Weaving a Web of Reality

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly


Entering a new decade of physics, there are spacetime crystals and teleparallel theories of gravity that seem to have taken a life of their own until the next wave of theoretical concepts washes ashore.  As waves spread out, they break new ground, hoping to cross a new threshold. From nothingness to being, theoretical constructs provide a conduit for information flow. For my part, I am still trying to grapple with the metaphysical implications of words and metaphors. What does it mean that it is possible for the universe to be in a phantom dominated era today? Time is a river carrying particles on a journey from being phantom-like to dust-like across the phantom divide. 


The movement of galaxies is not random. It was said that all clusters are dynamically young and that the formation of structure in the Universe has been proceeding from the small scale to the larger scale (clusters and superclusters). Our Consciousness, indeed, holds a camera, slowly zooming out from Earth beyond the bounds of our physical reach. Widening the view of the camera is our way to reflect upon the past and the future. We see Earth rotating around the solar system within the boundaries of the Milky Way which is part of a local group of galaxies currently outside the so-called capture zone of the Virgo Cluster. The same way satellite galaxies undergo infall, galaxy groups are continually being accreted onto clusters through a web-like network of filamentary structures. I wonder whether our local group and the Virgo Cluster will ultimately move towards each other?  Beyond the limits of the Virgo Cluster extends the Virgo Supercluster which, itself, is part of an even larger supercluster named Laniakea. 


From the genesis of the first molecule to the formation of planetesimals through a dust sticking process called pebble accretion and the multistage building of moons and planets via impact, the scene is set. The story goes on with massive rings giving birth to satellites and the tale of a white dwarf in the binary system PSR J1141- 6545 which accreted matter from a pulsar progenitor. Yet, I am still wondering what looms beneath glaciers that defines their fleeting nature.  I dreamt about an incandescent line formed by warm underground waters breaking off a river of ice flowing to where I could not say. I see the Universe as an infinite series of self-organized structures bounded by critical states. 


Iceberg shattered (contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

Iceberg shattered (contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)


Based on the understanding that amino acid precursors are formed by cosmic radiation, cosmic rays may have many biological and climatic effects.  Scientists study the molecular chemistry involved in their interaction with Earth’s atmosphere and planetary surface when they produce a cascade of secondary particles as well as their mutagenic effects on cells. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy aboard a Boeing 747SP provided us with the first astrophysical detection of helium hydride in the planetary nebula NGC 7027. The flying Observatory also revealed that dust can re-form or grow immediately after catastrophic damage, notably in the aftermath of the Supernova 1987A’s blast wave. Dust grain catalyzes reactions at its surface allowing for the formation of molecules

When a cosmic ray particle collides with a dust grain, it deposits its energy... This heating increases the mobility of radicals on the surface of the grain…

L. Reboussin, V. Wakelam, S. Guilloteau, F. Hersant



Victor Hess received the Nobel prize in physics in 1936 for his discovery of cosmic radiation. He proved that the Sun, more precisely solar flares and coronal mass ejections, could not be the only source of cosmic rays. Scientists study the process in which cosmic rays emerge and how frequently they occur. How did they reach our shores? Is it them falling upon us, or is it we who are dragged with the rest of the solar system into those fateful encounters? While our solar system orbits through the galaxy and crosses the spiral arms of the Milky Way, it experiences variations in the interstellar medium, allowing Earth to be exposed to random doses of high-energy cosmic rays.  It was even suggested that it may be due to our Galaxy’s infall toward the Virgo cluster coupled with the oscillatory movement of our solar system perpendicular to the galactic plane


Galactic cosmic rays are produced by diffusive shock acceleration at the shocks of supernova remnants, such as the Orion-Eridanus superbubble blown by multiple supernovae several million years ago.  As mankind has witnessed, in the past, the sight of supernovae, not least of all, in 1604, I wonder whether the impalpable cosmic rays produced during those events did, in fact, reach us and how it would be to witness such an explosion in one’s lifetime.  

The star’s significance is a difficult matter to establish and we can be sure of only one thing: that either the star signifies nothing at all for Mankind or it signifies something of such exalted importance that it is beyond the grasp and understanding of any man

Johannes Kepler, De Stella nova in pede Serpentarii


Although most cosmic rays are produced by the Sun or, to a lesser extent, in our galaxy,  I wonder about those coming from beyond the solar system, whose sources remain unexplained.  I imagine that the further we launch cosmic rays detectors such as NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer or the Cosmic Ray Subsystems onboard Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, the better we might be able to understand their composition and origin. Although they may produce noticeable fluxes of diffuse gamma rays and neutrinos, further study is needed, notably in regard to the possibility that they are accelerated by the electric fields of supermassive black holes.  

Stars and Cosmic Rays Observed from Mars ( Mars Exploration Rover (MER))

Stars and Cosmic Rays Observed from Mars ( Mars Exploration Rover (MER))



Some have raised the possibility that decay or annihilation of dark matter particles is at the root of their emergence. They are engaged in the hunt for a superheavy Dark matter as a potential origin for extreme energy cosmic rays. The debate today is rather about how to get to more definite answers, even indirectly.  Others investigate the nature of antiparticles in cosmic rays, in particular the production of positrons from interactions between cosmic rays and interstellar gas, and whether those positrons are to be looked at as secondary or the product of an unknown source. Franco Vazza wrote a paper entitled ‘How complex is the Cosmic Web?” in which he stated that the combination of Information Theory and modern cosmological simulations makes it possible to tackle a challenging question such as the complexity of the Universe we live in. He gave an estimate of the total statistical complexity within the observable Universe, required to describe the evolution of gas in the cosmic web. 


In my mind, I cling to the idea that in the intragalactic medium plasma lie fluid-like streams of cosmic rays and that interstellar dust grains hold the chemistry of life and Consciousness.  Furthermore, some researchers are looking into the possibility that ultra high energy cosmic rays could be experiencing quantum gravity effects.  In my mind, cosmic rays’ chemistry and their unseen but timely diffusion over the quantum field,  weave the web of a complex and multi-layered Universe coded by a mathematical riddle. In my mind, the evolution of matter and life and, to an unknown extent, Consciousness have sprung out of the cosmic microwave background since the early Universe. 


Franco Vazza went on saying that the mathematical representation of the Universe is similar to the latest estimates of the maximum memory capacity of the human brain as if the Universe was expanding at the same pace as our consciousness. Such a connection makes me wonder whether there can not be a Universe in which we live without consciousness. The statistical complexity of the Universe is also of the same order of the total amount of data generated every day by social media. I imagine the World Wide Web to be an expression of our collective consciousness evolving, communicating, in a sense living outside of our heads. Ultimately, I am unsure how I feel about weighing those three different things against each other. Setting them side by side makes my head spin. My feet off the ground, I have lost balance. Maybe it is not the Universe which is an infinite series of self-organized structures bounded by critical states, but Consciousness that is structuring itself into multiple states: a brain, social media, the Universe. And if consciousness is dependent on the amount of information that circulates within a system, how conscious is our planet? How conscious is our Universe?

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