Happenstance

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

The "why" interests us only in view of the "wherefore." We wish to know whence we came only in order the better to be able to ascertain whither we are going….

Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life

 

Metacognition describes the underlying mechanism of my writings.  I find myself utterly aware of my own thoughts and the boundaries placed on them, whether they are influenced by logic and reason or by peer pressure. Each one of us is faced with a fundamental choice: Either we follow our flashes of inspiration or we tone them down a notch to satisfy the general consensus. This is a dilemma that we embrace no matter where it takes us... without regret. The Universe is intricately interconnected. That we don’t know how all the pieces fit together doesn’t make it wrong to give it a try. As we live our lives, we hold on tight to the invisible thread of our thoughts until our steps will lead us to the eerie scene of a suspension bridge in the clouds to the other side. Unafraid of the threat that could pose a fierce lion wandering outside our comfort zone, a  matter of urgency resonates inside us. And so the story goes…

 

What is the purpose of the stars? Does it make sense to claim that the only way to give finality to the Universe is to give it consciousness? Carl Sagan once said that everything, including us, is made of “star stuff”. If we consider Consciousness to be at the atomic level, is the language of stars expressed by the way that particles are repelling and attracting each other the manifestation of their consciousness? Whether they be stars, stellar winds, or the intergalactic medium, much of “known matter in the Universe exists as plasmas” *. As we observe a complex set of physical processes in the molecular clouds of Orion Nebula, is it a voluntary act on its part when a massive star in its infancy blows a protective shell around it? As we are continuing to study the role of magnetic fields through the interstellar and intergalactic media, if magnetic fields are implanted at the core of stars, has our body inherited the ability to produce an external magnetic field and process magnetic signals?

Orion Nebula (NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI)

Orion Nebula (NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI)

 

Life occurs during the development of a complex structure as a result of its ability to mobilize the energy necessary for its inner maintenance and its capacity to reproduce or multiply in a more or less identical manner.  Is the foundation on which the inner workings of stars rest key evidence of life? In order for a star to be a biological object, it would need to fit into the framework of a universal theory of organisms. I imagine a star to be a celestial body of multiscale cascades of particles repelling and attracting each other. 

 

What brings us to equate the cycle of a star to life is the diversity that colors its evolution from birth to oblivion. Stars display a wide range of variations and differences. A supernova may be the result of the collapse of a massive star. Although it was predicted that neutron stars would form in supernova explosions, an unknown but possibly substantial fraction of them might produce black holes rather than neutron stars. PSR J1719-1438 and PSR J0636+5128 are among the black widow systems that were detected for the first time in 1988, in which a millisecond pulsar -- a highly magnetized neutron star -- sucks up its companion’s mass leading to its full annihilation and leaving the pulsar behind isolated. 

SN 2014J in the galaxy M82 ( NASA Goddard)

SN 2014J in the galaxy M82 ( NASA Goddard)

 

It can be quite unsettling to see the Universe, not in its present form but as a process, a brief moment over billions of years. Between what was, what is and what will be, our singular reality -- past, present, and future -- has taken this visible shape. As we gaze with wonder at the sight of supernovae, let us remember that the Sun was “formed on the ashes of a previous supernova”**. At an estimated rate of 2-5 per century, the energetic shock wave of a galactic supernova spreads out into the interstellar medium, dispersing heavy elements.  A 2019 study concluded that metals originated from the very first generation of stars were distributed not only within galactic haloes but within low-density regions located at large distances from galactic haloes. Collapsars -- stars which collapse into black holes --  supply more than 80 percent of the heavy elements, such as gold and platinum, assembled in a process known as rapid neutron capture nucleosynthesis. In a binary system -- which itself would be the result of two prior supernova events --  the magnetospheres of the two neutron stars would interact with each other for decades and even centuries until their merger becomes the source of elements whose solid forms we have been using as decorative or ornamental items for the past thousands of years. 

 

 standard model from Fermilab

standard model from Fermilab

 

 

 Stars stand in the background of the periodic table of elements. At the foundation of the visible matter is another table listing forces and elementary particles.  Iron 60 was found in deep-sea sediments that incorporated stellar debris from a nearby supernova explosion about two million years ago. The carbonaceous matter is the most abundant solid in the Universe from nanodiamonds in meteorites to entire celestial bodies such as the white dwarf BPM37093, which emits a greenish-blue light, and the ancient and crystallized companion of PSR J2222−0137, one of the closest pulsars to Earth. Until 1992, it was not known that pulsars may also be rotated by planets. The crystalline vestige  PSR 1719-14 b is a Jupiter mass planet identified as one of the eleven potential exoplanets with strange quark matter mainly found around millisecond pulsars.

 

Time goes by in a matter of seconds, years, decades, or even centuries, but History, on the other hand, is engraved in stone over billions of years.  If we were to look back and assess the major advancement in our understanding of the way the Universe works, the actual observation of gravitational waves following the inspiral of two neutron stars would constitute a concrete step in our theoretical approach to reality. Since it was suggested that neutron-star mergers may be the dominant contributors to r-process production in the Galaxy, an updated merger rate for double neutron star becomes all the more important for the traceability of heavy elements in the galaxy.

Merger of two neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Merger of two neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

… it is a subtle balance of the vibration frequencies between carbon and oxygen that result in how abundant these two critical elements are. By having the right balance of oxygen and carbon, the miracle of life is possible.

James Sung, Jianping Lin, Diamond Nanotechnology: Synthesis and Applications, p.10, Pan Stanford Publishing, 2010

 

 Is consciousness the finality or life itself?

 

 

 

*George K Parks, Physics Of Space Plasmas: An Introduction, CRC Press, 2019

**James Sung, Jianping Lin, Diamond Nanotechnology: Synthesis and Applications, Pan Stanford Publishing, 2010 

To be informed of the latest articles, subscribe:

Comment on this post