282 JANUARY 20, 2002:
When Space-Time Lines Intersect-Part 2
Every human being progresses through a space-time line while they are alive. A person moves from place to place (space) over a period of time. For two individuals to meet, their space-time lines have to intersect. Last week, I described the ordeal that my friend, Sam Hopkins, went through to volunteer at Chaco Culture in New Mexico at the Park's Observatory. On Sam's second last night, he gave his first astronomy presentation. In the audience was Laura Young of Amherst, MA. Laura, 17, was impressed, and the two continued to look at images until Laura's mother literally "dragged" her back to their campsite. The following evening, Laura briefly appeared and presented Sam with a beautiful handmade bracelet. Needless to say, that was a sleepless night for Sam and me. Sam wrote a thank you note, and with the help of Park employee, Liz Churchill, managed to locate the Young's campsite. Sam's recent Marine training came into good play because he managed to sneak up to the right picnic table, and secure the note on the tabletop without disturbing Laura or her mother. Sam departed Chaco without knowing whether Laura had found his letter. Laura also left the same day. Sam returned to Allentown, but since Laura was still traveling, it was sometime before they began regularly communicating. But that is all ancient history at present. Sam and Laura's space-time lines are crossing as frequently as possible. View a recent intersection at the ASD Planetarium at this week's web StarWatch. Laura is currently a freshman at Grinnell College in Iowa. Oh, I forgot to mention that Laura's mother, Dr. Judith Young, is professor of astronomy at the University of MA, Amherst. This could truly be a match sanctioned by the heavens.
283 JANUARY 27, 2002:
A Sentient Universe
We live in a universe that is composed mostly of hydrogen, a light, colorless, odorless gas, which if given enough time, can turn into people. The storyline is a complex series of twists and turns that has been occurring for billions of years and has resulted in us. The universe started with a bang, a Big Bang, the rifting of dimensions 12-18 billion years ago from something smaller than a pinhead--a burst of pure energy, which a moment later had set down all of the laws of nature as we know them today. Energy rapidly morphed into hydrogen, helium, and a tiny bit of lithium. In the turbulence of the primordial mix, denser structures began to dictate the formation of galaxies which had as their basic luminous component, stars. One of these huge structures was the progenitor of our own Milky Way. Galaxies clustered, cannibalized each other, and the clusters have moved outward in an ever expanding universe. Within our own Local Group, the Milky Way became dominant. Hundreds of billions of stars have lived and died since our galaxy's beginning, stars that have changed their hydrogen and helium into heavier elements through thermonuclear fusion. About one star in a thousand has gone supernova, producing in its catastrophic wake all of the known elements and seeding the galaxy with its stardust--dust that in one case mingled with more hydrogen and helium to form a star with its planets and moons that today we call our solar system. On the third planet, those atoms created in the dying bellies of stars were able to organize into replicating units about four billion years ago and evolve over time into people. Humanity has a tremendous responsibility to understand the soul of this universe that has given so much of itself to create us.