This essay is an attempt to summarize the aspects of the physical Universe (sprinkled with some tangential comments on topics which I hope you will also enjoy).
There are only three major aspects of the physical Universe (by which we mean all that could possibly exist within it; whether
currently observable by humans or not) which are readily apparent to any reasoning person:
[ Note: We have "Matter/Energy" because it's possible for these two aspects of all that exists within the Universe (or what some call the "Space-time continuum") to be converted from one to the other according to that famous equation: E = mc2 (where E is energy in Joules, m is the mass in kilograms of the physical matter and c2 is the speed of light, squared or 89,875,517,873,681,800 m2/s2; the units of a Joule are kilogram x meter2 / second2). Of course, such processes only occur under special circumstances as nuclear fission or fusion. But the main point here is that Matter and Energy are not completely separate aspects of our Universe as are Matter and Time; there is no way to convert Matter into Space or Time into Matter. ]
And Time has its own three major aspects:
Contrary to a statement sometimes made about certain individuals: "He's living in the past." No one ever exists in the past! The past is past. Even though humans have kept records of some kind or another for a very long time; allowing us to learn about events that occurred in past history and the fact that we all to some degree or other remember our own past experiences, not one of us has ever been able to return to the past. We are all creatures of the momentary present which continually moves forward in time, becoming only our memories of what is then the past. And it's really only because of those memories (whether shared or unique to ourselves), that we can also attempt to plan on doing something in what we call the future; the last aspect of time, into which we are constantly heading, but will never actually live in! That is, within our own frame of reference:
The human body or any other physical object can only exist in the present, but when we look at say sunspots on the sun (its light taking over 8 minutes to reach earth), the relections of light off of the other planets of our solar system or anything else very far away, we can only see such objects as they were in the past and not exactly as they are in their present. So we can and do experience both the past (of something apart from ourselves) and our own present at the same time (in our own time-frame of course). Though technically, I'd have to say there are no clear, naturally occurring 'proofs' of mankind ever being able to actually 'view' (within our own present time-frame) the real 'future' of anything. Yet, for many millions if not billions of people every day, their past experiences provide them with enough faith to believe that not only will the 'sun come up tomorrow' but in their own future existence hours, days or years from now (in spite of the fact we know many of us die every day!). We quite frequently say to others that we are going to do this or that, or more truthfully 'want to' do something at some date in the future; though obviously, no one ever really wants to think about when they will cease to exist (unless they honestly believe in an 'afterlife' in some other 'plane of existence' after death). Yet, we only exist and live in a present moment of time! But, although we may never be able to 'physically prove' the existence of the future to all humans on earth, for those who believe Scripture is the revelation of God, who is outside of time and caused His prophets to write about the future, there is ample evidence in those writings for belief in the future.
I recently read something very interesting which pointed out that human beings, due to the speed at which our brains operate (most of the time anyway), are not really getting as accurate a picture of reality, from one tiny little bit of time to the next, as we might think, but rather a punctuated state of many snapshots in time! Then our minds use those snapshots to make something meaningful out of it all, whether mundane or significant, for each of us. And as we grow, our brains store and associate the many different actions we've seen over and over again into groups of generalized expectations of what should happen under similar circumstances. This is why we sometimes believe we've seen something, which we have always seen a certain way in the past, that did not actually occur the way we think it did. And that's why a magician or con-artist with great skills of dexterity can trick you into seeing what you expected to see instead of what they really did. It's also why anyone who views many still photos flipped in front of their eyes faster and faster can be left with the impression they are seeing an event as it actually occurred. And soon after people started flipping photographs, motion pictures or 'movies' became another way to record past events as if they were occurring again in real time!
Let's move on to the three aspects of Space; which we are first going to list as these simple terms:
There are many other ways we could list the three dimensions of our physical universe! We could use the word depth for one of them, or abandon words altogether and describe an object using the amounts of some numerical unit of measure along 3 different axes: x, y and z. But whatever terms you use, everything you ever encounter in the physical universe must have three dimensions! You protest? You might say you read a wonderful story called, Flatland or that you regularly create only two dimensional figures on your PC screen, chalk board or a piece of paper; 'look!' Well, the bottom-line is this: None of those are really 2-dimensional! How thick is a piece of paper? Not a whole lot, but many of them together certainly add up to something. Even the pencil lead or ink you put on top of that paper has its own width and height making your line or plane (especially after filling it in with colored ink) a real 3-D object! In mathematics and physics, ideal points, lines and planes are all imaginary! They do not exist. Only 3-D objects can actually exist; otherwise we must call them fiction. Again, no matter how small you think about something, say a 'line' made up of only atoms, that's still some number of 3-D spherical-like objects lined up, one after the other; not things in a single dimension. I think too many got used to what started as the old PC monitors and tube TVs with phosphor pixels inside them, that have mostly been replaced by 'flat screens' with smaller and smaller pixel sizes creating the colored images on a screen, and deceiving them into believing that a 2-D world could exist. It might be easier for you to understand it this way: A truly mathematical point or line cannot be real, since it would be impossible to see them without some kind of width. But the same thing is true of any imaginary 2-D object, because without some kind of depth or height to it, you wouldn't be able to see a geometric plane either; it would literally disappear from existence when its three dimensions turned into only two!
Finishing up: When we refer to the location of something, we might simply say it's so many feet, yards, meters, etc. from us, but then one might ask 'in which direction?' You answer 'NNW' or so many degrees according to a compass heading, but I still don't see it! Why? Because it's also 'up there!' (it's a plane flying in the sky). That's often called a range (distance), direction and altitude; though for plotting the location of a ship on the oceans, or in general, any place on the earth, you really don't need an altitude. You simply use some map coordinates or latitude and longitude, because the third coordinate (of height or depth) is a given (or set to) whatever the surface of the earth (or the ocean) is at that location (though most of the time, that's definitely not the case for submarines, nor would it be true for all the people in a city with skyscrapers). No matter which system of coordinates one uses for the location of an object or a point in Space from some arbitrary point of origin or in relation to another, there will always and only be three of them.
But what about all those other dimensions we find in 'science' magazines? What are the 4th, 5th, and even 10th dimension that some physicists want us to
believe are real? First, let us return to a phrase we used at the beginning of this essay: The "Space-time continuum" which essentially lumps Time together with Space as the 4th (fourth) dimension of the
Universe! It's only when we consider questions like: 'When did something occur at some vast distance away from us?' and 'Exactly where in the
Universe did light traveling over a huge distance come from?' That we need to take into account the fact that light and all the other electromagnetic waves are not instantaneous; though for most of us on earth, it certainly seems that
way. But those of us who listened to any of the conversations between the men who made it to the moon and NASA, soon realized there was a delay factor in
each response of at least 2-1/2 seconds because the radio waves took that long to go to the moon and back (using a distance of 238,900 miles to the
moon, that would be 477,800 miles/186,282 miles/second = 2.565 seconds). Likewise, light from the sun (roughly 92,960,000 miles from us) takes about
8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach earth, and the light reflecting off Jupiter takes anywhere from about 33 to almost 54 minutes to reach us; depending on
both: 1) The location of Jupiter in its almost 12-year elliptical orbit around the sun and 2) The ever changing position of the Earth in its orbit as well.
We'll conclude this section with the comment: Although we still consider "3-Dimensional Space" as a real aspect of our Universe, it must be noted that Space is not something that has any truly physical existence of its own! The concept of Space exists because human beings exist as 3-dimensional matter separated by varying distances from each other. Thus, it's only because multiple tiny bits of matter or bodies as large as planets or galaxies are separated from each other in all sorts of different "positions"; that is, at differing angles and distances from each other, that we can say they exist in the "Space" we call the physical Universe! To put it as a question: "Would/could Space exist if no physical matter/energy existed?" On the other hand, we might just as well ask: If there was no matter, how could we possibly say that Time itself would exist? So, the most basic aspect of the physical Universe is that something does exist; that some material, matter (and/or physical energy) must exist for there to be a Universe.
This page is still under construction !!!
First published: November 13, 2016.
Updated: November 22, 2016 (2016.11.22);
Last Update: January 5, 2017 (2017.01.05).
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