11 bizarre mysteries

Do our scientists have the slightest idea what they are talking about and why I am an agnostic.

Here are 11 bizarre mysteries:

1. In the beginning there was nothing and something somehow appeared. This conundrum remains even if you believe in a creator (how did the creator come to be?).
2. The universe is currently thought by most scientists to have started in a ‘big bang’. It expanded out from a ‘singularity’ – a term physicists use euphemistically to describe regions of space that defy the laws of physics.
3. Time is relative. It goes relatively slower for things that are moving fast. Experiments have shown this to be true despite the fact that it seems intuitively absurd.
4. Some small objects appear to be both waves and particles at the same time. Yet the two are mutually exclusive.
5. Particles do not have precisely defined positions and velocities, but are, to quote Stephen Hawkin: “‘smeared out’ over a small region by the ‘uncertainty principle’ of quantum mechanics.”
6. Pairs of small charged objects can be connected over large distances. Twiddle one and the other also twiddles. We have no idea how this effect happens.
7. We think that small particles behave differently only when we are observing them. We have no idea how they know we are observing them or how this happens.
8. We think that a large proportion of the universe is ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’. Without this the theories about the mechanics of the universe don’t reconcile. Yet we haven’t been able to independently measure or confirm the existence of either dark matter or dark energy – we only think they are there by inference.
9. The strength of many of the forces in the universe are just right for life – the goldilocks effect. Small changes in values would have rendered life impossible. Is this a remarkable coincidence or did it just have to be that way because if it had been any different we wouldn’t be here to observe it? And is the last statement more than a tautology?
10. What exactly is life? From the inside it appears to be more than the sum of its parts. What exactly are we? Did we exist before we were born? Will we exist after we die?
11. We think that we have free will, but we also believe that all things are caused. If our choices are caused then how can they be free? If freedom is an illusion then how come it is so convincing?

I am sure there are others – do post them if you think of any.

Personally I find these mysteries profoundly wonderful and reassuring. They are so much more interesting than if everything was understood, awesome reminders of our profound ignorance. We are still in the dark ages and don’t know the answers, we really don’t.

So, is science better at explaining things than religion?

Hardly. I don’t believe the scientists understand the universe any better than my pet cat or a slice of salami. Current scientific explanations are no more credible than an ever receding tower of turtles holding up the world, or God creating it just a few thousand years ago in only 6 days.

All of which is profound support, in my view, for being an agnostic.


15 thoughts on “11 bizarre mysteries

  1. Great post! Love you posing questions, many of which I have also pondered. An interesting take on this from a mystical point of view are the ideas of non-duality, or Advaita. I am on Jac O’Keeffe’s forum, which I find very useful. Best to start with her book though, ‘Born To Be Free’ (What You Are Looking For is Where You Are Looking From’. see http://www.jac-okeeffe.com Thanks Wyon. By the way, I find it really difficult to read against a black background, especially if the writing is fairly small. And even when it is good like yours! Just a bit of feedback…

  2. hmm… managed to change from black to reddish brown — I hope that helps. More radical changes would apparently mean either shelling out or changing the format radically.

  3. Your post brings to mind a new program entitled “Cosmos” which Dan and I recently watched. What I found awesome is the scientists’ s estimated age and size of the universe. In the program they likened the age of the universe (how did they know?) to a year. In this scenario the whole of human existence occurred in the last second (it might have been minute but who’s counting at this scale) of the timespan. The comparison of the size of our entire solar system came out equally infinitesimally small. All this convinces me that there has to be “life” elsewhere either in time or space either of which we cannot transverse, given the known constraints of physics. It is all a profound mystery so bewitching that one’s head spins. And yet, even given this context which sets us as close to nothing, each of holds our lives in supreme importance.
    Keep ’em coming Wyon,

  4. thanks for this and yes the scale of things is a whole other mind blow. By my calculations if you take the length of the universe as a day then we’ve been around about one second.

    • I think that ‘Cosmos’ likened the age of the universe, as physics knows it, to a year (not a day) again with human existence as the last second. In the day analogy it would be the last nano second! But who is counting for at this scale both are equally incomprehensible.

      • Age of universe = 14.7 billion years. Length of homo sapiens = 200,000 years. So (200,000/14,700,000) * 24*60*60 is the calculation for a day which is 1.17 seconds. The calculation for a year renders about 7 minutes. But I agree this is nit picking on the scale of things.

  5. While both religion and science require faith to believe something came out of nothing I lean toward the view that there had to be an intelligent designer for what we can see and in many cases understand. Life is much too complex to have evolved as you study animal and human physical make up and what makes life life. How is it that gravity pulls down and a tree draws nutrients up for example? Yes I understand the scientific explanation but even that is complex and part of intelligent design to me.

  6. Thanks Ian for your comments, as ever.. You say life is too complex to have evolved but you could equally say it is too complex to have been designed, It boils down ultimately to an opinion – so my point is we don’t know. Personally I find evolution one of the more plausible scientific theories – but that is just my personal belief and you have every right to yours. It would only be when either of us present our views as fact (which neither of us are, thankfully), that things become difficult and there is less room for mutual respect. There is a synthesis of our views of course – which is that a designer could have designed evolution. This also has merit, in my view, though the unresolved question of how the designer came about, which you rightly flag up, remains unresolved.

  7. I love this stuff Wyon. I shall never tire of pondering such matters (or waves!) – To add: we know that just as there are no point instances on a curve, so there are no separate events in nature. To consider your birth, for example, or perhaps your conception as an event separate or distinct from anything can never be so. No matter how far ‘back’ we consider or how far into the ‘future’ there is not, has never been and never will be any separate events. We can only assume that this thing we call ‘life’ or ‘universe’ is one thing and only separate from ‘no thing’ – but not entirely separate from that even, more mutual, like a back and a front.

  8. The idea that the universe is (was) created, (either by cosmic conditions or a God) is not currently my view. The idea of a ceramic universe.
    In my lay view of particle physics I can safely assume that no matter how far we magnify, we will never find stuff, just form. My experience of life takes place in my brain. If my brain was damaged and certain sensory abilities went with that injury, no-one could, for example, smell, FOR me. If human and even bacteria conciousness really are ways for the universe to experience itself and nothing can be separate from anything in nature, and there is no ‘matter’ to get hold of then…no wait, needs a re-think ha ha

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