Chapter 26

Before the Big Bang

But don’t you think there is a force in the Universe?

            This question I am frequently asked by Christians, and by people who do not consider themselves to be Christian believers.

            Yes, I can conceive of a force in the Universe. But this force is not a divine power. It is a force which created the Universe as we know it. I should rather call it a ”force”, because it is nothing metaphysical about it. It is a physical force, the one which was at work before the Big Bang, before the origin of the Universe. Today what was before the Big Bang is shrouded in mystery, unfathomable. But we humans may fathom it some day.

            Mankind’s concept of the Universe has not been static. It has changed dramatically, and the changes have often come fast. A hundred years from now the concept we have of the Universe today will most certainly seem outdated and naive to our successors.

             Perhaps only 20 years from now, or 20 months  from now, we may have knew knowledge of the origin of the Universe.

            Only 20 years before I was born a discovery was made at the Mount Wilson Observatory int the USA which totally changed the way humans looked at the Universe. 15 years before I was born another crucial discovery was made.

             I quote from the article about astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble in ”Encyclopædia Britannica”:

While at Mt. Wilson Hubble discovered (1922-1924) that not all nebulae (”stjernetåker”) in the sky are part of our galaxy (the Milky Way). He found that certain nebulae contain stars called Cepheid variables, for which a correlation was alreday known to exist between periodicity and absolute magnitude (”lysstyrke”). Using the further realtionship among distance, apparent magnitude, and absolute magnitude, Hubble determined that these Cepheids are several hundred thousand light-years away and thus outside our galaxy, and the nebulae in which they are located are actually distinc from the Milky Way. This discovery, announced in 1924, forced astronomers to revise their ideas about the cosmos.

 The discovery that there are galaxies outside our own is a relatively new discovery. It did not force astronomers only to change their ideas about cosmos, it forced mankind to change its ideas. Or rather, it should have forced mankind to change its ideas. I have never understood why the discovery that the Universe consists of myriads of galaxies has not made a bigger impaxct on the way we are thinking.

             Hubble went on with his study of the distant galaxies.

             Again I quote ”Britannica”:

 In studying the galaxies Hubble made his second remarkable discovery, namely, that these galaxies are apparently reciding (”fjerner seg fra”) ours, and that the further away they are, the faster they are reciding (1927). The implications of this discovery were immense. The universe, long considered static, was expanding; and even more remarkably, as Hubble discovered in 1929, the universe was expanding in such a way that the ratio of the speed of the galaxies to their distance is a constant, now called Hubble’s constant.

 An expanding Universe! A discovery with immense implications! Mankind had to think new thoughts about the whole concept of the Universe. Or rather, should have thought. I do not understand why the discovery of the expanding Universe has not changed the minds of people more than it actually has done.

            Then, 5 years after I was born, came the theory of the Big Bang; that the Universe started with a singularity, an explosion of  an infinitesimal (”uendelig lite”) point which later expanded to become the Universe we know to day, and which is still expanding.  

            The Vatican very soon accepted the Big Bang theory as not being contrary to Catholic thinking. Why? Because Big Bang could have been God’s snap of his fingers to create the Universe.

            There was much controversy over the Big Bang theory. Some scientists still oppose it, but it is almost universally accepted.

            If one does not believe Big Bang to be the snap of God’s fingers, or a creation of God, then the questions are: What was before the Big Bang? Will we ever know? And if we learn it, what would the consequences be for our thinking about the Universe, its past, present and future?

            New insight about the conditions before Big Bang may come fast. At The Europan Centre for Nuclear Research, CERN, near Geneva, experiments will soon start at the largest particle accelerator ever constructed, The Large Hadron Collider, LHC. Particles will be shot out at incredibly high speed, collide and give us new information about the building bricks of the Universe.

            I’m really no expert in the field of nuclear physics, but I subscribe to the magazine and the newsletters published by CERN. It is not stated in the information I receive that new research will reveal the secrets of the epoch before Big Bang. Oh, no! CERN is very careful not to promise too much. But in my imagination I see scientific revelations that explain what is today impossible to explain.

            My amateur studies of cosmology several years ago made me conclude that the Universe will expand forever, the galaxies fly off and become so distant from each other that one galxy cannot be observed from another, that the Universe will cool down, become widespread clumps of iron, then expand further into nothingness, all information lost, all hope gone. Total death by expansion. The abolute void. The tunnel at the end of light.

             Or as the Bible says: ” – and the earth was without form and void.”

            But then came the new theories of dark matter and dark energy. Very little is today known about these ”dark forces”. We shall know more, and I hope quite soon. Perhaps dark matter and dark energy may stop the expansion of the Universe, may reverse the expansion, so that the galaxies will come closer to each other, collide – and the whole shebang (”hele sulamitten”) end up in a Big Crunch, and a new Big Bang, a new Universe. Here we go again!

             These thoughts are mind-boggling, food for the mind. I cherish such thoughts.

              Having cancer you feel like riding on what Americans call a roller coaster (”berg-og-dalbane”), a mental roller coaster. In one moment your are on the peak of sunshine, in the next moment your are in a dark bottom of  the valley, The Valley of Shadows (”Skyggenes dal”). Having had cancer somewhat improves the situation. Still it is a tough roller coaster ride. Because the disease is so inpredictable, despair lurchs in the shadows.

             What can you do?

            Suddenly my typing does not lift me up, but feels like a burden too heavy. I take a break from my frenzied writing. I try to read a book by Paul Davies, ”God and the new Physics”, which I have read two times before, in 1990 and 2002, and which is full of my underlingings with a blue pencil in 1990 and a red pencil in 2002. But I cannot concentrate.

             I go out in the sun. The sun itself is perhaps a cancer cure, because of all the D-vitamins the body makes out of the sunrays.

            May 10th, Whit Saturday (”pinseaften”). Sea temperature at Botnerbaugen 17 degrees, falling to 16 degrees when the high tide water came, incrasing again to 16,5 degrees. It is absolutely not a normal May temperature. It is magnificient! Glorious!

             Five swims I did. Not long, but long enough.

             Whitsun marks the celebration of the Holy Spirit. Is Norway really a Christian nation?

             Most Norwegians seem to take no notice of the celebration of the Holy Spirit. A radio report on the NRK today showed that quite a few of my compatriots don’t know what Whitsun is all about, and if they know, they don’t care.

             Whitsun celebration in the oil-rich country of Norway is to go like crazy in  speedboats along the coast.

             And where is The Church of Norway? It does not go out of its way to propagate Whitsun and the idea of the Holy Spirit. It is a complex idea, hard to grasp. Is that why the church is so quiet? It is easier to preach about the birth and the death of Christ at Christmas and Easter than to preach about the Holy Spirit.

              In my opinion the Holy Spirit is the brainchild of theological ideologists. But since it is Whitsun, I sit down on a granite rock at the beach an think about the Holy Spirit, not getting any wiser.

             My friend the old black-backed gull -  I call him Gamle Svartvinge (Old Blackwing) - sits on his skerry and is busy eating a fish he has caught. I think of the bird as a male, and that may be discrimination if it is a female specimen.   

            Maybe the Holy Spirit is well-known with seagulls of both sexes, that they understand the wonders of  Whitsun easily and can communicate with the spirit.

            What am I thinking? It is pure blasphemy! Have I got a sun-stroke?

            I dive into the sea to cool off.

            In a billion years – or perhaps a shorter lapse of time - the sun will have expanded so much that the oceans on Earth will evaportate and the planet be scorched.

            Where are we then, what has happened to mankind?

            Hard to tell.  

       Chapter 25

Chapter 27