Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Astrophysics is great poetry

Today they announced the Nobel Prize, and it was split between a cancer researcher who, tragically, died just hours before the decision was made, and three astronomers who have helped explain (through research on a supernova) why the universe continues to accelerate in its expansion.

Their answer: dark matter.

You can read about it here.

However, I just want to pull one sentence from the newspaper article that has incredible theological import:

“The discovery that the universe is dominated by the energy of empty space has changed everything in cosmology. Nothing could, literally, not be more exciting, because now we know nothing is almost everything!”

The reason this fascinates me is because, for all of its reality as a scientific claim (and I am aware that the rationality and grammar of science is different from the humanities in substantive ways) nevertheless, it sounds like great poetry. Great poets look closely at the world and see it again as if for the first time. These astronomers have looked at the vast empty space of the universe and seen, not nothing, but everything.

Of course, theology has also traditionally had a concept like this, the doctrinal assertion that God created everything ex nihilo, "out of nothing." This scientific theory of the astronomers, though not precisely a theology of ex nihilo, certainly should give all theologians and preachers something to chew on and mull over. It's the kind of thing that should be in sermons next Sunday. It's cool, and it's real. 

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