Save the Hubble.com was first uploaded in 1/26/2004, just ten days after the cancellation of SM4. For four years I’ve kept this site up and running. Well, sometimes crawling more than running but anyway, I’ve kept it. During this time Hubble never ceased to amaze me. I do believe it is the greatest scientific instrument ever made, for a number of reasons. I feel that if we could see with the eyes of God, we would see what Hubble shows us. Hubble Space Telescope connects the general public with the infinite wonders of the cosmos and makes us feel part of a bigger universe.
These four years brought many changes into my personal life. I fought depression, got married, built a house, changed jobs, and did an internship at the Smithsonian Institution in DC.
During all this time Hubble touched me in more ways than I could possibly tell. I’ll just mention one of them. For years I’ve kept an image of the M81 galaxy as my wallpaper. As a professor who has to deal with hundreds of students and all sorts of problems, looking at the magnificent M81 every time I turned on my computer helped me keep things in proportion.
One day, after staring at the picture for a long while, I realized the enormity of what I was seeing. That galaxy was 95,000 light years across and I could see the whole of it in a glance. That set in motion a train of thought that would change the way I saw the universe. Here it is:
If light takes almost a hundred thousand years to cross the galaxy, I thought, so does information. That would render information leaving one end of the galaxy almost useless, if that end would need, for instance, help from the opposite extremity. If people from Earth needed help from people from Planet X, located on the other side of the Milky Way, and asked for it, it would take some 180,000 years for the answer to arrive. All that is pretty much obvious but then I asked myself how the mind of God would work with such a constraint and THAT was puzzling!
Now let’s begin by agreeing on the following points:
- God exists (in whatever form you choose Him/Her/It to be).
- God is everywhere; He/She/It is omnipresent. God only makes sense (not that He/She/It has to make any sense at all) if we conceive He/She/It as expanding and existing in tandem with the universe. From the very instant of the Big Bang on.
- God knows everything; He/She/It is omniscient, but not necessarily into the infinite future what would be the point? (again, not that there has to be a point anyway)
- The laws of nature, His/Her/Its laws, that are valid for us are also valid for Him/Her/It.
Very well, God is everywhere and knows everything, fine, but what does He/She/It do with His/Her/Its knowledge? How does He/She/It integrate all that information across the universe? How does He/She/It act on the entire universe based on that information?
The speed of light ( C ) must impose a limit for how fast the information travels from one point to another point in God’s mind. God is everywhere and knows everything but not simultaneously. What the mind of God is learning here on Earth will take at least 90,000 years to reach the mind of God located on the other side of the Milky Way and 2.5 million years to reach His/Her/Its mind around the galaxy of Andromeda.
Let’s imagine that a hypothetical Andromedan civilization could be suffering from deadly global warming. If we consider C as the speed limit of the universe, it would be pointless for me to pray for them at the present. Although the local portion of God’s mind, here with me on Earth, would know about my prayer instantly this information would only arrive in God’s mind at Andromeda long after they were extinct.
My troubling conclusion was: even if God is expanding together with the boundaries of the universe, even if He/She/It is bigger than the universe itself, He/She/It can only act locally, based on local knowledge, over finite amounts of time.
After coming to these conclusions I talked to several friends, from physicists to doctors to mathematicians (I don’t have many religious friends, unfortunately). Those discussions led me to the following possibilities:
- God can do anything but not simultaneously everywhere.
- Time is not valid for God. He/She/It knows, 2.5 million years in advance, that the human species will evolve on Earth, that I’ll be born and eventually pray for the Andromedans and He/She/It acts accordingly.
- Space is not valid for God. He/She/It exists in a multidimensional, folded space and exists everywhere at the same time.
- The speed of light ( C ) is not the speed limit for information to travel.
- God exists in some sort of permanent quantum entanglement state. Every part of Him/Her/It is instantly affected by changes in any other part of Him/Her/It, regardless of distance. Then God would not only “play dice” but be part of the game He/Her/Itself. (I am no physicist so that’s just wild speculation; please check the link to learn more about quantum entanglement and the impossibility of transmitting useful information faster than light)
- If any of those is valid for God, then they would eventually be valid for us, since we share the same set of natural laws, even the unknown ones. That does not imply we would become God in the same way that learning aerodynamics does not change us into birds (but lets us fly nevertheless). That sure does give us something to look forward to…
Whatever the truth is, if there is one truth after all, it must be amazing, extraordinary. We are, in fact, dealing with very real things: space, time, C and the immemorial human belief in God (again, in whatever form you choose Him/Her/It to be). If those cannot coexist the way we imagine them, then something has to give. Would it be God? Would it be C? Would it be space? Would it be time? Would it be causality?
Well, at the end of the road of my humble campaign to Save the Hubble I wanted to share with everyone who supported my efforts, either by visiting the web site, by signing the petition or by writing to me, my transformed views of the infinite universe.
I hope and believe that Hubble Space Telescope will continue to represent the best is in us humans: the curiosity, the ingenuity, the sensibility, the perseverance, and the courage to surmount astounding challenges.
Godspeed SM4, Godspeed Hubble.