Wednesday, June 17, 2009

487)'On Astrophysics And The Age Of The Universe': Professor Arif Babul In Conversation With Blogger Simerg; Quotes of Aga Khans And Others

Professor Babul:
On Astrophysics And Astronomy
"Well astrophysics is a broad subject. It is an effort to understand how our physical universe, starting with the solar system and right through to galaxies and stars, and even the universe as a whole, has come to be; why the cosmos is the way it is and why it behaves the way it does. And there’s a distinction between astrophysics and astronomy that’s worth noting.

Astronomy refers to the science of actually observing and collecting data, and trying to determine what is out there. Astrophysicists, on the other hand, are theorists in the sense that they take the understanding of the laws of nature that we have from various different areas of physics and apply it to cosmic phenomena in order to understand it.

In a way our job is to construct a narrative. Shown a star, for example, an astrophysicist would start thinking about why the star is shining, what’s happening inside the star, how that Hydrogen is being converted into Helium, and why it’s radiating and giving off so much energy. He or she would tell you the whole story about how the star formed, how it changed over time, what will happen to it as time goes on, and how it will end its life. So it is with galaxies like our very own Milky Way and even large structures that populate the universe. My own work focuses on galaxies and cluster of galaxies, the largest cosmic structures in the cosmos."

On The Age Of The Universe
"As far as the universe itself is concerned, it was in 2002 that we’ve been able to pinpoint the age of the universe to be 13.7 billion years. So we have a pretty good idea now of how old our universe is.

A group of scientists led a mission to send up a satellite in 2001 that measured the microwave background, relic radiation that is the afterglow of the Big Bang. From this, they were able to figure out things like how old the universe is, how fast it’s expanding, whether or not it’s slowing down or speeding up, the amount of matter in the universe, and more.

Looking through a telescope is like drilling an ice-bore in the Arctic. As you drill, you come up with a column of ice, and the ice at the bottom is the oldest ice, and as you come up to the surface you get younger ice. And scientists use that to examine the conditions on Earth billions of years ago. So here we’re using light to do that. So as you look through a telescope, the closest objects you see are the youngest in the sense that we are seeing them as they were 4, 10, 100 years ago because this is how long it has taken light to reach us. The further you go, the more backwards in time you’re looking. The most distant objects are so far away that it has taken light billions of years to reach us. So when we look at those objects, we are seeing the universe the way it was back then. The most distant objects are, however, extremely faint. So the development of sensitive detectors is extremely important.

Technology is also critical for theorists like myself who spend our time trying to understand the complex web of physical processes that have shaped the observed universe. Computer and especially supercomputers are indispensible in this task. We use these to reproduce, virtually of course, thirteen billion years’ worth of cosmic evolution in a matter of weeks."

Quotes of Aga Khans and Others:

Chapter 30, Verse 27: He originates creation; then refashions it - for Him an easy task. His is the most Sublime Symbol in the heavens and the earth(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 21, Verse 30: Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together before We clove them asunder, and of water fashioned every thing? Will they not then believe?(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 51, verse 47: We built the heavens with might, and We expand it wide(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter79, verse 30: And then he gave the earth an oval form(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 86, verse 11: I swear by the reciprocating heaven.....(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

"One hour of contemplation on the works of the Creator is better than a thousand hours of prayer"(Prophet Muhammad, circa 632CE)

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God's signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth"(Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952)

Thus Islam's basic principle can only be defined as mono-realism and not as monotheism. Consider, for example, the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine Will"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Our religious leadership must be acutely aware of secular trends, including those generated by this age of science and technology. Equally, our academic or secular elite must be deeply aware of Muslim history, of the scale and depth of leadership exercised by the Islamic empire of the past in all fields"(Aga Khan IV, 6th February 1970, Hyderabad, Pakistan)

"An institution dedicated to proceeding beyond known limits must be committed to independent thinking. In a university scholars engage both orthodox and unorthodox ideas, seeking truth and understanding wherever they may be found. That process is often facilitated by an independent governance structure, which serves to ensure that the university adheres to its fundamental mission and is not pressured to compromise its work for short-term advantage. For a Muslim university it is appropriate to see learning and knowledge as a continuing acknowledgement of Allah's magnificence"(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 1993, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan)

"......The Quran tells us that signs of Allah’s Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation - in the heavens and the earth, the night and the day, the clouds and the seas, the winds and the waters...."(Aga Khan IV, Kampala, Uganda, August 22 2007)

"In Shia Islam, intellect is a key component of faith. Intellect allows us to understand the creation of God"(Aga Khan IV, July 23rd 2008, Lisbon, Portugal)

The above are 13 quotes and excerpts taken from Blogpost Four Hundred, a collection of around 100 quotes on the subjects of Knowledge, Intellect, Creation, Science and Religion:

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)