MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Reimagining the Cosmos

with 10 comments

Photo: Craig Goodman/Flickr

Photo: Craig Goodman/Flickr

A thrilling, mind-bending view of the cosmos and of the human adventure of modern science. In a conversation ranging from free will to the meaning of the Higgs boson particle, physicist Brian Greene suggests the deepest scientific realities are hidden from human senses and often defy our best intuition.

The choice to live or die. That’s the only question that ultimately matters. And, you know, when I read that I was quite young and it was almost kind of a shocking sentence to read, but it also seemed to me right. I mean, that is the only question that ultimately matters to the individual, but then as I got older, I began to see things a little bit differently, because to me, the question of whether life is worth living, to me, is intimately dependent upon what life is and what reality is, because ultimately your life is lived within reality.

— Brian Greene

Click here to listen to the conversation with Brian Greene

Dr. Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. He is also co-founder of the World Science Festival. His books include
The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Hidden Reality.

Written by MattAndJojang

February 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm

10 Responses

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  1. I love to listen to some of the great modern day physicists and philosophers of this and ages past, but I’m afraid sometimes I just can’t get my head around it all. So more than this I just love the photo Matt. thank you.
    I’m a very amateur astronomer, and you’ll often find me out in the dark small hours of the night having my breath taken away…… This is what I came up with

    Our Father

    The One we can always call upon
    Is named Companion as well as Creator.

    Of whom nature asks permission to ‘be’ every morning
    And the things of man stand only ‘till water, weed and tree devour.
    For star, planet, earth, fossil, tree, rock, sand and salty water
    View man as a single tick on the creator’s clock

    He provides for plant, fly, sparrow and hawk.
    We ask the same again of this day for ourselves.

    Yet all of us want and take too much – forgive us
    And enable forgiveness for those who want and take too much of us

    From the flea to the whale, from a grain of sand to a galaxy
    From our first cry to our last breath
    All still need your permission to ‘be’

    Creator can we ‘be’ again.


    February 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm

  2. Such a beautiful photo. I’m looking forward to listening to the conversation.


    February 3, 2014 at 1:04 am

  3. This is a beautiful poem, Senan. Thank you for sharing.

    I have to agree: it really takes a while to have at least a glimmer of understanding to what the great philosophers, mystics, and scientists have to say about the nature of reality. But I’ve found out that once we make the effort and understand even a little bit of what they’re trying to share it could be an exhilirating experience. Especially since, at least to me, it seems that there are parallels to what the great mystics have experienced and what scientists, especially those studying quantum mechanics, have discovered.

    I can understand how you feel when you gaze at the stars in the wee hours of the morning. It’s probably what Albert Einstein refers to as a “cosmic religious feeling.” And this, he adds, is experienced not only by deeply spiritual people, but also by scientists and artists. To quote Einstein:

    “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

    — Matt


    February 3, 2014 at 10:56 am

  4. Glad you liked the photo, Linda.

    I found the conversation pretty exciting! Brian Greene talked about the cutting edge discoveries in physics. Physics, especially the fields of particle physics and quantum mechanics, has become a wildly imaginative branch of science. He seems to sound more of a science fiction writer rather than a hard-boiled scientist when he talks. For instance, consider this:

    “…we may actually be a holographic projection of laws of physics that exist on a thin surface that surrounds us, say at the far edges of the universe, much as a hologram is a thin piece of plastic which, when illuminated correctly, creates a realistic 3D image. We may be the 3D image if you will of the physics that exists on that bounding surface.”

    Pretty far out, if you ask me! This seems to be stuff of science fiction rather than something that you hear from a well-known scientist. That’s why he reminds us that this is not something that’s just born out of the imagination but is a real possibility based on the underlying math of quantum mechanics. And he goes on to talk on more fascinating topics like the multi-dimensional levels of reality and parallel universes!

    There is indeed more to what meets the eye regarding the physical reality of our universe! For me, these discoveries and possibilities are metaphors for deeper spiritual realities. No wonder our scientists are sounding more like the great mystics!

    I think, pretty exciting days are coming in the on-going dialogue between religion and science…

    — Matt


    February 3, 2014 at 11:17 am

  5. Matt ~ Yes, indeed. And I had to take pause when I heard that Stephen Hawking had reconsidered the black holes. I have no idea what an “event horizon” is, but I still keep reading, just to gauge the physicists’ excitement level, if nothing else!


    February 3, 2014 at 11:23 am

  6. Same here, Linda. I don’t pretend to understand everything they say. But from the little I understand they sound indeed exciting!

    — Matt


    February 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

  7. Couldn’t agree more. I love the Einstein quote. I worked as a scientist for most of my adult life, and people were for ever questioning my faith saying ‘how can you be a scientist and a Christian ?’. I always find it rather foolish when you here someone say, we now know what happened 100 billion years ago…. Yet they still can’t fully explain gravity or why light can act like a wave and a particle at the same time…..

    Personally I love studying and fascinating over all things scientific and the latest thinking. I especially like the biological processes of all living things and yet in meditation…

    All these things are still beneath
    A single raindrop on a leaf.


    February 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

  8. We have similar professional backgrounds, Senan. I was a computer science major in college and spent most of my professional career building computer application software for big corporations.

    I consider myself a very rational person, but I don’t see any contradiction between my Christian faith and science. My own position is that religion teaches us the ‘why’ of life, that is, the ‘why’ or the purpose of existence; while science is about the ‘how’ of the universe, that is, what the universe is made of and how they work together. Properly understood faith and science are not incompatible. In fact, our understanding of science can enrich our knowledge of religion and vice-versa.

    Speaking of the way light acts, this is an instance of science illuminating the paradoxical nature of spiritual truth. Many years ago, most people’s thinking, especially those of scientists, were dominated by “either/or” mode of looking at things. But with the advent of quantum physics, it is now acceptable to think in a “both/and” manner. In other words, a paradoxical and seemingly self contradictory statement such as light acting both as a particle and a wave now makes sense!

    In this light, for us Christians, our belief that Christ is both man and God is not so illogical after all. In the strict “either/or” mode of linear logic this doesn’t make sense. How can God who is infinite be contained in a finite manner as a man? But now we know, even in the realm of physical reality, nature is paradoxical. An instance of which is the way light acts.

    If things like these can be true in the physical realm, I’m sure certain spiritual truths can also be true in spite of their paradoxical nature.

    I agree:

    All these things are still beneath
    A single raindrop on a leaf.

    To put it in another way:

    The universe is contained in one grain of sand…

    — Matt


    February 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm

  9. I haven’t listened to this episode yet, but this post reminds me that I owe you thanks for having introduced me to On Being. Your post about her interview of Roseanne Cash led me to the show and now I am a devotee. I’m also intrigued by cosmology and theoretical physics, so this one is right up my alley. The Multiverse hypothesis as an explanation of the Anthropic Principle has been blowing my mind. And I can’t even begin to get my head around the holographic projection concept. It’s great stuff and rich with philosophical and theological ramifications.

    I had the great pleasure of watching Krista Tippett do several interviews at last year’s Wild Goose Festival. The interviews with Nadia Bolz Webber and Phyllis Tickle/Vincent Harding have aired already. She also interviewed Brian McClaren but that one hasn’t gone out yet.


    February 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm

  10. Happy, Bill, that I made a devotee out of you of Krista Tippett’s “On Being.” 🙂 Love it, too. It’s one of the rare intelligent and sensible programs about religion and spirituality. among other things.

    Krista Tippett’s conversation with the physicist, Brian Greene, whose specialization is string theory, is one of her exciting episodes among her many conversations with scientists on the cutting edge discoveries and possibilities in quantum mechanics. Like you, I’m fascinated by the world of sub-atomic particles.

    First of all, because I find what physicists say about it mind-blowing! So true, like many of us, I find it difficult to wrap my brain around concepts like the wave-particle duality, parallel universes, the Higgs field, the multi-dimensional and holographic nature of reality, dark matter, Bell’s Theory, etc. Yet, if you ask the mystics, both in the East and in the West, they’ll just probably answer with a half-crooked smile, as if saying that they knew all along that this was what reality is all about. What physicists discovered through precise and sophisticated scientific instruments like the Hadron Collider, the mystics have experienced by exploring their consciousness through the practice of meditation. This brings me to my next point.

    Secondly, my real interest is what is at the intersection of religion, spirituality and science as well as its ramifications. Science, especially particle physics, is no longer the sterile, boring discipline that most people assume it to be. On the contrary, at least for me, it is offering us possibilities that we could have hardly imagined! What’s more, our scientists are talking like mystics, speaking in the “both/and” language of paradox often used by the mystics to describe reality! As you said, this is “great stuff and rich with philosophical and theological ramifications.”

    Wow! Watching Krista Tippett doing her interviews live! Now I’m envious. 🙂 Seriously speaking, though, would love to hear that conversation with Brian McClaren. Glad that some Christians in the Emerging Church movement are beginning to appreciate and recover some elements of ancient Christianity like contemplative spirituality ( another one of my interests ).

    These are exciting days! Especially in the on-going dialogue between religion and science.

    — Matt


    February 6, 2014 at 10:35 am

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