Alan Lightman's The Accidental Universe provides an insightful look at the many universes which make up our own. From the gargantuan (sizes incomprehensible to our puny brains), the symmetrical (symmetry found in snowflakes and bee hives) to the temporary (nothing lasts for ever). It's a terrific, short read. It's full of some great quotes and here are some of my favourite:
Science does not reveal the meaning of our existence, but it does draw back some of the veils.
From the huge range of possible universes predicted by the theories, the fraction of universes with life is undoubtedly small.
The multiverse idea offers an explanation to the fine-tuning conundrum that does not require the presence of a Designer.
We are here, so our universe must be such a universe. We are an accident. From the cosmic lottery hat containing zillions of universes, we happened to draw a universe that allowed life. But then again, if we had not drawn such a ticket, we would not be here to ponder the odds.
There are almost certainly billions upon billions of solar systems in our galaxy, with planets at many different distances from their central star. In most of those solar systems, none of the orbiting planets are at the right distance for liquid water, but in some, the distance is right.
Physicists call it the second law of thermo dynamics. It is also called the arrow of time. Oblivious to our human yearnings for permanence, the universe is relentlessly wearing down, falling apart, driving itself toward a condition of maximum disorder.
The universe has an infinite supply of time and can outlast any player.
Nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts.
Perhaps it would be better just to remain sitting and wait for the end. No, thank you.
To my mind, it is one of the profound contradictions of human existence that we long for immortality, indeed fervently believe that something must be unchanging and permanent, when all of the evidence in nature argues against us.
Even though we struggle and howl against the brief flash of our lives, might we find something majestic in that brevity? Could there be a preciousness and value to existence stemming from the very fact of its temporary duration?
String theory postulates that the smallest constituents of matter are not subatomic particles, like the electron, but extremely tiny one-dimensional “strings” of energy. These elemental strings can vibrate at different frequencies, like the strings of a violin, and the different modes of vibration correspond to different fundamental particles and forces.
All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe.
Science can never prove or disprove the existence of God, because God, as understood by most religions, is not subject to rational analysis.
For Lucretius, atoms were part of the laws of nature, and the laws of nature freed human beings from the quirks and the power of the gods.
The laws of nature help us create sanity in this strange cosmos we find ourselves in. The laws of nature protect us from the vagaries of the gods. The laws of nature satisfy a deep emotional need for order and reason and control.