Thursday, July 8, 2010

From Cradle to Grave

Everyone has their day in court, actually two: birth and death. There are exceptions, but the newcomer is generally the most important person in the room, as is the old timer to whom children, friends and relatives have come to pay their last respects. However jaded or cosmopolitan we may feel after reading Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, which proposes eternal life through cybernetic revamping of dying organs, the coming into existence of a human life (no matter how great its potential for evil) and the departing of life from the body still epitomize the fundamental mystery of the universe. Another mystery of course is this: what preceded life? Scientists talk of the big bang and create ever more powerful telescopes, with mirrors capable of collecting emissions billions of light years away, from the dawn of time, yet no one is able to describe what came before the beginning, before the great event during which a microscopic bit of matter or energy ignited the expansion of the universe. One way to study the macrocosm is to study particles in the new LHC (Large Hadron Collider). Scientists hope that the huge amounts of energy produced in the collider, which in turn unleash elementary particles like Higgs bosons, can help us to understand how the universe was created. Another way to come to grips with the enigma of the macrocosm is by going to a hospital and witnessing the contractions that attend birth or the last breaths that attend death, as the body labors both to hold onto and relinquish life.

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