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Beitrittsdatum: 20. Nov. 2022

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IhadjustfinishedmylectureonEinstein’sspecialtheoryofrelativity.Istillhadtwentyminutestospare.PerhapsIhadracedtoofastthroughthedetails.WewereonthefourthfloorofThompsonHall,whichhadearnedthenicknametheBoeingcomplexbecauseofthecloserelationshipthecorporationhadestablishedwiththeDepartmentsofChemistry,Physics,andMathematics.Overtheyears,asignificantnumberofprofessorsandstudentshadworkedthere.MyquotaofchalkhadalreadybeentransformedintothemathematicalequationsIhadwrittenout.OonaFitzgeraldraisedherhand,herround,freckledfacebeaming.What’sthemeaningoflife?sheasked.Thisevokedsometentativelaughter,andshesmiledasifshemightbejoking.Butafterglancingaround,shefacedmeagainandwaited.Itwouldhavebeensimpleenoughtoavoidherquestionwithalightremark,butIwantedtohonorhersincerity.Barker’sresponsetothesamequestionImyselfhadaskedafewyearsearlierinmyquantummechanicscourse.Asifnorealscientistwouldasksuchaquestion.Onlyanamateurishpretender.Yearslater,andhiswordswerestillwithme.AsIleanedbackonmydeskandreflectedonOona’squestion,thestrangestfeelingarose.ThestudentscouldseeIhadtakenthequestiontoheart.Themoodintheroomshifted.Atinglinggrewinsideme.Itwasasif,unknowntome,Ihadbeenwaitingforthis,andyetIfeltlikeacriminalfacedwithaforbiddenact,somethingthatshouldbeavoidedbutthatwastooalluringtoignore.ItoldthestudentswhatIthoughtwasanimportanttruth,thatalmostnoneofusknewourtrueidentity.Justasamazing,weforgotthatwedidnotknowourtrueidentity.Thisstrangesituationcamefromthetinyworldsinwhichwelived.WethoughtofourselvesasAmericansorChinese,asRepublicansorDemocrats,asbelieversoratheists.Eachofthoseidentitiesmightbetrue,buteachisasecondarytruth.Thereisadeepertruth.Theuniversemadeus.Inamostprimordialway,wearecosmologicalbeings.Totakethisin,youneedtorideinsidethemathematicalsymbols.IdidnotknowwhatImeantbysayingyouneedtorideinsidethemathematicalsymbols.Beginwiththeprimallightdiscoveredin1964byPenziasandWilson.Thislight,thiscosmicmicrowavebackgroundradiation,arrivesherefromalldirections.Weknowthateachofthesephotonscomesfromaplaceneartheoriginofthecosmos,soifwetracetheseparticlesoflightbackwardweareledtothebirthplaceoftheuniverse.Whichmeans,sincethislightcomesfromalldirections,wehavediscoveredourorigininacolossalsphereoflight.Andthustheoriginofeachofus.Iheldoutmyarmsasifclutchingagiganticball.Wecanspeculateaboutwhatcamebeforethiscolossalsphere,butIwanttostickwiththefactsphysicistshavediscovered.Theempiricalevidencepointstoatimefourteenbillionyearsagowhenouruniverseconsistedofacolossalspheremadeoflightaswellastheprimalatomsofhydrogenandhelium.Thatcolossalspheretransformeditselfintothestarsandgalaxiesandeverythingelseintheknownuniverse.IcametomyanswertoOona’squestion.Asthisspheremovesforwardintime,itevolvesundertheactionofexpansionandcontraction.Thatis,asthespherecontinuestoexpand,particularsubsetsarepulledtogetherviatheattractionofgravity.Thisdualactionofexpansionandcontractionsetinmotionthecreativitythathasgivenrisetoeveryexistingentityintheuniverse.Ifyouwanttoknowthemeaningoflife,lookatyourhand.Energyflowsthroughyourskinandboneswithoutwhichyouwouldfreezetostone.Thatflowofenergyinyourhandcamefromthebeginningoftime.Yourhandgrewoutofthecolossalspherelikeaflowerrisingupfromtopsoil.Nooneinthehistoryofhumanityknewthattheexpansionandcontractionoftheuniversetransformedprimalatomsintostarsandgalaxies.Nordidanypersonknowthequantumfieldtheoryandthegeneraltheoryofrelativitythatgovernthissphereoflight.Noneofthesagesorkingshadtheslightestnotionofanyofthis,butnowweknowthemathematicaldynamicsbywhichtheuniversebroughtitselfforth.Thosesamedynamicsarecoursingthroughus.Theuniverse’screativityishappeningnow.Theexactsamedynamicsareatwork.Ihadworkedmyselfintoatrance.ThewordsIhadconjureduptoexplainthingsboomerangedbackonme.Inthatmoment,IfeltthesimpletruthmoredeeplythanIeverhadinthepast.Iwasthecolossalsphere.Wewererootedinthecosmicmicrowaveradiation.OonaFitzgeraldsatinthefirstrow.Didanyofthisdisturbherreligiousfaith?Thestudentswatchedinsilence.Iknewsomethinghadhappened.Astrangeintuitionarose.Butthisthoughttooslippedaway.Theendingbuzzerpulledmeback.Myordinaryconsciousnessreappearedandtookcontrol.Hadn’ttheworldchanged?Ifeltfoolish,embarrassed.Attendingtomylecturenotes,shufflingthemthiswayandthat,Ipretendedtobetoobusytolookup.Asthestudentsfiledout,Oonacameover,smiling.Sheworeasimpleyellowdress.I’vedecidedtochangemymajor.Becauseofyourcourse,shesaid.Youmeantophysics?Shenodded.Shewasabandoninghermusicalcareer?IknewhowimportantmusicwasforherbecauseshehadbadgeredmeforamonthuntilIagreedtoattendthefallshowwheresheplayedaviolinsolo.Aftertheconcert,Imetherfamilymembers,allofthemproudofhermusicalcompetenceandhardwork.Hadshespokenwithherfamilyaboutthis?Wasthisagooddecision?Sheattemptedtosaymorebutstuttered.Iwouldlovetolearnthis.It’sso,Idon’tknow