(Minghui.org) Where did human beings come from? How did the universe come to be? These questions have puzzled mankind for ages. Ancient Chinese legends say Pan Gu created this world while Nuwa made humans. The Bible says Jehovah created the world and human beings. Across cultures, there is a common theme that mankind was created by the divine.
Many people today, including scientists, have realized that our world is beyond what modern science can explain. A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2009 showed that 95% of Americans (the general public) believed in some form of deity or higher power, and among the scientists polled, the percentage was 51%.
In this article we explore several scientific discoveries on the origin of the universe and beyond.
Reincarnation of the Universe
In the first half of the last century, many scientists proposed the “Big Bang Theory” to explain the origin of the universe. They included Belgian astronomer and cosmologist Georges Lemaître, Soviet physicist Alexander Friedman, American astronomer Edwin Hubble, American physicist George Gamow, and others. According to the big bang theory, the universe was formed by a hot, dense singularity that expanded after a big bang 13.7 billion years ago. The Big Bang theory is still the most widely accepted model of the origin of the universe in the scientific community, and its framework is based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
To some degree, the Big Bang Theory is consistent with the idea that the universe was created by some higher power. In fact, Lemaitre was the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican. Pope Pius XII also claimed at the Pontifical Scientific Society in November 1951 that the big bang theory is consistent with the Catholic concept of creationism.
As scientists continued probing the origin of the universe, they kept modifying the Big Bang theory. In 2010, British scientist and Nobel laureate Sir Roger Penrose proposed the theory of conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC), which holds that the big bang that happened 13.7 billion years ago was not the origin of the formation of the universe, that there was a universe before this big bang, and that the universe itself was reincarnated.
Based on data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) sky, Penrose proposed the existence of an earlier universe before the Big Bang of our present universe. Consistent with Eintein’s field equations in the general theory of relativity, Penrose explained the evidence supporting his theory in his 2010 book Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe.
Also in 2010, Penrose and Armenian mathematical physicist Vahe Gurzadyan published a paper titled “Concentric circles in WMAP data may provide evidence of violent pre-Big-Bang activity.” Although CMB had been broadly recognized by then to have anisotropies (that is, a property of being directionally dependent), Penrose and Gurzadyan attributed the concentric circles in WMAP data to collisions between supermassive black holes. Furthermore, some of the large circles suggested they occurred before the Big Bang.
Concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) sky
“The clearest obervational signal of CCC results from numerous supermassive black-hole encounters occurring within clusters of galaxies in the aeon previous to ours,” worte Penrose and Gurzadyan in their paper.
To some extent, this is similar to kalpas mentioned in Buddhism. Each kalpa is billions of years and a Buddha could have witnessed many kalpas, just like a person going through the reincarnation cycle of life and death.
Born in Poland, French-American mathematician Benjamin Mandelbrot often applied mathematical models to economics, finance, fluid mechanics, and cosmology. In the 1970s, he proposed the idea of fractal geometry and extended it to many fields. Later, he developed the classic Mandelbrot set formula zn+1 = zn2 + c, where c is a complex number (which can be plotted on a plane with x and y axes), and n is a whole number that can take on the value of 0, 1, 2... It is usually assumed that z0=0.
The Mandelbrot set contains all possible values of c that meet the condition that z values are bounded. If a value of c causes z values to go to infinity, then it is not part of the Mandelbrot set. For instance, if c=1, then z1 = z02 + c = 0+1=1, z2 = z12 + c = 12+1=2, z3 = z22 + c =22+1=5... As n goes to infinity, zn will also go to infinity (or “blow up”), which is considered an unstable state. On the other hand, if c= – 1, then z1 = z02 + c = 0–1= –1, z2 = z12 + c = (–1)2–1=0, z3 = z22 + c =02–1= –1. The sequence of zn after numerous iterations will always take the form of 0, –1, 0, –1, 0, –1,... So the values of z are bounded (which is considered a stable state). Thus the value of 1 is not part of the Mandelbrot set, but the value of –1 is.
The formula zn+1 = zn2 + c could also be generalized to zn+1 = znt + c, where t could be any positive numbers (such as 2, 3, 3.1, or 4, etc.) No matter the form of the formula, if we plot all possible values of c in the Mandelbrot set on a plane, we will have images similar to the following:
The Mandelbrot set in fractal geometry is often referred to as “God’s fingerprint”.
The part (with a blue center and layers of rings in different shades of red) on the bottom right corner of the image is the Mandelbrot set of possible values of c. The yellow ring surrounding that part contains values that are not part of the Mandelbrot set. Interestingly, if we zoom in on the branches extending from the red part on the bottom right, we see similar patterns. For instance, towards the top left corner, we see a smaller circle (with blue center and rings in different shades of red). If we keep zooming in on that circle, we’ll see the same circle appear again, though on a smaller scale.
This phenomenon actually goes on infinitely and is called fractals in geometry because the same pattern keeps appearing at the full range of the scale, from the macroscopic to the microscopic. Because of such an astounding finding, people referred to the Mandelbrot formula as “God’s fingerprint.”
While the Mandelbrot set is an artificial fractal, there are many fractals found in nature, such as pine cones. “Seacoast shapes are examples of highly involved curves such that each of their portions can – in a statistical sense – be considered a reduced-scale image of the whole. This property will be referred to as ‘statistical self-similarity,’” Mandelbrot wrote in a 1967 Science paper titled “How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension.”
After the discovery of the Mandelbrot set, people began to realize that many seemingly unrelated things share many similarities. For instance, the structure of the internet, human blood vessels, the landscape, tree branches, tree leaves, and the constellations all seem to share patterns similar to the circles mentioned in the above image.
Discoveries in Astronomical Medicine
Such a finding also triggered new interdisciplinary scientific collaborations, as reported in a February 2011 article in Science titled “Is There an Astronomer in the House?” When Harvard astronomer Alyssa Goodman had difficulty visualizing the massive amount of star-forming data, she found the sophisticated medical software 3D Slicer was able to process the data and produce three-dimensional presentations. Similarly, astronomers at the University of Cambridge were able to study faint, fuzzy objects such as galaxies, nebulae, or star clusters using the microscopy image analysis software called PathGrid.
“The key behind the project is the surprising similarity between images of tissue samples and the cosmos: Spotting a cancerous cell buried in normal tissue is like finding a single star in a crowded stellar field,” according to the article. Not only that, the scientists at Harvard found they could improve the 3D Slicer—based on their knowledge of astronomy—to help physicians to better visualize coronary arteries.
Structure of the universe vs. human cells (right)
At Johns Hopkins University, astrophysicist Alexander Szalay and pathologist Janis Taube launched the integrated platform AstroPath to astronomic image analysis and pathological specimen mapping. “In astronomy we often ask, What is the probability that galaxies are near each other? We apply the same approach to cancer—looking at spatial relations in the tumor microenvironment. It is the same problem on a vastly different scale,” remarked Szalay.
Structure of the Human Brain and the Universe
A more astonishing finding was revealed when the above understandings were applied to the human brain. American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku said, “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10,000 other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” Furthermore, scientists found that only 25% of the brain is neurons and the remaining 75% is water.
Interestingly enough, scientists have estimated that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe and that they are all connected by filaments composed of tangible dust, gas, or invisible dark matter, with basically no galaxies outside the filaments. And only about 25% of the ordinary matter in the universe is visible; the remaining 75% is invisible dark matter and dark energy.
Neuron network in the brain (left) and structure of the universe (right)
Franco Vazza, an astrophysicist at the Universitá di Bologna in Italy, and Alberto Feletti, a neurologist from the University of Verona in Italy, decided to explore further. “We investigate the similarities between two of the most challenging and complex systems in Nature: the network of neuronal cells in the human brain and the cosmic network of galaxies,” they wrote in the 2020 Frontier in Physics article titled “The Quantitative Comparison Between the Neuronal Network and the Cosmic Web.”
After studying the structural, morphological, and network properties and the memory capacity of these two fascinating systems using a quantitative approach, they found: “The tantalizing degree of similarity that our analysis exposes seems to suggest that the self-organization of both complex systems is likely being shaped by similar principles of network dynamics, despite the radically different scales and processes at play.”
It is worth noting that the neuronal network and the cosmic web are of different scales (with a difference of about 1027 in spatial scales). The two Italian scientists also evaluated the total memory capacity of the human brain. With 4.7 bits of information per neuronal cell, the memory capacity of the human brain is about 2.5 Petabytes (each Petabyte = 1024 TB). Interestingly, computation of the statistical complexity that characterizes the dynamical evolution of simulated universes showed “4.3 Petabytes of memory are necessary to store the information of cosmic structure within the entire observable Universe.”
All these discoveries have provided new insights into our universe and ourselves. They are also consistent with Buddhist and Daoist thought. According to Buddhism, there are three thousand worlds in one grain of sand, and each such world contains grains of sand, which in turn contains worlds again. Similarly, Taoist thought believes that a human body is a small universe in itself. Recent scientific discoveries, such as the reincarnated universe and the similarity between the macroscopic and microscopic worlds have further supported such understandings.
The World We Live in
Beliefs in the existence of the divine are common to all cultures. But, influenced by modern science, many people dismiss such ideas. Nonetheless, many scientists have realized that our world is too perfectly designed to be accidental.
After discovering sunspots, Jupiter's satellites, and mountains on the moon through a telescope, Galileo Galilei was very excited. He said he was stunned and thankful to God for giving him such wisdom.
It was said that the great inventor Thomas Edison had a stone tablet with an inscription in his laboratory. The inscription indicated that Edison firmly believed that there is an omniscient, omnipotent God who is guiding mankind.
John Polkinghorn, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, once said that, when one realizes that the laws of nature are all incredibly fine-tuned together to produce the universe we see, he or she will realize this universe was created instead of existing by chance.
“Did blind chance know that there was light and what was its refraction, and fit the eyes of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it?” wrote Isaac Newton. “These and other suchlike considerations, always have, and always will prevail with mankind, to believe that there is a Being who made all things, who has all things in his power, and who is therefore to be feared.”
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