“Strange to say, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see. Our eyes of flesh see only night.”—Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
I wonder if French novelist Victor Hugo realized how true that statement might be when it comes to our disappearing universe? Disappearing universe, you might wonder? What’s that all about?
Well, to explain that, I must first flash back to my recent attendance at a Deepak Chopra lecture. I am not particularly a fan. His financial empire sets off an internal cynic alarm, but I was curious about what this icon was like in person. If I can leave a lecture with one new insight or nugget of information, I’m satisfied.
Most of his talk was predictable, but at one point he mentioned something that piqued my curiosity. He talked about the acceleration of matter in the expanding universe and how all galaxies are racing away from the Big Bang to the point of eventually exceeding the speed of light. It was a simple idea, but inspired some additional reading when I got home.
My area of science is biology, not astrophysics, and it never occurred to me that anything could exceed the speed of light. Yes, there’s the Warp Drive from Star Trek that supposedly creates a warp bubble enabling a ship to do just that. The ship remains in the bubble while the space “warps” around it. But as much as it pains me, the point must be made that Star Trek is still fiction.
Does Relativity Allow for Faster Than Light?
According to what I’ve read, under the special theory of relativity, a particle with subluminal velocity needs infinite energy to accelerate to the speed of light, although special relativity does not rule out the existence of particles that travel faster than light at all times (tachyons). That definition did not offer an entirely clear explanation for a non-astrophysicist, however, so I found a web column titled Ask an Astronaut—run by volunteers at Cornell University—that offered some more digestible insights.
First, the author explains, the universe is, indeed, expanding faster than the speed of light. But we should not think of it as a collection of galaxies all careening away from a central point.
Instead, he likens the universe to “a giant blob of dough with raisins spread throughout it” (raisins equal galaxies; dough equals space). Now imagine the dough is placed in a celestial oven and begins to expand, or more precisely, to stretch, maintaining the same proportions as before but with all the distances between galaxies expanding over time.
This, apparently, is what’s happening out there. Galaxies will eventually race away from us and disappear into the darkness, one by one, as if shut off by an immense omnipotent dimmer switch (albeit, long, long, long after we are all gone from this mortal coil).
Is Seeing Believing?
These galaxies are real, measurable entities that will someday fade beyond our perception. Perhaps millions of them already have and are quietly occupying an unseen pocket of our universe. This concept resonates with me and my personal experiences, the specifics of which I will explain a bit further down in this article. An important point I would like to make here is this: This is a scientific example of something that truly exists, but is beyond our ability to sense. Galaxies that exceed light speed in comparison to our galaxy, will travel too fast for their light to return to us so that we can detect them. However, their invisibility will not make them cease to exist or consign them to the realm of fiction. They’ll still be out there, somewhere, dwelling in an imperceptible cosmos. Any life that exists in those galaxies will forever be beyond our discernment as well.
Why does this resonate with me? I write about science all day, but I am married to a man who has a special ability to sense the invisible. In short, he’s psychic. What I explore in my book, Loitering at the Gate to Eternity, through research and stories is the possible existence of unseen energy beyond the physical realm. To be more specific, my book broaches the idea that maybe, as neuropsychiatrist and former Harvard Medical School instructor Dr. Diane Hennacy-Powell suggests, psychics may possess more sensitive nervous-system antennae than the rest of us. And they may be picking up on an entire plane of energy out there moving at a frequency beyond common observational measurement, like a galaxy traveling beyond the speed of light, like subatomic particles without the aid of instrumentation, or like our thoughts and emotions.
Is the Universe Invisibly Crowded?
Perhaps as Victor Hugo once wrote, “the luminous world IS the invisible world,” something we are too limited to see with “eyes of flesh.” Who knows how many universes and dimensions may exist beyond technology’s grasp? Are there bustling worlds silently surrounding or overlapping with our own? Why not? In a cosmos brimming with diverse energies, anything is possible.
It’s something to contemplate, perhaps even hope for, as we gaze into the night skies and fondly remember the faces, words and nuances of our departed who sometimes seem to exist only in the ghosts of our memories.