Years ago my wife's grandparents owned a cottage in Wonder Lake northwest of Chicago. We cherished our time there. At the lake during the day and after a hearty meal playing cards in the evening on the enclosed back porch. It was pure rest and relaxation. We estivated there for years, many after her kind and generous grandparents had departed for even greener pastures. The country air was refreshing.
We not only escaped the hustle and bustle of the City with Big Shoulders. This was pre-Internet, and we didn't have a TV for most of the time. We didn't miss it. There was a radio and we could read about the latest news in the daily papers. That was the whole idea. Get away from all the white noise. The stress and distractions of the workaday world.
The cottage and its serene surroundings came to mind after I finished reading the fascinating book "How to Build a Universe" by Ben Gilliland who the book jacket says used to write a science column---MetroCosm--- in something called the Metro, a daily newspaper for commuters in Great Britain. In 2013 Ben was awarded the Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Space Achievement in Media.
So he knows whereof he writes.
Back to the cottage. I guess when I got married at 26 I had not really been to the country. At least not to really experience it. What struck me most were those pitch-dark nights far from the urban light pollution. One didn't stay out nights in Wonder Lake. Especially on those warm summer nights.. Too many skeeters, gnats, and who knew what else.
But the sky was a marvel to behold. What I saw books and people had told me about. How electrifying the sky would be far from the bit city. But couldn't have been more overwhelmed by its majesty and grandeur. And the sheer number of brilliant stars. Whenever I gazed up at those innumerable points of light, I wished I were a friend I had in high school whose hobby was astronomy. Leonard was his name, and he was really into the hobby. I visited his home once and he had one room filled with paraphernalia to view and identify the objects in the heavens. A telescope that I thought at the time on the cutting edge was positioned at a window to look into the far reaches of the Milky Way and beyond.
Back to the book. I read on Mr. Gilliland's website that he is a graphic artist and the illustrations in the book are eye-popping evidence of it.
This morning on the Today Show they ran a trailer for the new Star Wars movie. But the science of modern astrophysics and cosmology contains truth that is stranger than fiction. 13.82 billion years ago, the Big Bang before which nothing existed. Not space, not matter, not time. Afterwards "crammed within this smallest of small things is all the matter and energy that will ever exist in the entire history of the Universe---all the galaxies, stars, planets, moons, and life that have ever been, or ever will be; squashed into a dot of potential, just 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times smaller than a single proton. Then it starts to expand."
And the Universe is expanding even faster thanks to Dark Energy
Along the way, Gilliland tells us about cosmic inflation, quarks, antimatter, the Cosmic Microwave Background, virtual particles, the birth of a star, quantum tunnels, colliding Black Holes, multiverse.
And something called Planck length. "It is so tiny that, if you were to measure the diameter of an atom by pacing out one Planck length every second it would take you ten million times longer than the Universe has existed (10,000,000 x 13, 800,000,000 years) to complete the journey."
Han Solo and the gang can't top that.