Monday, February 26, 2007

134)"Pillars of Creation" or "Fingers on the Hand of God"; take your pick.

The following image from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website, appropriately titled "Pillars of Creation", has become one of the most famous astronomical pictures of modern times:


Picture 1) is a close-up of extremely dense finger-like projections within the Eagle Nebula, which is a collection of matter made up of dust, debris and atoms of mainly hydrogen gas. To observe where these finger-like projections are situated in the big picture, look at picture 2):


If you draw a line from the center of picture 2) towards 4 o'clock, you will pass right through what looks like "Fingers on the Hand of God". This is not an entirely inappropriate description because within these densely-packed fingers, which are light years or tens of trillions of kilometers long, brand new baby stars are fashioned or "composed", to use the word of 10th century Ismaili Muslim cosmologist Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani. When matter congregates with such density, individual particles attract one another with increasing force of gravity, one of the four forces of nature discovered so far. As the matter gets more and more progressively packed together in smaller spaces, the pressure, kinetic energy and temperature of the system increases. When the temperature increaes to millions and millions of degrees the strong nuclear force, another one of the four forces of nature, which holds protons and neutrons together inside the atomic nucleus, is breached, causing individual atomic nuclei of hydrogen to fuse together to form helium nuclei. Eventually helium nuclei fuse together to form carbon nuclei and so on and so forth. This is the process of nuclear fusion and vast amounts of energy are released outward to eventually balance the inwardly attractive gravitational force that started the reaction in the first place. This is how our glorious 5 billion year old sun operates in equilibrium as it reaches the half-way point in its 10 billion year expected life expectancy. Eventually, the hydrogen atoms used as nuclear fuel will start to deplete, the equilibrium will be shattered, the outward expansion force will overcome the inward gravitational attraction and the star will start to expand and heat up even further("red giant") until it becomes a supernova and explodes, only to fling out and seed the universe with its load of newly-synthesised carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc, of which we and all other living systems are made.

Reference to the Quranic "Hand of Allah", an anthropomorphism of immense symbolic significance, finds its way into the daily prayers of Ismaili Muslims worldwide but that is another story altogether.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3