Tuesday, November 13, 2012

this amazing universe!

20,687 and counting…
This morning, and for the 20,687th time in my life, the sun rose on a new day. I know this because – just after I captured the image on my iPhone while walking Scout Labradoodle – I decided to compute the number in my head. No single calculation was testing by itself; the real challenge was to memorize the series of results before adding them all together at the end.
I broke the calculation down into six manageable pieces: (365×50) plus (365×6) plus (3×30) plus (4×31) plus (the remainder of days less than one month) plus (the number of times I experienced a February 29). That’s what it took to find the number of times the sun rose (I was born, by the way, before the sun came up that very first day).
WONDER BEYOND CALCULATION: I’m sure some of you will enjoy the challenge of retro-calculating, so I won’t spoil the fun by telling you my birthday (comment or email your answer). But a couple of things occurred to me in the process:
  • First, how strange it is for a liberal arts guy to be so interested in numbers.
  • And then how profoundly beautiful are the natural rhythms of the universe.
Image from NASA, Galaxy M83, similar size and shape to the Milky Way
This world, this imperfectly spherical orb, is hurtling through space at speeds of close to 70,000 miles per hour, while the surface spins at over 1,000 mph (at the equator). “Time” and “speed” are both relative concepts, calculated in relation to fixed objects and known absolute values.
I may have a number in mind that represents my age, but in truth…
  • This Earth wobbles in its orbit around the sun,
  • Our rotation (the length of a day) is slowing down,
  • The Solar-System itself is constantly “moving” in relation to other celestial bodies,
  • It takes the Solar System around 225 million “years” to travel around the Milky Way,
  • What we don’t know about the universe is expanding at a rate that far outpaces our acquisition of new knowledge via research, theoretical models, and information gathered from projects such as the Hubble Telescope, Voyager, missions to Mars and phenomenal breakthroughs in natural science.
  • For every existing question that is answered, many more new questions are raised….
Image from The National Science Foundation
MEANING: But – and this is the wonder of it all – what I do know is profound. I know that my life has infinite purpose and meaning, and I know that every single time I wake up to another new day is one more opportunity to shine, to add light and life to this hurting world, to make a profound and positive difference, and to grow in mercy and grace.
So I am deeply grateful for one more morning. Peace and promise to all – DEREK
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings – (Psalm 52)

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