A reflection on the Story of the Universe
If I’m saying the Story of the Universe, what can be first elements of reference?
The human story of the universe can be defined as what we understand about the universe that we live in. I can bet lot of us start their day with lots of open questions.
Perhaps they are enriched with so many giant mysteries that we probably face during our working or studying time, or during a very long conversation that focus and originate within philosophical and scientific bases.
Some questions, explored by scientists, literates, artists are the internal questions that aspire to answer questions like these ones: what is our place in the universe, where the universe came from, and where it’s going. If our planet and their inhabitants we’ll fit into the entire spectrum of cosmological history.
During my studies, I pay attention that children and people interested to physics can ask:
- What is a black hole?
- Are we alone in the Universe?
- When did time begin?
- What are the characteristics that define particles?
Let me begin this discourse remembering how the ancient Greek loved to pursue beauty. I think that beyond their affinity for fine reasoning and sharper inquiries, the scientific discoveries and methodology reported in the bibles translated by the Arabic (thanks God!), the meticulous attention to build theories based on strong premises and the ability to follow a sort of moral and ethics in their dialogues, even with the exponents of the different schools of thought, as well their beautiful quotes, remains actual even now.
Today In the Universe, nothing is the only of its kind. Lucretius from the first century BC, says that in other regions, there must be other earth’s, other living being, other beasts… We’re a living species with the ability to think and use a language to recognize things, others, and our place in the community.
Abstract thinking is another peculiar quality we should quote. Through abstract thinking you can explore a level of reflection about what is removed from the facts of the “here and now”, and from specific examples of the things or concepts being thought about. In these terms, abstract thinkers can reflect on events, ideas, attributes and relationships that are separate from the objects that have – in a first reference – those attributes or share those relationships. So, if my concrete friend hears the word dog, he will immediately have in mind his beloved Pluto, while my friend more in line with abstract thinking will have in mind distinct types and names of dogs saw in the living area, referring to their visible characteristics or hairs colors.
I know that some of you, looking at so many stars have the temptation to say that one of them might be populated with other intelligent species. I can agree with the idea that this one would be a possibility to be truly opened to the concept of diversity and inclusion that we face all the time starting from our mental schemes, but if we’re going to see the numbers of real science and you’ll have a look at them, it may be quite impossible that intelligent life, intended in terms of species like us and able to refer on ourselves as we’re looking out at their hometown, is a proposal for a sci-phi American colossal instead of an argumentation to follow!
I think that one strategy “to handle” questions like this one might be the possibility to ask it one piece at a time (defining the “pieces” is fundamental in this frame) so to really know what the boundaries on the answer might be…
For example, regarding this specific topic of modern astronomy there is the well-known Drake Equation. This one is really a formula able to tells us what we know, and what we don’t know about the problem. So, the Drake Equation looks like this:
N = R * fp * ne * fl * fi * fc * L
N is the number of broadcasting civilizations.
R is the average rate of formation of suitable stars (stars/year) in the Milky Way galaxy.
fp is the fraction of stars that form planets.
ne is the average number of habitable planets per star.
fl is the fraction of habitable planets (ne) where life emerges.
fi is the fraction of habitable planets with life where intelligent evolves.
fc is the fraction of planets with intelligent life capable of interstellar communication.
L shows the years a civilization remains detectable.
The outcome we expect, following its variables, is to know the number of intelligent species that are out there, right now, and maybe able to communicate with us. The first factor that goes into the Drake Equation is that the number of stars existing in the universe right now, should be existing in the galaxy right now as we think on this in terms of the latter. The next term would be, the number of planets orbiting each one of those stars. It is obvious that if there’s no planets, you’re not going to get life…
If we go through this formula, we are touching several aspects of astronomy.
The first term, the number of stars, really is a question about how many stars form the Universe? What about their living expectancy, their origin, their death or evolution?
The second term is how many planets are there. That item brings up the whole question of the origin of planets. Do planets form very easily around stars or is it quite rare? If you have planets to refer to that’s great, but are those planets in a place and with basic conditions where there could be liquid water existing on the surface to allow life as we know about it?
Start with the definition of habitability, then select the small fraction of planet that are habitable and study how does life evolve on every planet that allow growth and flourishing. Then ask yourself: – “Does life evolve on every planet that’s habitable, or even if a planet has the conditions that can allow this process, maybe it doesn’t make it?”
The next term is the fraction of planets that have all the precondition to give life on intelligent beings, like the one of developed mammals for example. The last term of Drake equation defines the fraction of the stars life during which the species that inhabit it can communicate who they are and what they do.
By this concept we make a further step over, as the term refer on the ability to develop the advanced technology necessary to allow a signal receipt across interstellar differences. Each variable in Drake equation refers to different questions about the Universe.
Within this frame of reflections, what we want to understand are which parameters define guiding principles. Which system of analysis tells us how to frame our questions and which are the right path to follow to collect good elements able to open up strong reflections and well-founded answers, regarding both past and future.
Good luck with that, and keep passionate on science 😉