Epic of Evolution - Seven Stages of the Cosmos by E. Chaisson

By E. Chaisson

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And to gain this appreciation, we need a tool of deep and powerful insight—Einstein’s theory of relativity. ” This subject is surrounded by a mystique implying that only geniuses can understand it—and that might well be true at the mathematical level. But, conceptually, relativity theory is relatively simple. Its foundations are clear and explicit, provided we are willing to forgo common sense and human intuition. Indeed, that’s the key: to put aside our everyday, Newtonian (even Aristotelian) ways of reasoning and adopt a broader, innovative stance that allows for unorthodox thinking.

As for rockets, there are two diametrically opposed models of a dynamic, changing Universe—and one perfectly balanced between the two extremes. The first model Universe is one that evolves from a powerful initial “explosion”—again, a bang of some sort at the origin of time. The Universe then expanded from what must have been an exceedingly dense primeval clump. As time progressed, space diluted the matter throughout the Universe, causing its average density to decline. In this first model, insufficient matter exists to counteract the expansion.

A fourth dimension of time is necessary to describe when—either past or future—an object exists in that space. By coupling time together with the three dimensions of space, Einstein was able to reconcile previous inconsistencies in Isaac Newton’s post-Renaissance view of our world by arguing that the velocity of light is an absolute constant number at all times and to all observers, regardless of when, where, or how radiation is measured. Space and time are in fact so thoroughly intertwined within Einstein’s view of the Universe that he urged us to regard these two quantities not as space and time but as one—spacetime.

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