Tag Archives: Redshift
I am captivated by the cosmos. Its inconceivable vastness doesn’t make me feel smaller; when I consider its immensity and age I just feel more fortunate to exist in it at all. I understand how men and women over the centuries have looked up at the incredibly old night sky and come to the sudden realization that they must spend the rest of their relatively short lives trying to calculate the seemingly incalculable. A young physicist named Albert Einstein caught the bug and performed thought experiments while he worked in a Bern patent office and changed forever how we consider time, light, gravity and the universe. In the late 1800s a young woman named Henrietta Swan Leavitt working at the Harvard observatory was not permitted to touch the telescope because, well, she was a woman and women didn’t do such things then. Instead she evaluated the photographic plates produced by the telescopes and uncovered amazing properties of pulsating stars that eventually formed the basis for Hubble’s earthshaking discoveries of redshift and the expanding universe. She did what no one before her could and many after her required.
As I stood on a small knoll and considered this young girl sitting peacefully on what looked very much to me like a vision of the universe, I couldn’t help but wonder what she’ll add to the sum of human knowledge. Will she uncover the final piece in the puzzle that will unify quantum mechanics with general relativity? Will she discover a medium-sized star with a tiny orbiting wet rock that will someday be humankind’s home away from home? Will she be the one that uncovers some cosmic truth so incredible that great men and women will marvel at it for the duration of human existence. It’s possible isn’t it? It’s her universe after all.