We Live on a Knife Edge

I said I’d share something I thought was awesome when I first saw it.  I have been reading bits and snatches of and about John Polkinghorne, and I say bits and snatches, because the man’s intellect is such that I am swimming in deep water.  However, this paragraph jumped out at me.

Its from his book One World, published in 1987 in London by SPCK, pgs 57-58

“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together.)  If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place.  Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world.  On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going.  For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe’s history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 10 to the 60th power.*  The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy.  For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davies of what the accuracy means.  He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away, and hitting the mark!”

*[I don’t know how to make the little 60 on my computer–what am I doing reading a book by a former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University?] 

Anyway, hope this is as awesome to you as it was to me.

Nonni

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