The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.
— Lisa Zyga in physics.org
I never took a physics course in either high school or college, and I barely passed Temple University’s introduction to calculus. So take anything I say about science with a grain of NaCl. But at least I am certain about my ignorance, and maybe that’s a good thing. After all, great Buddhist teachers tell us to approach everything with a don’t-know mind.
In my ignorance, I was not at all surprised to see the article I quoted from above, No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning. A great early physicist, Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, said something similar 2,500 years ago. He seemed to intuit, by meditation and looking inward, that everything in our world is made from tiny particles that are constantly arranging and rearranging themselves. He wasn’t interested in how it all started. He found it more logical, as I do, to believe those particles were always here and always will be. No Big Bang, and no creator, needed. Everything in our world, including us, is a clump of constantly dancing cosmic dust.
I’m glad to be living today rather than in the Buddha’s time — or at least I think I am. We know so much more now about keeping ourselves physically comfortable. Heat. Air conditioning. Inoculations. Hospitals. Antibiotics. Pain meds. Anxiety meds. Depression meds. Anti-psychotic meds. Automobiles. Trains. Planes. Massage therapists. Sleep Number beds. (Not sure whether to include dentists here.)
But we have not done at all well in spiritual development, in wisdom. My teacher, Lama Surya Das, has said that the most endangered natural resource is wisdom. I’m afraid that we’re no wiser than we were 2,500 years ago. For example:
In the Twentieth Century, some 160 million people were killed in wars. That’s 50% more than the estimated population of the entire world in 500 B.C.
I’ve written recently here and here about devas and devis. We translate those words as gods and goddesses, but in the Buddha’s time they were beings invisible to humans who had finite lifespans, limited powers, and a spectrum of personalities. When the Buddha’s monks were terrified by strange sounds and sights in the forest, they believed that the tree devas were trying to chase them away. Do we know that they were wrong? Can we be any more certain about dark matter than the monks were about tree devas?
Quantum physics seems to be finding more questions than answers. Schrodinger’s cat and other quantum paradoxes have led to the many-worlds theory, which suggests that every possible outcome of every possible alternative exists in one of an infinite variety of worlds. My favorite quantum finding is entanglement, which is being experimentally validated. It seems that subatomic particles, once they have interacted with each other, become bound wherever they go in the universe, so what happens to one has an immediate impact on the other.
If something like entanglement exists in the non-quantum world — among entities larger than subatomic particles — that would help explain phenomena we call paranormal, when we sense what’s happening to a loved one separated by distance, or when we get a message from a relative who has died.
The spiritual seekers of the Buddha’s day believed in realms we cannot see, and today’s physicists aren’t sure how many dimensions there are in space and time, but they’re pretty sure some exist that we can’t perceive. I’ll sleep well tonight in my three-dimensional Sleep Number bed, certain that my don’t-know mind is right to enjoy the wisdom of its ignorance.
— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine
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The koan of modern physics. Wonderful!
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Music to my ears, Mel. A whole symphony of Bach, Beethoven, and Strauss all together.
The largest particles to exhibit quantum entanglement are Bucky Balls or C 60 molecules. I think this is rather unremarkable, however what we have not done is the testing of large groups of particles together, such as a stone or even a body of a living being. One thing is certain, the small scale tends to mirror the larger scale. It is only our ability to not only understand but to be able to create the experiment in which to see quantum entanglement on a large scale. That is of course, if your not a Buddhist, we know, we see this intuitively to be true in the laboratory of mediation. We know and understand that space is information. It is everywhere, and everything, this simple beauty is more than inspiring, it is…..
…. I am at a loss for words.
Thank you my dear dharma friend.
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