Thursday, April 20, 2006

the true force in the universe

The produce guy from the market down the street comes by my bookstore a few times a week on his breaks, and sits and reads through the astronomy and physics sections. If it's a quiet day, I'll sit and talk with him between paragraphs, and he'll read things aloud to me.
Lately he's been reading from a dusty book by Robert Jastrow, Red Giants and White Dwarfs.
We spent a long time in Chapter 5, which talks about the formation of stars, and the cycles of that formation, and what elements start the process: looks like hydrogen.
"The universe is filled with thin clouds of hydrogen, which surge and eddy in the space between the stars"
and the wee little atoms are sort of dancing about there, and sometimes they meet, and bow, and fly away, and then...
sometimes, it seems, a great force makes them come together, falling to a core, a center.
"The shrinking, continously self-heating ball of gas is an embryonic star."

We talk about the baby stars a while, and then go on. At some point the produce guy is reading about the forces , the globe of gas which is about 10 trillion miles in diameter, which is apparently rushing to its heart, which is fairly quickly (say in 10 million years) heating up, and reaching a critical temperature, and

Wow! protons colliding, things changing, stars contract, expand, I am dizzy...we come to this sentence:
(it's about massive stars, whatever they may be) : "In this way, through the alternation of collapse and nuclear burning, a massive star successively manufactures all elements up to iron."

We pause and talk about iron (which, when it becomes the intensely heavy center of a star eventually stops burning...). I say, "you know all the legends about iron--how the little people did not like it? I wonder..." He hasn't heard the legends. We pause a bit for fairy tale lore.

The star collapses...and then...it explodes! And lo, all the other elements, the heavy elements are created and flung out into the universe.

"Where do they go?" I ask.

"well, everywhere"

I can't resist humming the Moby song about "we are all made of stars".

We talk about supernovas, and pulsars, and neutron stars.

I have pulled out a periodic table and am trying to remember my high school chemistry. I took chemistry, actually, when I was in junior high, on an fast track program because some foolish teacher thought he could steer my young mind to a career in science. I was living in the desert at the time, where amazing tests were going on, and pilots were breaking the speed of sound, and my father pointed out the path of the first satellite crossing the starry sky. We moved away when I was in mid highschool, and I let my heart return to poetry and languages, my first and truest loves.

But as the produce guy keeps reading about the formation of the universe, and I think for a moment of when I first met him (he was 5 years old, madly wheeling about a poetry reading I had put on at the local library. He kept shooting his cap pistol to punctuate some of the dramatic poetry. I pondered many grisly options for him as I kept smiling--it was well before I had children of my own. Lemonade and cookies proved the better option.)--as he reads of how clouds come together and stars fly apart and return, he stops and says he believes he knows the major force in the universe. It's gravity, he says. It's obviously all about gravity.

Or, I say--is it attraction? Is it love that flings everything together?

He thinks I'm a rather flighty soul, I think.

Next week we are pondering what was here...before anything was here. Or something like that. He will posit gravity, I bet. I may still posit love.

20 Comments:

Blogger ChittyChittyBangBang! said...

Lovely post. I so enjoyed reading it, and you wrote it with such finesse!
On the subject of gravity... did you know that relative to the other forces out there, it is in fact one of the weakest?

3:17 AM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger a dracul said...

had to greet a new post so hi, don't really have more to say, one day perhaps when i have learnt from the friends to speak silence.

and i know you don't really exist, Teresa the little flower doesn't really exist that Dorothy Day now she seems completely unlikely,

i thought i had understood the gravity thing, it's not weight it's a metaphor, throw things off buildings they fall at a constant rate, then oh no it's more like a fat person sitting on a trampolene and I could see how that works, and then it's more like we live in a 2D world so when 3D stuff passes through it looks inexplicable,

that chittychittybangbang can't fool me, that is probably his nom de plume, he probably knows a bit about science and that cars wouldn't fly like that at all,

was a time when your mystic would say no matter how dark the night the darkness can never put out the light of one candle, and then you can give your light to another candle you lose nothing and the world has more light,

then they discover black holes and yeah they can put out the light, and the light gives people skin cancer, but the black holes are coming to save us as fast as they can. and you get that slightly nauseous feeling that you get just before you switch sides

thing about these science johnnies what they know they tell you about, and unlike good leaders or religionists they will happily tell you that they know embarrasingly little about how everything.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.
It's a poem, sounds beautiful, what do you mean what does it mean.

That's what science johnnies say when they describe most of the stuff as dark matter or dark energy, they are saying of what they know not they do not speak.

And whenever i sing my death song all I want to leave feeling that I am loved, just as you say Gravity means attraction I say the following is about the possibility of unreserved compassion for all of us who have not completed our journey:
Wie wir uns räumliche Gegenstände überhaupt nicht ausserhalb des Raumes, zeitliche nicht ausserhalb der Zeit denken können, so können wir uns keinen Gegenstand ausserhalb der Möglichkeit seiner Verbindung mit anderen denken.
I think that means just because you don't exist in no way precludes un amitie passionelle because love needs only geometry, that sounds right but again i have no real idea what it might mean.

now i shall go back to perusing the archives

5:21 AM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Nyx said...

jarvenpa, this is such a fine post. Loved it! I've been thinking about perspecives lately, and this post made me even more convinced about the necessity of having perspective on life.
Lots of love to you!

12:46 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

I like to think of your produce boy, throwing a big grapefruit into the air for a sun and then adding an orange, an apple, a kiwi--more and more until the solar system is juggling in the air.

Then let him see about gravity...

The interesting thing about your bookshop is that it is in great part firmly composed of people. Perhaps your blog will end up being a big e-leaved book of characters.

6:49 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger a dracul said...

ha and marlyat2 sounds like a cyborg so you clearly have no knowledge of natural philosophy, i find that equally liberating don't need to worry about the box, think where we like eh.

I think even a highly skilled juggler trained in the knowledge and conversation of mystic vortices would fail at the well apart from the basic error of some things are small and some things are further away, think you need elliptical paths that's two foci, but i'll play along, if spatial objects pre-empt space and temporal ojbects pre-empt time than all things in all ways pre-empt the possibility of mutual unconditional love, that Wittgenstein sure had a way with words. A blender or a juicer should do the trick.

And in all modesty your idea of a big e-leaved book of characters, i think i already invented it I call it the interverse a world wide web if you will of interconnected hmmm.

2:36 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger Hydra said...

I liked YOUR explanation more. Dialogues reflect different layers of reality and knowledge. I hate when it happens; it makes you doubt the "truth".

10:23 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger a dracul said...

hydra o you prince of new persia, that comment just blew me away and i have not taken any psychotropic drugs or ingested any alcohol (it's a quaker advice.)

The last sentence almost perfect parisosis, the middle sentence a unconscious haiku, maybe a hokku, your call really, and the first sentence, if that isn't like the golden apple that kicked off the whole fall of troy

You are good, and I know about these things.

If it's any consolation the amurkans aren't gonna do nothing as long as Oil is $75 a barrel. If it drops below $50 again well we can deal with that crisis when it happens eh.

and I so agree witchew

11:06 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Thank you all, dears. No, I did not realize, chittychittybangbang! that relative to others gravity is weak (obviously this means my own theories are right?)...my dragon friend, you might check out the blogs of others who have commented (but don't bite them, please--no, Marly is far from cyborgian)...and yes, love to you, Nyx, is the snow melting where you are finally? It was a long winter. And Hydra, I am always honored by your visits.

11:50 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

I think we had the same like-minded teacher in junior high. It is all a fascinating concept but sometimes I can only wrap my brain around part of... then I drift off somewhere else. I do that when I read about quantum physics, too. Just when I think I've got a hold on a certain portion, the other half of my brain is off doing something else, and *poof*, it's all gone. Sounds like you spend some nice time together; and always remind people about the 'love theory'... =)

9:34 PM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger a dracul said...

george clooney is about to reenact solaris so i shall be brief, how can anyone so ordinary be so godlike. i am not worthy that (please insert) come under my roof, so all the more of an honour. eternal renewal eh, how does that work, sound sexual but maybe that's just me.

2:04 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger joy said...

I knew it! I just KNEW it!

Yes, gravity and science are real but love has the most indescribable power.

Lovely post, jarvenpa, and I agree: your bookstore sounds like a book story in the making.

5:15 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Interesting, I have a book by Jastrow called Until The Sun Dies. I have not read the book you mention, but I am somewhat learned in the field of astronomy. It has always been an interest of mine. When I was much younger, I used to ponder how the universe could be infinite. How if you could live forever and fly through space in any direction, that you would never reach the end or edge of the universe. I have long since directed much of my imagination to more tangible Earthly concerns. Yet, once in a while, especially when I look up into the night sky, I still think that our little planet is but a cosmic dust mote compared to the vastness of the whole universe. Sometimes, while I am looking up, I wonder who might be looking down upon us from far away.

Btw, I finally have a new post. I will look forward to your visit. :)

1:30 AM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger a dracul said...

tally ho!

2:30 AM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger mysfit said...

it is amazing how much love and gravity are alike

7:17 AM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger woman wandering said...

I loved this ... I love your storytelling voice ... the way you make everything interesting :)

3:40 AM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger jac said...

Amazing explanation, I loved it.

4:42 AM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

as we study the universe we are left with more blanks. More questions lead to more studying & more studying leads to noticing how little we know & then we study more &... a vicious cycle but a path we can't avoid :-)

The explanation was perfect.

9:10 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous the not-cyborg said...

Is it all still squishy out there in California? (No t.v. here, and I haven't heard it on the radio...) The bookstore hasn't sliding into the parking lot?

Just wondering.

11:36 AM, May 06, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Thanks for all comments--it has been a more complicated than usual period in my life and schedule but I will post again soon...
Starting to dry out in northern California (though the snows are now melting in the Sierras, causing further floods). Bookstore pretty much intact.

2:02 PM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous the n-c said...

Hmm. Well, I hope all will be well soon. In the meantime, a good book is always a solace. But you knew that.

Monday I've promised to put up a post for an independent bookstore that's on the rocks... Keep solvent! We need all that remain to remain.

And the rest of you, support your independent booksellers, willya?

2:18 PM, May 06, 2006  

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