by Lawrence G. Downing, February 5, 2015: An article by physicist Brian Greene, “Hanging by a String,” (SMITHSONIAN January 2015) rekindled thoughts that had lain dormant for a time. He and others of his profession venture into the jumbled theoretical worlds of cosmology. String theory is of particular interest to them. String theory proposes that at the heart of every particle is a tiny, vibrating string-like filament. It is an infinitesimally minute particle (try a million billion times smaller than the structures probed by the world’s most powerful accelerators, Greene, p. 22). In his explanation of String theory, Greene states that the mathematical equations require that the universe have extra dimensions beyond our three. There is more, much more!
Four physicists – Philip Candelas, Gary Horowitz, Andrew Strominger and Edward Witten – in 1985, proposed that these extra dimensions were minuscule. This explains why they had not been seen. Further, these strings are so small that when they vibrate they undulate not just in the three-dimensional universe, but also in the additional tiny universes. Defining the shape of these extra-dimensional universes is the quest for a small group of Oxford physicists, Greene included. Utilizing the calculations of higher dimensional geometry, this group set about to seek answers to the questions their calculations suggested. As their work progressed, their possibilities list expanded to thousands, millions, billions, and in the mid-1990s Joe Polchinski reached numbers so large they have never been named. Those who root about among the Strings pondered the possibility that, at last, Einstein’s recurring dream of a unified theory may be at hand. We who are not part of the scientific community marvel at the propositions that arise from those who, like Greene, delve into the mysteries of our cosmos. Their work opens to us interesting fields where our imaginations can roam.
Newtonian science affords scarce allowance for numerous events, descriptions and accounts scripture records as fact. Angeles, for example. How can one, if bound by Newtonian physics, explain how an angel appears and in an instant, like the morning mist, dematerializes? How can it be that these same beings can migrate throughout the universe and transport through space as easily as we pass from one room to another? The accounts that describe conversations between heavenly beings and humanity boggle our minds. Care to go further? Consider Jesus’ ascension. How many of our years would pass before a body, traveling at the speed of an ascending hot air balloon, would reach space beyond space? What manner of life-support systems would be necessary once that body escaped earth’s atmosphere? The questions multiply more rapidly than solutions.
To further disturb our minds, scripture speaks easily of the heavenly places! Images from the Hubble and other space contraptions take us into places that confound our imagination and raise questions that await answers. The violence and upheaval space-shots display; the disruptions that occur as one gaseous body engulfs another or as a clump of matter is irrevocably drawn toward a black hole where all trace will forever disappear. . . . Where, in all of these wonders, can we place heaven? Where do we find, in the turbulent cosmos, a quiet place that bodes for a better, peaceful land?
So here we have it. We who read and value scripture are confronted by the discoveries of science that defy much of what we know and believe about the laws of our universe. Included are the voices of those who propose a new physics. Like a thunderbolt or rampaging comet, the theories associated with a new understanding of our cosmos blaze forth. Michio Kaku, in his book Parallel Worlds, addressed the advances that have taken place in cosmology that force scientists to rethink how the universe operates. The suggestion of parallel universes opens new possibilities. Our “what ifs” run wild, or perhaps amok? Might one dare suppose that the concept of parallel universes provides an abode for heavenly beings?
The writings and work of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, John Barrow, Paul Davies, John Polkinghorne and numerous others add to the cosmological discussion and increase our knowledge trove. Think of it! A being that is not bound by the limits of our three-dimensional universe. Is this where the Almighty resides? Where heaven rests its foundations? Is this the universe where the “Others” have the capacity to venture from a universe which is off our limits, to ours?
Where do such thoughts and possibilities lead those whose limits of sciences and mathematics reach stretch point upon confronting simple algebraic equations or struggle over basic geometry? One thing we can do is dust off our imaginations and give passing note to what cosmologists propose. Consider, for example, that divine beings may inhabit a domain separate, but in significant ways, similar to ours. We can contemplate the numerous possibilities presented by the theories that arise from science and wonder at the mysteries that our universe reluctantly shares. We need not be disturbed by the limitations inherent within our Newtonian construct. At the same time, we can find satisfaction that science opens to us opportunities to think about what once was science fiction, a new world, outside ours, whose builder and maker was and is God. Little wonder that the Psalmist, when contemplating his universe, observed that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth his handiwork. As an aside, should an angelic host from another universe appear to you, give a howdy and a welcome to our world. Should that visitor invite you to join in a journey to that mysterious other place, give us a Tweet now-and-again.