Extinction of Dinosaurs

It would be very unusual if one event or one problem wiped the dinosaurs off the face of the earth.  The dinosaurs were scattered around the world, so typically one activity would not completely annihilate a species that had adapted to multiple threats over millions of years.

Many scientists point to one event as causing the Cretaceous mass extinction about 65 million years ago, killing off all the non-avian dinosaurs.   That event was the resulting death from the impact of a meteorite about six miles wide, forming the Chicxalub crater in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.  About half of the crater is on land and the other half is in the ocean with the center located near the town of Chicxulub.  The crater is more than 110 miles in diameter and 12 miles in depth, making the feature one of the largest confirmed impact structures on earth.

As detectives who are investigating murders will tell you, time lines are critical to establish in determining cause of death.  Clearly, the timing of the death of the dinosaurs and the meteorite’s impact was more than a coincidence.  The impact occurred about 66 million years ago, just about the time of the end of the Cretaceous period when the dinosaurs expired.  Geologists have even found a thin layer separating the Cretaceous and Tertiary (K-T) boundary, which evidenced an impact that would have distributed a layer of debris around the world that could have blocked out the sun for years, creating an impact winter.

This evidence is sufficient to prove that it was not just the impact of the meteor that killed off the dinosaurs.  The climate change, which killed off plants and some animals, would have also contributed to the mass extinction.

However, there may have been other factors that came into play.  On the other side of the world, the Deccan Plateau in India are one of the largest volcanic features on earth.  The Deccan Traps, a large igneous province about the size of Texas, is located in the Deccan Plateau.  These Traps were formed about 60 to 68 million years ago in pulses.  However, the largest eruption occurred about 66 million years ago.  Another coincidence?

Probably not.  The eruptions of the Deccan Traps had started millions of years before the meteorite crashed into earth, but the largest eruptions, which may have lasted about 30,000 years, may have been triggered by the impact of the meteorite on the opposite side of the earth.  But whether the meteorite caused the horrific eruptions in India or not, these two events occurred simultaneously, which would have caused an exponentially deadly environment for the dinosaurs.

Volcanic gases, especially sulfur dioxide, from the volcanic eruptions added to the debris kicked up by the meteorite would have caused a climate change.   Because of its magnitude, scientists have speculated that the gases released during the formation of the Deccan Traps played a role in the extinction.

This impact winter could have caused a sudden tipping point, so that the land-bound dinosaurs, perhaps already on the ropes from some other cause, could not recover as they normally would do.  For example if the creation of Pangea and land bridges allowed migrating dinosaurs to travel into areas where new pathogens and diseases would have weakened them, this may have set them up for the final kill.  Typically, when we stay in the same area for millions of years, our bodies build up immune systems that can survive well in those areas, but when we move into foreign areas with new pathogens, our immune systems may not be able to do as well.  An example is when Europeans brought diseases to natives in the Americas.

Even though it is not probable that one incident destroyed all land-based dinosaurs, it does seem likely that the dinosaurs were not doing very well when they got hammered with two major events, a meteorite impact and a super-volcanic eruption, that created the final, fatal turn of events for them.

Our Visible Universe

We can see only about 3% of the universe because about 74% is dark energy and 23% is dark matter that we cannot see.  And since the universe may extend many times beyond our universe horizon of 13.6 billion light years, we may actually only see less than 1% of the universe.

We know that the speed of light is constant throughout our universe at 186,000 miles per second, which means that light would encircle earth about seven times in one second.  But that speed limit only applies to particles traveling through space.  Space is not restricted to this speed and can expand or contract faster than the speed of light.  This sets up some interesting questions.

How can we see early galaxies dating back about 13 billion years?  Wouldn’t the light from those galaxies have passed us by billions of years ago?  Well, probably we couldn’t see early galaxies that no longer exist, if the Milky Way galaxy were expanding at the speed of light.  But like we said earlier, the space between galaxies may be expanding or contracting faster than the speed of light.

Edwin Hubbell discovered the red shift indicating that galaxies were expanding away from each other at increasing speeds.  Scientists learned that the galaxies that were further away were redder, indicating faster speeds of acceleration.  However, if the galaxies were shrinking, we would observe the same red shift.  This is because the galaxies would distance themselves from each other as they all decreased in size.

Most scientists have analyzed the cold end of our universe as it expands forever into space until we cannot see any other galaxies.  So, let’s examine the other possibility that is always overlooked.  What if the galaxies were collapsing?  Or what if space were collapsing?  Or what if both were collapsing?  Could that explain why we can see ancient galaxies?

If the space between galaxies were expanding faster than the speed of light, the light from distant galaxies would still be attempting to reach us.  If the space between galaxies were expanding at or less than the speed of light, the light from ancient galaxies would have past by billions of years ago.

However, if the space between galaxies had originally expanded faster than the speed of light, had slowed down, and now was contracting faster than the speed of light, it might explain why we can view ancient galaxies.  As space between galaxies shrinks, we would see the ancient light that had never reached us before as we bounce back into its light.

It is interesting to note that the deep-space galaxies show an increase in acceleration.  If the rebound effect is slower with galaxies nearer to us, then that compaction or shrinking may be more significant for those galaxies that are farther away.

This is nothing more than conjecture at this time, but since it is quite possible, it should not be dismissed because it does not follow traditional theories of cosmologists.

Stephen Hawking vs. God

Stephen Hawking recently stated that he was an atheist.  He indicated that science provided a “more convincing explanation” for the origin of the universe than God.  He also stated that the beliefs of religion “aren’t compatible” with scientific facts. 

Hawking continued, “Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe but now science offers a more convincing explanation.”  He concluded, “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is we would know everything that God would know if there was a God, but there isn’t.  I’m an atheist.”

It seems a bit presumptuous and perhaps even conceited for us to think that any of us, including Hawking, would know everything that God would know.  Scientists admit that there is much that we do not know and perhaps never will.  We cannot merge the theory of relativity and gravity with quantum mechanics.  We do not understand dark matter and don’t even know what dark energy is.  We only can see a small percentage of the universe, so we couldn’t possibly know everything that God would know.

And the bigger picture is framed by the law that all the matter and energy in the universe can neither be created nor destroyed in that same universe.  In other word, God, who by definition is the creator, had to create outside our universe.  As little as we know about our universe, we know absolutely nothing about God’s crucible outside the universe.

In order for Hawking or any person to know absolutely that God does not exist, that individual would have to know everything.  As we just discussed, nobody can make that claim… not even Hawking.  There is a difference between saying that you do not believe in God and saying that you know that there is no God.

Logically, it would be difficult for Hawking or any scientist to prove conclusively either that there is a God or there is not a God.  It would be an optimistic undertaking to find a preponderance of evidence to make either case.  Man simply does not have the evidence and probably never will.

Hawking also argued that belief in a heaven or an afterlife is “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  There may be some truth to this because the true basis for a belief in God is faith.  We hope that God brings us light to lead us through that darkness of chaos.  That is probably why there is a history of mankind looking upward, praying to a God or gods for millennia.  Even if there is no God, perhaps our faith that there is one is a fairy story that helps us sleep better at night.  Why would Hawking want to remove this security blanket that comforts so many people?  Especially, when he could not possibly know that there is no God anymore than he could know that there is a God.

Even though, we have been on earth only a short period of time, our species is so anthropocentric that we think that everything is about us.  Although we are quite accomplished at destroying our environment, we aren’t as good at helping our world recover.  We should be much more humble about our role on earth and in the universe.

It would have been more interesting if Hawking had said that there is a significant chance that there is an abundant amount of life throughout the universe.  Will that life have a different God or will we all have to share the same creator?  Will our arrogance permit this sharing?  Quite frankly, my experience with our species makes me believe that if we encountered ET, we would try to kill it rather than to understand it.

Maybe Hawking was really trying to say that there is no God in Homo sapiens.

Perspectives

Our perspectives lead to our conclusions of where we are and where we are going.  For example, since we live a limited number of years, we have a linear perspective from birth to death.  If we believe in the afterlife, it, more than likely, will be based on a circular perspective.  This eternal cycle may include an everlasting afterlife, like with Christianity, or a recycling back into the living again, as found in eastern religions.  But a circular perspective is merely a linear perspective that is curved.

A simple example of how perspectives distort where we are is when we look to the horizon and do not see the curvature of the earth.  However, if we examine the earth from a spaceship, we can see that the earth is curved.

In order to appreciate other perspectives, we must utilize our imaginations.  What if we thought completely outside the box, which is our universe?  What if we imagined that the universe was not expanding like most scientists think, but actually was shrinking?  All the evidence that we have, including red shifts among most galaxies, could be explained by either an expanding or collapsing universe.  Our linear perspective does not allow us to surmise the possibility of a shrinking universe.

What if we let our imagination transport us to an area where we could view our universe from a distance?  What if all the galaxies and interconnecting filaments of dust clouds and black holes formed a living organism?  What if there were billions of these organisms in a multi-universe?  What if they were like cells that were interconnected, forming a larger living organism?  Where would it end?

What if we let our imagination go the other way and fall deep into the quantum world?  What if all the galaxies were shrinking back to the event horizon or Big Bang event, where they would crash back into the microworld, which has completely different laws?  What if there were alternating Big Bang and Big Crunch events, creating a perpetual time machine?

As you can see, there are many different perspectives, most of which we cannot visualize because we are stuck in a linear world.  If we die and there is nothing beyond that point, then a linear perspective will be quite adequate.  However, scientists are very aware of quantum and other odd perspectives in the universe, so it is not likely that your death is the end point.

Quite frankly, it would be wonderful if that were true.  It would make life very simple.  You would live a number of years and then you would die with nothing beyond that point.  There would be no consequences for your poor choices during life.  There would be nothing to worry about after you died.  That would be the best case for us all.

But unfortunately, it is not likely.  Again, it is our linear perspective.  We live and then we die.  But it is more likely that we will be conscious, trapped in some other perspective after we die.  One of the scientific rules is that nothing can be destroyed in our universe.  Our bodies may be transformed into something else through decomposition, but they do not end with death.  The same might be said of our conscious thoughts, especially if they do not emanate from our brain.  They may continue on forever.  What will be our new perspective if we are thinking after death without any of our senses to assist us?

What if your perspective after death were based entirely on your imagination?  In other words, if you perceived that you were in a burning pit of fire, then that is where you would be.   If you imagined that you were being tortured for your poor choices during life, then you would experience eternal torture.

However if you had a perspective that God would protect you after death, then God would, in fact, protect you, because that would be your belief.

ET Probably Exists

With 200 to 400 billion stars in our galaxy and 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, the odds are pretty good for extraterrestrial life to exist in locations other than the earth.  In fact the odds that there is a significant amount of life somewhere else in the universe is astronomical.  So the odds are that ET exists, but ET may not be as advanced as life on earth.

There is a chance that there is life within our solar system, perhaps under the surface on the moons that orbit Jupiter or Saturn.  Frozen lakes on moons that have hydrothermal vents, sometimes called black smokers or fumaroles, could be the cradles for life within our solar system.

Scientists have discovered molecular compounds that are integral to life on earth throughout our universe.  These compounds include amino acids containing organic compounds called iso-propyl cyanide, which is an essential building block for life on earth.  This iso-propyl cyanide is also located within the Milky Way galaxy in a giant cloud about 27,000 light years away.

The fact that there may be an abundance of life within our galaxy and the universe may not answer the question: how advanced are the life forms?  Some scientists believe that “abundant microbial life is a bad sign that we will never become an interstellar civilization – since these aliens would have had plenty of time to develop advanced space travel technologies, but we haven’t hears a peep from them.”

Of course, there are some who believe that aliens have been here already.  In some ways, this new evidence of a universe that is a cradle for life gives credence to those who believe that extraterrestrials have been studying us for some time.  Perhaps the incidents at Roswell and other locations may be true after all.