As Space-Time Goes By

There’s this movie where a character named Sam sings a song that become rather well known, but not all of the original lyrics by Hubert Hupfeld found their way on the soundtrack:

Arthur “Dooley” Wilson as Sam in Casablanca

Yet we get a trifle weary
With Mr. Einstein’s theory
So we must get down to earth at times

This is true, but fortunately there are some folks here on earth who have their eyes glued to the stars . . .

Some of them work with The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a joint project of MIT and Caltech, and they have been looking for gravitational waves.

In his Theory of General Relativity, Einstein predicted that violent cosmic events would set off gravitational waves, which are vibrations or ripples in the fabric of space-time.

No one thought it was possible to see these ripples, let alone confirm their reality. But it was announced Thursday that scientists have detected gravitational waves, confirming Einstein’s prediction and also answering the question, how smart was Einstein? Really smart.

According to a paper just published in Physical Review Letters, “On September 14, 2015 at 09:50:45 UTC the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory simultaneously observed a transient gravitational-wave signal.”

Evidently, in general relativity, when two black holes “merge”, they produce a Kerr black hole that spins as “quasicircular inspirals” (I think that means to spin inwardly) and these were “predicted uniquely by Einstein’s equations.”

This computer-generated image from Caltech shows the ripples in space-time created by colliding black holes.

The gravitational-wave signal detected by the LIGOs were ripples of a super-massive collision of two black holes from 1.3 billion years ago. It is astounding to think about.

I suppose it’s rather obvious to say that without thought and other sensory qualities, we could not apprehend space. But what we think of as being space is often mistaken, as is the case with the Buddhist concept of sunyata or emptiness. Space is not empty in the literal sense; rather it is completely filled with an intangible, seemingly infinite continuum that we call time. Buddhism teaches that space and time are inseparable, and in this way, they are both empty because neither has its own independent reality.

Space is not nothingness and neither is emptiness. As far as time goes, I’m not sure because in quantum physics time does not exist, so it might be nothing.  Einstein, the Nagarjuna of modern science, destroyed the idea of time as a universal constant.  That’s the ultimate truth.

On the relative truth level, time is the extent along which change progresses and without change then time could not be experienced or observed.

Anyway, we can find significant intersections between Theory of Relativity and the Buddhist concepts of Interdependency (pratitya-samutpada) and emptiness, and if we dig deeper, we can also discover that Einstein’s thinking was similar to the Buddhist philosophy in some other ways:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

– Albert Einstein

Now, according to the song, when two lovers have a merger (technical term: woo)

They still say, “I love you”
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by


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