The State Of The Universe Address : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture The universe takes a look around, takes stock of the state of things and shares its thoughts with us. The Earth, it turns out, is a special place after all.
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The State Of The Universe Address

I would like to start by thanking those members of the human race who, through their inventiveness and diligence, have learned so much about my properties over the past few millennia. In this address I will, for the sake of clarity, adopt the human notion of time, which is indeed very practical, although somewhat quaint. Those other intelligences spread around my domain should pay attention to what these humans are doing.

I continue to expand, as I have for the past 13.7 billion years. Things were quite lonely, I must say, for most of this time. Deep silence, no minds tinkering with the mysteries that I ingeniously create to entertain myself over the eons. Yes, for within the initial furnace that followed the big bang, my birth so to speak, particles of matter and radiation simply zoomed around with no chance of forming anything very stable. I was filled in those days with a hot soup of primordial matter and radiation — nothing more.

Only after some four-hundred-thousand years the first atoms appeared. And even so, only the simplest of them were present, what humans call hydrogen and helium. It’s true that I am partial to humans. There are many brute forms of life across my volume, some quite curious to behold. However, in humans I find that spark of magic that makes all the difference, an appreciation for things that transcend them. While most life forms simply live, humans aspire to more than that. They have concepts such as dignity, respect and love that I find quite creative. Perhaps that’s the reason why while all other intelligent life forms self-destruct after they reach a certain level of technological prowess, humans have managed to remain alive, even if currently struggling.

Those first atoms of hydrogen, through the workings of gravity, managed to coalesce into highly dense spherical blobs called stars. In their cores, when temperatures reach some 15 million degrees, hydrogen fuses into helium, the second most complex chemical element. This is the transmutation that holds the key to all complexity within my volume. Yes, nothing is more important than this fusion. From it, stars ignite and produce the light and energy that will warm up their court of planets and moons; from it, life extracts its energy; from it, when these stars approach the end of their lives, heavier atoms are formed, sprinkling the interstellar space with the ingredients that make life possible throughout. This is my dance of creation and destruction, the true harmony of the worlds: dying stars giving birth to new ones and to the ingredients that make life possible.

These clever humans have figured all this out in only a few hundred years. They have even realized that my expansion is variable, sometimes faster sometimes slower, depending on what kinds of matter and radiation are more important. They know that for the past few billion years I’ve been going through a period of accelerated expansion, that the distances between galaxies is increasing quite fast. I loved to see the look of total surprise in the faces of some of the human scientists when they found this out. Hopefully, they are finally learning that we things cosmic it’s best to keep their minds open, and to have the humility to accept that no view of mine that they acquire will ever be complete. The more they probe into my mysteries the more surprises they will find. That amuses me greatly and surely keeps them busy. I hope those other brutes across my domain, who spend so much of their times fighting and killing each other for pathetic reasons, will learn that lesson, and learn to engage themselves in the pursuit of knowledge.

I know I was quite partial when I allowed Earth to form 4.6 billion years ago. Yes, it’s an unusual world, very special. For among the trillions of worlds out there, very few bear the properties of this small blue jewel of mine. I am intrigued by how slow humans have been in realizing the importance of their world. Especially now that they have the means to study other worlds in some detail, they should be praising their gods (well, me really) for their luck. Had things been only slightly different, they’d have a lot of trouble surviving there. Do they realize this? I’m not sure, at least judging from the disappearing of green over the Earth’s surface. Whatever they are doing there, it’s on a global scale. Interesting for me to see that a single species can evolve to affect the whole planet willingly and when it does so, it seems to act destructively. I guess it’s hard for them to strike a balance between their need to survive and their planet’s need to replenish its resources. Hopefully they will learn faster than the others. I’m tired of looking at desert worlds across my domain, worlds that once were as alive as Earth is now.

Will humans figure out what is fueling my fast expansion? I love the name they gave to it, “dark energy,” as quaint as their notion of time. I hope they won’t get carried away by giving it a name and attribute to it properties it doesn’t have. They did this with space and time, these two inventions to describe distance and change. They need concepts to organize their thoughts, certainly. But to make those concepts into real things can be confusing. As when they say that space is expanding or time is ticking away and take these things literally. Nah, these are just ways to organize measurements, nothing that exists on its own. But I have confidence they will see all of this in due time. When they figure out why I’m expanding fast now and what is this thing they call dark energy, some of these mysteries will be cleared up. Only, of course, to give rise to new ones. Meanwhile, I’ll keep expanding, creating and destroying worlds, to my great enjoyment and, of course, to that of humans. After all, let me be frank. Even I am an invention of their minds. We are all in this together.