A Simple Question

In all seriousness, I’m curious. And I have a question that I invite astronomers, physicists, or mathematicians, none of which I am — beyond that of a lay person’s dabbling, — to answer. By way of preface, I watched a number of you tube explanations of an expanding universe in hopes of finding an answer to the question I’m about to ask. Some were  fascinating, some were boring. But two different approaches to explaining what scientists think we know, while effectively demonstrating expansion, clearly illustrated the nature of the problem the question addresses.

The expansion of the universe is at the heart of the inquiry. One of the explanations invites us to consider the universe as a balloon. Dots on the balloon represent the galaxies. As the air fills the balloon, it expands and the dots move farther and farther apart. The other explanation, which I like better because it illustrates the same principle in a more realistic, complex way, compares the universe to a loaf of raisin bread baking in the oven. As the bread rises, the raisins separate and move farther apart throughout the loaf.

So now to the question. We know for a fact that galaxies collide. The Hubble Space Telescope, named for the astronomer who gave us the concept of an expanding universe, has captured images of it  happening.

 

The collisions are dramatic, chaotic, beautiful, frightening, and at the heart of both endings and beginnings. We also know by witnessing the phenomenon of the red shift that the universe is not only expanding but doing so at a continuously increasing rate. All of which brings us to the question.

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January 28, 1986

Space shuttle Challenger

Space shuttle Challenger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

27 years ago today.

 

Challenger: An Elegy

The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.”
A visitor’s note at the Challenger Web site

(I)
Nothing works. Neither day nor night.
All the stars disappear. Birds in mid flight
Fold their wings and fall, refusing to fly.

The sun sinks slowly then freezes in the sky.
The winds stand still. Fish die in the ocean.
The pendulum’s swing remains the only motion.

(II)
That night I saw Orion rising overhead and knew
That things exist beyond the meaning of the words we use.
Some things are only light, or sound, or pressure on the skin.
Some things inhabit space before the space where words begin.

Now all the words in all the books cannot inhabit space
Reserved for things that vanish from our lives without a trace.
The names we give we give to things we know can be recalled.
And words won’t salvage anything when you see the heavens fall.

Once Jupiter held up the stars for a longer night of love.
Jehovah stayed the sun with force for slaughter from above.
But never once has someone made a minute fail to pass
Or just by willing made the trilling air of bird song last
Beyond its final note dissolved inside an evening wind.
Yet still the sky at night gives hope you’ll hear it once again.

(III)
goddess boat — serpent
at the feet of Orion,
trailing the heavens

bodies without down-
link fall from the sky, and you,
leaping like a hare,
lift the hunter killed
by his love past my window.

gods and goddesses
tease the human isolate
with monstrous burning
while we raise new myths
from the scattered debris
of human yearning.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009-2013 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.

All rights reserved.

 

Orion V

Orion V (Photo credit: Eduardo Mariño)