with such infinite number of universes. Even so, the influence of Ptolemy continued to prevail.
It was in the early 16th century Copernicus debunked Ptolemist’s idea of a geocentric universe. He could foresee the circular planetary orbits followed by Giordano Bruno, who found the space to be infinite, homogeneous, isotropic and non-hierarchical. Earth and Sun had no special place in space. The void between the stars is not vacuum but filled with aether.
In the 17th century, Leibniz was interested in spatial relations between objects of the world with the unoccupied regions in this universe. He saw more than one universe and could not agree that space can exist independently of matter.
Keplar, a mathematician and physicist, provided the foundation of astronomy as we know today. It was he who could understand the solar system for the first time. He had to contend with religious dogmas on the origin of the earth, so that he conceived astronomy as celestial physics in the lines of Aristotle’s Meta physics. He had to battle with the Catholics and even Lutheran faith all his life living in penury.
He conceived of an infinite world which if drawn by a straight line would meet only at the point of infinite, a concept adopted by later day astronomers expressed as the principle of continuity. He discovered a number of new stars and wrote the monumental work “Astronomia nova” (a new astronomy), wherein he propounded two laws of planetary motion.
Surprisingly Keplar’s contributions became popular and became the base for further research only in early 20th century. His publications were translated into various languages and became popular. His biography in 1948 drew world-wide attention. Popular science purveyed new interest in astronomy and public got interested in astronomy. Several fictions as in H.G.Well’s War of the Worlds flourished. Films like Star Trek became popular. Stories of aliens and the flying saucers (Unidentified Flying Objects) created interest in the modern astronomy. Keplar’s contribution in creating this interest was significant.
After Keplar, it was Newton in the 18th century, who conceived of a universe with every particle of the universe connecting and attracting every other particle with the universe gravitationally balanced but still unstable. A philosopher like Rene Descartes in the 17th century and Emmanuel Kant in the 18th century evinced interest.
Descartes conceived the universe as system of huge swirling whirlpools of aethereal or fine matter with gravitational effects with no empty vacuum as was hitherto believed. Kant, the other philosopher, found the matter to be clustered in larger scales of hierarchy with matters endlessly recycled.
It was in the early 20th century, further studies were made by Einstein with his theory of relativity with the fourth dimension being time with the universe being space-time continuum. He published more than 300 papers relating to these subjects. His contributions to the science of the day including atomic science is well known, but he wrote in 1954, that “I made one great mistake in my life—when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification—the danger that the Germans would make them …”.
His contribution to science and philosophy was significant. He was in favour of socialism and wrote “Why socialism?”. He strongly advocated democratic global Government. He wrote “I do not believe in a personal God” and called himself an agnostic. He refused artificial treatment to prolong his life and refused surgery at the age of 76 saying “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially.
I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.” He explained empirical evidence for the atomic theory with support from statistical physics. He reconciled many theories and is famous for theory of relativity,
E=mc2 (Mass-Energy equivalence). He believed in Big Bang theory, explaining the formation of the universe and the concept of expanding universe which are now both accepted by present day cosmologists.
Hawking’s contributions – Cosmology at its zenith
After Einstein, there is Stephen William Hawking, the living scientist suffering from motor neuron disease, which has completely paralysed him with his contributions by way of communication using his cheek muscle with a speech generating device. He is an outstanding cosmologist explaining the union of Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics supporting many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
His “A brief history of time” is most popular scientific publication about history of the universe past, present and future explaining the black holes as having more than one topology. He got the Nobel Prize for physics and numerous other Awards. His prediction is of super artificial intelligence as pivotal in steering humanity’s fate with potential benefits, which will register the biggest successes in human history, but he warns that we should know how to avoid risks pointing out computer viruses may well be a new form of life with immense destructive capacity, referring to this new form sarcastically referring that “man has created life in his own image”.
He said that philosophy is dead as it has not kept up with modern development in science. He points out development in space science leaves us to totally new and different picturesque universe and the place of our planet in such universe. There is hardly any subject on which he did not have something to say. He admitted that he was not religious in normal sense. He declared that the concept of heaven is a myth like life after death. These concepts have born because of a notion of “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark”. He declared in 2011 in American television series ,
“We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Shape of things to come
All the time, many more stars and planets are being discovered. The last major discovery was of Pluto, the most distant planet at the outskirts of our solar system, a dwarf planet being one-sixth of size of the moon made up of ice and rock moving in the elliptical orbit around the solar system. Pluto’s orbital period is 248 earth years. It was only on 14th July, 2015, a space aircraft could fly by Pluto, where its detailed measurement and other observations were made of Pluto and its five moons.
The study of astronomy shows that none of the numerous planets in the solar universe can house the earthlings, so that an exo-space planet far beyond the solar system has to be found for an alternative home for the human race. The landing of man on the moon, is a small step for man but a giant leap for mankind. Man’s journey into space is progressing fast from satellites and satellite stations.
It is not probably not long long before man may land in a planet outside the solar universe and hopefully finding it to be livable. Pluto with the possible trace of water indicates that the universe beyond may be able to offer hospitality of the human race. Will it?
Dr.Kani Ilangovan M.D.,(USA)
I am amazed at the inventiveness, resourcefulness, creativity and curiosity of humanity by the depths of compassion, love, joy, generosity
I am sobered by the cruelty, indifference, greed, shortsightedness, lust for power that I see on the news each day today I discovered stumbleupon which I could spend hours on if I allowed myself and felt touched and overwhelmed can we remake our world through the internet?
this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine
let it shine
let it shine
let it shine
If we all let our lights shine could we transform our world enter a new stage of evolution? In the experiment of our little family I see how freeing and joyful it is to celebrate each luminous moment and on stumbleupon I feel this great happiness in seeing these many voices sharing something beautiful, funny, meaningful, helpful, wondrous, bizarre with the world at large
Let’s keep our lights shining and see what happens next
I found this fun website stumbleupon.com that has a seemingly endless supply of good news, like a Brooklyn sculptor who makes garbage bag sculptures that come alive on subway vents in NYC or the MN schoolteacher who makes elaborate paintings with a white board. Japanese ink, and wet towels during 25 min lunch periods to show the students what can be done with 25 minutes, and then erases them.
There was so much uproar about his erasing the paintings that he started taking pictures of them. I really enjoyed the story and might write a poem about it someday. It’s a new take on the Tibetan sand mandala.