High School Portfolio-Jake Edwards 2011


                                                                                                                                                                                                Edwards 1
Jake Edwards
Mike Podmore
Senior Thesis
28 January, 2011

                                                                                    Our Knowledge of the Universe

The Word “Universe”

As human beings, we have a very very limited knowledge of our universe, as well as how it came to be. Firstly, we must learn what it is that we refer to when we say “Universe”; In popular definition, the Universe is the “totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space, or cosmos”(Dictionary.reference.com). But for many of us, it has a much deeper meaning. Coming from a slightly different perspective, the Universe not only includes all objects and ideas or supposed objects and ideas, but all the objects that don't exist as well; everything.

But, the words “Everything” and “Universe” often share the same meaning. The word itself (universe) was derived from the Latin word “universus”, which was a Latin adjective meaning “turned in one” or “one movement”. suggesting that we are referring to the Universe as a singular energetic entity, one body that includes everything that has existed, everything that does exist and everything that will exist, as well as everything that hasn't existed, doesn't exist and will not exist. Looking at our universe under this light truly shows us that the universe is much, much more than we normally look at it as. Despite our conventional philosophy, most of our perspicacity concerning the universe is based in assumption.

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The Whole Universe vs. The Observable Universe

Science generally refers to two concepts of the Universe, the Whole Universe, being the universe in it's entirety, and we have the Observable Universe, which is the part of the Whole Universe that we can see from our viewpoint on earth. This Observable Universe is about forty six billion light years in radius (Wikipedia.com). The visual boundaries in the observable universe are determined largely by our technology and the laws of physics. Light plays a large part in the properties of the observable universe as well.

Assuming that the “laws” of light, radiation, etc. are all true, the light creating the image of the universe that we are observing right now bounced off of those galaxies, stars, planets, etc. hundreds, thousands, if not millions of years ago. For this light to reach us from the edge of the observable universe, it takes about fifteen billion years, whereas light coming from the nearby M31 galaxy takes about ten million years to reach us (universe-review.ca). So the image that we look at every night is “outdated” to say the least. As far as we know, some of the cosmic objects we see may not even exist any more. This makes it impossible (in our current circumstance) to know whether the universe is finite or infinite.

Origin Theories

Such as most of our ideas, the origin of the Universe is disputable. All we can really do is speculate as to the nature of our surroundings. However, the most popular theoretical explanation for existence as we know it is undoubtedly the “Big Bang” theory. In the 1920's a Belgian priest named Georges Lemaitre suggested that the universe had began from a singular atomic point, expanding at staggering speeds within a fraction of a second, thus the theory was born, originally named “The Hypothesis Of The Primeval Atom” (Georges Lemaitre). According to Lemaitre, rays of cosmic radiation could very well be the remnant energy from the initial explosion,

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somewhere between ten and twenty billion years ago. About three hundred and eighty thousand years after the “Big Bang”, electrons and nuclei combined and formed atoms, the most abundant of which were hydrogen atoms. Temperatures dropped, matter and radiation continued to dissipate throughout space, forming the ancient cosmic radiation that we

know of today.

There are, however many assumptions to this theory. One of which is of course that all

the “laws” of physics are true everywhere in the universe. Secondly, we assume that the entire Universe is homogeneous and isotropic. But, the “Steady-State” theory insinuates that since we assume the universe is infinite, the fact that it is expanding is irrelevant, because the appearance (for the most part) would stay the same (Fred Hoyle, etc.). However, in the 1960's new information came to light supporting the idea of an ever changing, ever expanding universe. Most of this information was drawn from the concept of radio galaxies, which are thought to be active galaxies that emit strong radio wavelengths of about 100 GHz, and other small star clusters that are only found at long distances from the Big Bang point, rather than at random locations.

There are also many other theories about the creation of the Universe, including the Plasma Theory, The Inflation Theory and The Cycling Universe Theory just to name a few. The big bang still seems to be the strongest and hardest theory to crack thus far.

What is Reality?

In popular context, reality is the state or quality of being real; being an actual thing as opposed to being imaginary or fictitious being subject to measurement, analysis or quantization (dictionary.refernece.com). The flaw with this definition however, is that the state of being Imaginary or Fictitious, is idiosyncratic depending on perspective, not anchored in fact. There

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are many presences that we interact with on a daily basis that can't be defined as “real”. Take

human emotion for example;we feel energies such as Love, Anger, Fear, Sadness, Happiness, etc. daily, but these things can't be measured. They can't be touched or quantized, but yet these things abstract feelings are “real” to us.

As far as we know, the Universe is the same way, In some theories, the universe is endless; others can suggest that the cosmos is organized in more of a Multiverse fashion, containing many universes. What we consider “real” is little more than the construct of our combined life experience. If the Universe is indeed infinite, then wouldn't there inevitably be infinite possibility? Wouldn't there be infinite “copies” of everything? Moreover, what is “real” to one person can be completely absurd to another, but both perspectives are just as valid. Although the surroundings are to some degree the same, we all experience the universe in different ways. What may appear a certain way to one individual is analyzed in a way that makes the most sense to that individual based upon their life experience. For example, a person who has lived their entire life in a city will sometimes analyze the idea of a wilderness as forbidding or uncomfortable, based on the perspective that they have experienced. The same is to say for a person who has lived their entire life in the countryside; densely populated urban areas can seem overwhelming, etc.

This same principle applies to all levels of existence. Reality is an abstract idea conjured by the human mind to comfort itself of the insecurity that we don't know who we are, what our purpose is, what will happen to us in the future, how large infinity is and how we relate to it. Sometimes, reality is considered to be little more than the four dimensions of height, width, depth and time. The problem with this however, is that those four dimensions are just figureheads of our current understanding.

In space, we observe many things that we do not understand. Dark Energy and Dark

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Matter are two of the most obvious examples, but in recent years, we have been observing

“virtual particles” which are a mysterious new field, but have been known to jump in and out of existence (Matt McIrvin). Some may say that these particles are formed by temporarily drawing energy from the surrounding Universe for their creation, and spontaneously disappear, returning the energy. Supposedly, these particles permeate space, and balance the exchange of energy in the universe. These particles are a perfect example of the holes in the idea of reality; they most definitely exist, and have measurable effects, but the particles themselves cannot be predicted or measured.

The Four Dimensions

A dimension is commonly understood to be a group of coordinates usable to specify an extension in any given direction. In other words, a tool for establishing proportion. Each of these four dimensions represent variables that compose our visual world. Each consecutive dimension adds a new level of measurement to physical objects. A single dimension is usually a line, since only one axis is used to represent it. Whereas a two dimensional shape uses two axes as in a square or a triangle. A three dimensional shape requires three axes to graph, because it has the added variable of depth, giving it volume. Lastly, a four dimensional object takes four variables to represent. And not necessarily a axis either. This is because the fourth dimension is change, or time.

To specify any point in any line, area, volume, or four dimensional manifold, it is imperative to exercise coordinates and exclude all the false variables to zero in on such a point. When describing physical objects, dimension is the organization of space (specifically volume) and its point in time, as well as the constitution of all objects within that space and time. In theories like Einstein's General Relativity, all four of these dimensions are compiled into a grid-

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like plane called “Space-Time” (Albert Einstein). Dimensions are not confined to just physical objects and space, however. Theoretically, there could be and most likely are more than the four known dimensions, meaning that the Universe could be arranged in multiple different ways in the sane place, and could interact in a way that would be undetectable to us (such as the virtual particles I mentioned earlier).

Several theories exist supporting the hypothesis of additional dimensions. String theories are terrific examples, claiming that atoms are one dimensional strands vibrating in ten or eleven dimensional space, rather than zero dimensional objects existing in four dimensional space. A more detailed viewpoint of this is the M-Theory, lays claim that atoms are in fact two dimensional, and the “strands” are one dimensional “slices” vibrating in eleven dimensional space-time, giving atoms their mass, charge, etc (Edward Witten). A characterization of how these strands might function is in closed circles, having no beginning and no end, being one dimensional, yet existing 2 dimensionally, vibrating in space to compose atoms. But the basic principles of the M-theory are one dimensional strands vibrating in such a way as to create a “membrane”, hence the M.

Alternatively, the idea of dimensions itself may be unsound. For instance, a point on a circle with a radius of one can be specified by two axes on a graph, such as those on a Cartesian graph, but that same point can be designated with a single coordinate on an axis, meaning that the circle is one dimensional although it exists two dimensionally (much like the String theories I described).


In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein published his theory of General Relativity, which

would drastically change the future of physics and cosmology. This theory is currently the most

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well received explanation of our Universe's gravity, among other things. Rather than surmising that every body in the universe attracts every other body due to their mass such as in Newton's theory, Relativity compiles all of the four known dimensions into a grid like plane, called

“Space-Time”. In his theory, Einstein claimed that the geometry of space-time is influenced by the matter that is present, and vice versa, which is the bare bones concept of relativity.

    This influence is supposedly caused by mass bending the space-time fabric. As an archetypal illustration, picture a sheet of elastic fabric stretched tight over a large frame, if you were to put a heavy spherical object such as a baseball, or any object for that matter in the center of the fabric, it would bend that fabric around itself. The same is so in the theory of relativity, matter bends the space-time fabric around itself due to the mass of that matter, causing gravitational force. However, in general relativity mass and energy are two names for the same physical entity. So if a physical system has mass, it has energy. And an energetic system has mass. The speed at which these bodies are moving also has a considerable influence on that gravity.

    In this theory, gravity affects everything in the Universe, including light. Gravity can cause “frequency shifts” in light. When light is projected from a massive source such as the sun, light has a higher frequency when it is closer to the sun, and a lower frequency when it is closer to it's destination.

    This is because the massive star's gravity pulling rearward on the escaping light, allowing the light more time to repeat it's frequency in that space. When the light gets further from the source, and is less withheld by its gravity, its frequency decreases. When the light gets closer to its “destination”, the gravity caused by that body's mass draws the light in at an increased rate, decreasing the frequency even further. This effect is known as “Gravitational Redshifting”(Albert Einstein).

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    Light is not always captivated by the mass, though. Sometimes we observe a telescope effect called “Gravitational Lensing” (Orest Chwolson). When light is moving through space, it can bend around masses such as planets and in turn be bore concentrated on the other side. For instance, light from stars surrounding Mars (from our perspective) in the night sky has been bent around the planet on it's way to us, and has ended up more concentrated when it reaches us, magnifying the image of those stars. By this same principle, light can be deflected to different destinations. This means that the astrological bodies we see might not actually be in the position they appear to be, because the light might not have traveled in a straight path.

    In General Relativity, Einstein also insinuated the existence of “Black Holes” in the Universe, saying that mass can be so dense in such a compact area in space that a Black Hole could form, having such intense gravity that light itself wouldn't be able to escape it. Although the idea of a Black Hole is shady and mysterious, most galaxies including ours are believed to be be congregated around enormous black holes that have mass equivalent to that of millions, if not billions of stars. The most most notable part of the Black Hole ideal though, is the gravity waves that they produce, having much more long term and transcendental effects in the cosmos.

    Fundamentally, the theory of relativity is by far one of the most world changing ideas of the past thousand years but for the most part, is incomplete. One of the major lacking areas in relativity is in the areas concerning quantum physics, such as ideas like the String Theory. It is also a theory that doesn’t cover the hypothesis singularities, which are basically anomalies in the space-time fabric, incorporating characteristics such as sharp shapes in the fabric, boundaries and other enigmas that present understanding holds little to no explanation for. The sole axiom of relativity is in physicist John Wheeler's words; “Space-time tells matter how to move, matter

tells space-time how to curve.”(John A. Wheeler)

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Contents and Details of the Universe

It is supposed that the Universe is about one hundred and fifty billion light years in diameter, and somwhere around fifteen billion years old. But as far as we know, it could very well be infinite and ageless. It is assumed that after the big bang, sixty three percent of the Universe was comprised by “Dark Matter”, fifteen percent photons, ten percent neutrinos and twelve percent atoms. Today, we believe that seventy two percent is “Dark Energy”, twenty three percent is Dark Matter and just four and a half percent is atoms (Wikipedia).

    Dark Matter was first conceived to account for the matter in the Universe that has gravitational effects on the surrounding matter and radiation, but is not readily visible to us and cannot be measured. In theory, dark matter could be matter in alternate Universes in a Multiverse fashion occupying the same space as ours. It could perhaps be a different level or stage of material existence, much like sound, of which we can only hear select frequencies.

    Photons and Neutrinos are the basic building blocks in our Universe that can become masses. Dark Energy however is more perplexing. It is commonly expressed as being a theoretical energy that percolates all of space and tends to accelerate the rate of universal expansion. Dark Energy is conjectured to be homogeneous for the most part, mild in it's density and nonreactive to our known energies, with the notable exception of gravity. Since what Dark Energy really means is mostly speculation, all we really have to reference our ideas to is theories. In General Relativity, the pressure of matter can have a large effect on the activity of space-time just as mass can. In theory, matter with negative pressure could create an intense vacuum effect that would cause inherent expansion of the surrounding cosmos, much like space.

    Lastly, the matter that we do understand (remember that it only makes up %4.5 of the Universe) contains the elements of our periodic table, the most common element being hydrogen. So like all of these concepts, there is very little that we actually understand about the

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subject. The order in which these things are organized is disputed among astrophysicists and space programs, but the human classification of the cosmos is focused on size relative to our world; such as moons, planets, stars, solar systems and galaxies. The nature of universal order,
the basic composition of matter, the cause(s) of a non-static universe and our place in it is above all else, an introspective study.

Ancient Understanding of the Universe

    Investigating the properties of the Universe is no new endeavor. Throughout history, we see many examples of astronomical philosophy that reflect the astrophysics of today. In ancient Egypt, where the Nile River would burst it's banks each year and the Egyptians would set to work rebuilding their farms and homes, it symbolized Universal rotation between chaos and order. In ancient Greece, the movement of the stars was seen as a sacred code in which the gods had written the Universe in.

    Today, the stars may hold a different type of significance to us but that significance is just as strong. It wasn't until about four hundred BC that Exodus and Aristotle revolutionized the human approach to the Universe by suggesting that the Sun, Moon, Earth and other space entities are all suspended om concentric spherical energy fields. In this philosophy however, the Earth was still considered to be the center of all existence, and remained the most popular school of thought for at least six hundred more years.

    In about two hundred BC, Roman Astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus was one of the early pioneers who were certain that all of these cosmic bodies move in circles around each other, establishing the concept of orbit.

    One and a half thousand years later, a Polish Astronomer by the name of Nicolaus Copernicus claimed that the sun was the center of the Universe (or at least the part of the Universe that we were familiar

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with), and that all the other planets and us orbited it. Although his claims were slightly off and poorly received at the time, he set the stage for a whole new generation of thought, and provided one of the most important building blocks with which the modern science of astrophysics was built. It also helped humanity abolish some of the narcissism of the past.

Astrology in the Study of the Universe

    Although Astrology leans slightly more towards the metaphysical side of the Universe, more than clinging to the “facts”, it is somewhat fascinating how much the two intertwine. For some, Astrology is the cosmic explanation of human personality, affairs, natural events and the progression of time. Compared to the more broad scope view of the Universe(s) as a whole, astrology is a much more close focus. Elaborating, Astrology deals mostly with our sun, moon and the planets in our immediate vicinity. This field is an iconic representation of science in some of its earliest stages; a combination of mathematics and spiritualism.

    As mentioned earlier, these cosmic patterns are often thought to directly influence our existence, and with certain information taken into account, it makes sense how they would. An example we can relate to is the tide. Our moons gravity directly influences the traits of our planet. In Einstein's Relativity, the mass of the moon warping space-time fabric during it's movement pulls and moves the large bodies of water on Earth. These same gravity fields undoubtedly influence the development of our bodily systems, thus influencing our minds.

    The solar radiation we receive from our sun has, is and always will be essential to life in a solar system to say the least. These rays have lots of sway in the temperature of the planet, not to mention the delicate thread we cling to while orbiting the sun. We seldom realize that without the sun's gravity field to roll around in, we would never have existed, and could cease to exist just as easily. The planets in our solar system are often overlooked as well. For eons, humanity

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has charted it's existence on the globe by using the planets, stars and constellations as it's guide while simultaneously navigating this environment using the same methods.

    So, although the study of Astrology can seem irrelevant from some perspectives, we tend to forget what this ancient study stands for. One example of this is astral influence is the word “Influenza”, which was coined after the Latin word “influentia” meaning influence (dictionary.reference.com). At the time, many of the early medical pioneers believed that this sickness was the manifestation of negative cosmic influences. The word “Disaster” is derived from a combination of Greek words meaning “badly starred”. A more familiar example is the origin of the word “Lunatic”. Luna, of course meaning moon, and tic (a suffix of Greek origin), meaning behavioral trait as in “antics”. When combined, basically mean “moon behavior”. I find this interesting because, for a long time, it was believed that madness was caused by the cycles of the moon.

    Changing direction slightly, Hindu Astrology applies the patterns of the cosmos to interpret the patterns of Earth, used as well to “foreshadow” significant events in the future. This philosophy however, ties into Hindu spiritual philosophy of the repetitions in life. Western Astrology has (for the most part) separated from this school of thought, and adopted a more general approach which is target towards studying the patterns of the stars for the purpose of relating them to human existence. One of the most notable differences between these two practices of Astrology is the the constellations that they correspond to. The Hindu practice uses a zodiac system that moves very slowly, allowing them to link the zodiacs to the origional constellations that they were named for, whilst the western practice uses a seasonal zodiac that only revolves in a complete circle every twenty five thousand, six hundred and eighty six years, and is no longer able to link the zodiacs to their constellations.

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The Expansion of the Universe

    Assuming that the theory of the “Big Bang” is true, the Universe is expanding at a rate which itself, is accelerating. Such expansion means that the Universe around us is becoming less and less dense all the time, and that eventually, much of the Universe that we can see now will be invisible to us in the future. Dark Energy has a large influence on this property, especially due to it's negative pressure. Of course, all of this is not without lots of assumption, particularly the assumption that all of these characteristics are homogeneous.

    Universal expansion is a somewhat oxymoronic term though. Yes, the Universe is believed to be expanding, and the rate at which it expands is thought to be accelerating. But, some things in the Universe are contracting at the same time. For instance, due to the “laws” of gravity, bodies naturally attract to each other. This forms clumps of matter throughout the Universe such as planets, solar systems and galaxies. These clumps do not expand independently, but they grow farther away from each other over time. The expansion characteristic is partly due to inertia. Since the Universe has been expanding in the past, it will continue to separate and do so at an increasingly aggressive speed.

    The Universe is thought to be expanding outwards, but to what? Sometimes when people imagine an expanding Universe, it gives them the impression that it had previous boundaries in the first place. Some space theories though, say that space does not have an edge or boundary, but it wraps around or into itself. Consequently, this means that you could travel as far and as fast as you wanted to though space, but eventually you would arrive at the same place, like traveling around the Earth.

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    In Closing, I think that the most important lesson we can learn from the stars is that there will always be things that are foreign or unknown to us, but we must take the lessons we have learned in the past, and apply them to our lives to try to do the best we can in the time we have. Because life is too short and the Universe is too big to waste. We must embrace our limited perspective from earth, and do what we can, when we can, to create the best Universe we can, even if it is only on a local scale. But at the same time, we mustn’t limit ourselves by what we think we can and can't do.

Media Empowerment Class

    My freshman year, I took the Media Empowerment Course which was essentially focused around film making. before actually producing film or the film Ideas It was stressed upon us that message, target audience, possible misconceptions, etc. were taken into account. After we had established An Idea, we began a tedious process of scripting and accounting every little detail that went into our film. Such details included; location, actors, lighting, props/costumes, date, even specific shots (i.e. Cinematography) all needed to be plotted before beginning production

    When we finally did begin production, It was essential that we were able to work in a consistent environment, in order to give us good footage to edit together. In order to obtain quality footage, we had to be able to get two or three excellent takes with consistent lighting, actions, sound, emotion, etc. sometimes we had to attempt the same shot fourteen of fifteen times before achieving a descent take.

    Most of the cameras that we had available were older removable lens cameras that recorded on tape, and needed to be edited with an adaptive tape deck medium between the tape and the computer editing software. In total, we had somewhere around an hour of raw footage that would later be edited down to about thirty-forty five seconds.

    The editing process seemed much easier than the pre-production and production since all you really needed to do was arrange bits and pieces of footage in such a way as to provide a detailed, vivid view of the situation you are trying to portray to your audience.

    i helped film two motion studies in my time in the Media Empowerment Class, the first one I helped to shoot, coordinate, and edit. And the second being a production by the 2009-2010 Class, with my assistance.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Sacred Geometry Passage

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