Friday, 27 January 2012

Turn it off!

They're talking about the beginning of the Universe!
Our galaxy in the vast Universe

Every morning we listen to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. This morning I heard them mention the Hadron Collider and suddenly realised that they were talking about the beginning of the Universe. I ran and turned off the radio. This is one issue that I just can’t get my head round. But it was too late because now I’m revisiting questions that are always lurking in that dark part of my mind:
  • If there was a beginning of the Universe then what was here before?
  • If we could travel and travel then would we reach the edge of the Universe?
  • If there’s an edge to the Universe then what’s outside it?
  • If the Universe was to be destroyed then what would take its place and how could there ever be nothing?

I do have faith in the beliefs of my religion but I still can’t work out all this Universe business. Is it any wonder that I throw myself into my writing? It stops me from thinking about these brain-exploding issues.

Is it just me or do other people have trouble thinking about this sort of thing?


  1. I have always thought about this since I was about 12.I suppose you really start to think about God and everything around then, not just believe everything you are told.

    I decided I was an atheist because my dad was. Then when I got to be about 30 I decided I was agnostic. I mean, there has to be a reason that we are all here doesn't there?

    I don't follow any organised religion, but I like to think there is a force of some kind that created the universe and anything that exists outside its edges! But then you start to think, well if this force created everything, who created it? And for what purpose were we all created?

    In the end your mind threatens to explode under the enormity of such a question. I often bore people to tears with it on evenings when I have had a bit too much wine, but if I stop thinking then that's bad too.

    I think humanity arrived at this point in history because we always want answers to questions, always want to see/know what's round the next corner. I guess I'm hoping for an afterlife of some description too.

    I do know when I look up at the stars on clear summer nights that I feel part of something bigger. And I am a spiritual person I suppose - I feel there is good in everyone and we have the capacity to live in a much kinder, caring world. One day I hope my grandchildren/great grandchildren will see it.

  2. I absolutely love science and the whole universe thing fascinates me. Yes there will definitely be a time when our planet will no longer be able to hold life and not for any universe type reason I have got my head around, other than the sun issue. The sun has a life span, eventually it will get so close to us as it expands that everything will burn and the earth will die. We aren't forever, so I think we, as we are here, should enjoy our time and enjoy every minute that we can. We are but a well put together complicated set of living cells. What fascinates me is the mind and personality as well, especially considering my last sentence about being cells.

    This subject could have me talking round in circles for ever - or as long as the sun lets us. :)

  3. I remember lying down on the school field when I was about 8 with my friends and staring up and realising how small we were. It was scary then, and still slightly scary now - although I cover it well, these days.

    I liked to think that the universe was contained in a giant bottle on the shelf in a giant's house. It was the only way I could get my head around the vastness. For me to even start to understand, there had to be a boundary.

    Even now, on clear nights, looking up and seeing all those stars, I feel so small and obscure (totally unlike Mandy's reaction above).

  4. Your interesting questions led to some profound comments. I used to think about these things too. I never liked to discuss them or my feelings about religion and the universe. These days, I feel I'm in the now more. Both because of my age (71) and where I live (mountains)and I'm not too concerned with how it all started and how it will end. I do believe it will end though and can only hope it will be due to natural causes, not for the greed of mankind.

  5. Oh yeah, those are the same questions I've asked for years. Used to write circuitous poems about the "end of time" when I was a kid, but I've come to accept the fact that I have a finite mind in an infinite universe. Some things are simply beyond the grasp of the finite, and I'm okay with that. Still wondering, but not going crazy over it. It does boggle the mind, though, to think that the things we see courtesy of the Hubble are actually images of the PAST.

  6. Now that I've read your questions, my mind will probably explode by the end of the day as I won't be able to stop thinking about all this. :) I think it's fascinating, but I can't begin to comprehend it. I like Susan's thought that we have finite minds in an infinite universe.

    Have a great weekend!

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  8. I read once that there is a restaurant at the end of the universe. ;)

  9. Hi Mandy, in a way I feel reassured that your head almost explodes with the thought too. Thanks for sharing that. A kinder, caring world would be wonderful.

    Hi Rebecca, I agree that we should enjoy every minute that we can but it’s hard to not worry just a bit about the fact that the sun has a limited life span and the consequences that has on our world.

    Hi Annalisa, I’m not sure that the idea of the universe being in a giant bottle on a giant’s shelf makes me feel any more reassured! I too feel small and overawed when I look up at all those stars.

    Hi Inger, it must be amazing to live in the mountains. Living in the city is so different. I wonder if maybe we don’t get enough peace to connect with our spiritual side.

    Hi Susan, I too love your phrase ‘a finite mind in an infinite universe’. Thanks for that.

    Hi Julie, so sorry if I’ve caused your mind to explode! Join the club ;-)

    Hi Southpaw, I read that too but, you know what, I think it’s been shut down… health and safety!

  10. There was nothing before the beginning of the universe. They already know this. The answer is because there was no time. Gravity slows down time. Inside black holes time doesn't exist. At the beginning of the universe, all matter existed in a singularity. There was only gravity so time had not yet started. It's mind-boggling, yes, but not too hard to grasp. And the fact that time is slowed by gravity has been proven over and over and over through experiments. This is not a "theory" but something we have observed. The greater the gravity, the slower time flows.

  11. It seems all my life I have been pondering these sorts of questions. For the most part nowadays, I am content with not knowing, having no reasons and the general meaninglessness of it all, and am very much okay with this sort of not knowing. When you think about our position within the general scheme of it all, why would we have any sort of answers.

  12. I watched a tv programme about the universe and didn't understand it at all.It does mess with your head if you think too much about it.I tend to believe that there's a heaven and I'll meet all my loved ones again and if it turns out not to be so,I'll never know. will I?

  13. You are definitely not alone. Even the wonderful Brian Cox, who explains these things carefully - and treats me like an intelligent person - can leave me mystified.

    But it's also humbling. Given that the universe is so huge, and all the little bits of it fit together so wonderfully, why do I worry little things like rain?

    (I live in Wiltshire - and found a fossilised shark's tooth in my garden. It is about 50,000,000 years old. It's been there all that time, and now it's in my kitchen. I lend it to children who want to take it to school for show and tell. Don't suppose my teeth with last 50,000,000 years.

  14. I first started getting hung up on unanswerable questions of this sort in my early teens (I'm 62 now). I struggled to keep, but lost, my belief in God in my teens, too. It does sometimes get scary. When my thoughts get too deep and overwhelming, I have to bring myself back by accepting that some things go beyond human understanding. It's great to read this blog and know I'm not alone. Sometimes it's too easy to forget that others have trouble thinking about this sort of thing as well and then this unfathomable world becomes a lonely place.

  15. I looooove thinking about this stuff -- but then again, I write SF, so no surprises there! I love the fact that I can't quite explain it all. That's where my faith comes in.

  16. Its fascinating as well as scary and incomprehensible. We are human and as such we are confined in our thinking to what the very best human brain can comprehend. We often try to fathom out the depth of the universe, the what was there bore it began and what will be there after its gone questions. I tied myself up in knots about this from a young age as my father would tell me about the universe and its vastness and gravity and how if gravity stopped we'd all float off forever in space. That totally freaked me out as you might imagine as I was only primary age when he told me. However as I have grown and now have my own spiritual beliefs I think that there is no end and no beginning. Not of the universe as there are billions of universes out there and they do start and end, but I have now accepted that space, just is. No end no beginning just change within it. I don't try and work out what that means in essence as my head can't get around the concepts, so I just accept it and feel in awe.

  17. Astronomy is super fascinating to me. I remember my mind being blown when I learned the universe is both finite and infinite, which is apparently what happens when you have an infinite thing that grows...

    And those are some very important and large questions there. Part of the beauty of writing, SF especially, is coming up with possible answers to that, no matter how cracky they might be.

  18. So funny you mention this! We were just talking about it the other day, and what a mind-bending concept it is. I can never get my head around the idea of the universe. You are not alone! :)

  19. Hi Ros .. you've generated some great comments ... I'd love to know though!!

    Cheers Hilary