Week 8_ The Beginning and End of the Universe by Sarah Lechner

The era of life on Earth is such a small slice of time in comparison to the time line of the universe.  The existence of humans takes up an even smaller space on this time line of our universe.  Pondering this puts our every day lives seem very insignificant in comparison to the huge span of time that has existed before us.  From another angle, the earth is such a small part of the universe.  This was put into perspective by the guest speaker last lecture when he showed us the video that began with a man at a picnic and zoomed out all the way past the galaxies surrounding us to millions of light years away.  It is so astounding to me that the universe is so expansive.  The vastness of the universe that envelops us contributes to its mysterious qualities.  Even with the advanced telescopes and other technology we have developed, we can only see so far into the seemingly never ending universe.  As if the universe isn’t large enough, it is constantly expanding.  

This brings us to the most widely accepted theory of the beginning of the universe: the Big Bang.  Scientists theorize that the universe began as an infinitesimally small point that exploded violently and has been expanding ever since.  This explanation brings about even more questions.  What lies outside of the universe? Will the universe continue expanding forever? Did anything exist before the big bang? Are there other alternate universes?  These questions may never be able to be answered.  

Where science fails us, we begin to look towards religion.  Many religions attempt to answer these questions relating to the beginning and end of the universe.  One explanation that I find very interesting is that of the Hindu religion.  The Hindu’s believe that there are “World Cycles.”  One cycle consists of an expansion and contraction of the universe.  Therefore, there are multiple big bangs, where each one constitutes the beginning of a new world cycle.  If we consider this to be true, this means that eventually our universe will discontinue its expansion and begin to contract until all matter converges and becomes so dense that it explodes, in effect beginning the cycle all over again.  In effect, the Hindu’s believe that there really is no end of the universe, just an oscillation between expansion and contraction.

This video helps to explain our current cycle of the universe:
World Cycles 

Not all theories coincide with this one, of course.  The ancient Mayans were very much into astronomy and the time line of the universe.  The Mayan calenders were well documented and are surprisingly accurate.  According to these calendars, the universe is predicted to end on December 23, 2012.  The calendar has been very prophetic throughout history, so this tends to be a very scary thought for many people.  The Mayans were master astronomers and this end date matches up with the earth lining up with the sun and the center of the milky way galaxy.  Current day astronomers verify that this will happen in 2012.  Some scientists theorize that the poles will realign on Earth.  Some people think that this correlates with the end of life on Earth, while others see it as a positive event.  This day looms closely in the distance, making the event all the more upsetting.

The following video discusses the Mayan Calender and 2012:
The Mayan Calendar

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