Scientists have reported detecting the origins of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. Please don't ask me to explain the details, but “less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light” to its full size of 28 billion light years. To be sure, the theory has its skeptics, from those who insist the earth is 6,000 years old to those who say it’s impossible to go faster than the speed of light. I had two reactions – three, including incomprehension – wonder and depression. With regard to the last, if we truly are on the edge of unlocking the secrets of the universe, we should hurry, because the closer we get, the closer we seem to come to annihilating ourselves. We can’t say we haven’t been warned: from God’s rebuke of Adam in the Garden to the gods’ punishment of Prometheus, from Marlowe’s Faust to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein have come dire predictions of the consequences of our hubris – warnings that seem particularly apt at a time when someone simply steals an airliner filled with people, nuclear powers thump their chests, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences issues a “stark” report on global warming, and manmade water crisis imperils the American West.
It’s easy to get depressed by the gap between our technological might and our human folly, but (as I’ll try to explain in my next post) I believe our unquenchable sense of wonder is our greatest hope.