Science is the modern authority for telling us what’s real, using verifiable facts to prove its theories. Over the last century many facts have emerged about the nature of the universe, and since we know we live in an evolving universe since the big bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago, naturally scientific knowledge has evolved. But strangely enough, this hasn’t brought reality any closer. The mysteries of the universe were expected to be solved by looking closer and closer at phenomena “out there” beyond Earth, “at smallest scales” as we probe within the matter, and then reality pulled a number of baffling tricks that brought everything into question.
The pattern that overlays everything has been breakthrough = disruption. The whole field of biology isn’t disrupted by discovering through genetic analysis that pandas don’t simply look like bears but are bears. In physics and cosmology, however, major discoveries have overturned the applecart, beginning in 1915, when Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity made a rupture from anything previously done in physics, by giving a geometrical model of gravity. Space and time were unified, and suddenly the cosmos was a four-dimensional continuum in which two fixed, and earlier separate entities, space and time, were now seamlessly linked, behaving not alone but relative to each other.
Einstein’s theory was massively important for physics, but it altered the relationship between the cosmos and human beings. First, our senses were now rendered either unreliable or pointless in grasping the complete reality, because relativistic effects were abstract and mathematical. In other words, these effects were simply not grasped by our usual sense perceptions. (Einstein used simple examples taken from ordinary life, such as standing in an elevator as it descended or watching a train approach the station, but these analogies only hinted at what General Relativity explained.) Second, relativity was a wedge that opened up the possibility that the human brain, which operates in linear time and three-dimensional space, might be inadequate to grasp alien dimensions and “spooky” behavior outside our experience. Continue reading