I have always marveled at the enormity and the infinity of the universe. You can consider how small you are compared to an elephant, the elephant to the earth, the earth to the sun and so on. You could as well go in the opposite direction, consider how big you are compared to an ant, the ant to a micro-organism, the micro-organism to the atom and so on.
The ‘atom’, etymologically, was the particle that could not be cut. But then, nearly a century back, we had Niels Bohr (you can correct me if I am wrong about this) ‘cut’ the atom into protons and electrons. And then, our physicists, did not stop there, they had discovered many more sub-atomic particles – the leptons, the quarks, the bosons, and most recently, the Higgs-boson.
All these particles, were discovered through several attempts to find out what the atom is made up of. And now, the latest discovery of the Higgs boson, brings forth a new question – ‘What is the Higgs boson made up of ?’.
I do not know, but as I think over and over about it, a lot of things come into my mind. One of them is this story of a physicist who was giving a public lecture on astronomy. And at the end of the lecture, an old lady said “ the world is a flat plate supported on the back of a tortoise.” The physicist smiles and asks the old woman, “What is the tortoise standing on?”. “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”.
And then there is my own theory of the universe; inspired, one could say, partly by Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’. The central idea in Nolan’s ‘Inception’ is the existence of layers of dreams; dreams within dreams. With every dream within, a new reality is created. And similarly, my idea of the universe (I do not say I believe in this idea, but I’m just saying, “Hey, it’s an idea”) is a never ending series of ‘universes within universes’.
What if scientists go on digging deeper and deeper into the secrets of the atom. And what if, they finally end up with a particle, rock-solid, and INDIVISIBLE. My idea is that this particle, is in itself a universe. That way every atom has a universe within it. Our own universe, is part of an atom, much larger than our universe, and part of another universe.
Films like Werner Herzog’s ‘Aguirre : Wrath of God’ and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001 : A Space Odyssey’, come to my mind when I think about this never ending quest to find the secrets of our universe. Both of these movies take their protagonists through journeys, by the end of which, men seem to lose their sanity. The final images of Herzog’s ‘Aguirre’, and those images of the stunned and terrified astronaut in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as he travels through the cosmos roll before my eyes. Forgive me if I look like a pessimist here, but I do believe that there is some analogy between our modern day scientists and the conquistadors and explorers of yesteryears in their search for elusive truths and lost cities.
Spanish and Portugese conquistadors travelled around the world in search of mythical cities. They had to go through a lot of hardships; and in some cases, they were doomed even before they set sail. Although in many cases they wouldn’t discover those mythical cities, they discovered new, hitherto unknown lands, found sea routes to India; discoveries that impacted the world in a big way.
On a similar note, although we still have not completely uncovered the secrets the universe holds, we had seen good and bad outcomes through the discoveries made thus far. We had seen the destruction an atom bomb could bring; and also, we had used nuclear energy to fuel our energy needs. It is therefore, with a mix of caution and enthusiasm that I welcome these new discoveries.