Celestial Palace


Let me take you to the celestial palace in my mind.

My celestial palace is platformed among glowing threads of nebulae. A stunning array of black-iridescent spherical spaceships suspended on gravitational waves perimeter the palace. Instead of a balcony, a space elevator glistens above the stardust haze. Holographic flowers and lampposts sourced by man-made stars line the gleaming walkway. As I stride upward, illuminated moonstone panels, activated by my specific presence, rise up on either side of me to direct my path to the entrance.  Beyond the geometrical archway hangs a galactic map where green dot-lights indicate life-bearing globes and blue and purple dot-lights indicate other conditions. I tap one of my nails with my thumb to open the ferrofluid-coated doors since my nail polish is coded to read my thumb’s fingerprint and signal unlocking the door. Likewise I press a button-like jewel on my earring to begin activation of the star-laboratory, the sole way it can be activated. These are just extra precautions. The totality of the palace is quasi-invisible and is made visible when I near the palace coordinates and scan my palm across space because detectors on the dynamic palace walls read the unique line patterns on my palm. I touch the velvet galaxy symbol on the chest of my neoprene shell to synchronize the lights with my pulse location for energy conservation. As the vacuum chamber comes into view beyond a secondary set of nanocrystal doors, I joke to myself, “So glad I don’t have to sacrifice my style in order to be space-bound savvy…”

Whoops… wrong celestial palace.

In terms of our meaning-seeking, the celestial palace we really want is a “mandala” of the cosmos that embodies our understanding of our place in the universe. Buddhists have palace-mandalas to symbolize their map of their spiritual cosmos and locate the place of themselves and their leaders in that cosmos. The mandala is thus a building that stands as a framework for reality. Our scientific-cosmological mandala is much younger than the Buddhist ones, but quite sturdier in its reality-infrastructure. Science is still in the process of building our celestial palace.

We need the cosmic mandala, the celestial palace. We need to see how and where we fit in the picture of the universe and then make that picture as tangible as possible, hence the construction of a “palace.” Perhaps the closest science can come to a physically analogous Buddhist mandala is a good planetarium show. But a mandala is really a map and that’s what we need– a reality-map indicating the human coordinates in time and space. And that’s exactly what science wants to build. Indeed, one of the big questions astronomy is really after is:

Where are we?! … Where and what is our home in the cosmic panorama? In no way have we finished answering that question.

We experience every day with a secured sense that we are living out our lives on some sort of a stable milieu. Not the case, at all. Planet Earth zooms around our solar magnetic fireball at 30 kilometers per second– that’s faster than a speeding bullet or the world record’s fastest rocket sled!! And the Sun is rushing around the galaxy at about 200 kilometers per second– that’s faster than the fastest man-made object! The opalescent Milky Way itself is hurtling towards the Andromeda galaxy at 80 kilometers per second for an inevitable cosmic crash… A chaotic bee hive seems a more apt description of our reality than a steadfast terra firma. So much for emotional stability.
Less than one hundred years ago, we could not answer the “where are we” question to much extent. This is because we didn’t understand what a galaxy was or if there were others and hence couldn’t even say of what the universe is made!! Wow, how lucky we are to be in the instance of human history that’s starting to draw out the chart of existence. And that chart is transpiring into something slightly insane… Yes, we live on a speeding-bullet planet, on a faster-moving Sun in a system of hundreds of billions of stellar and planetary neighbors that’s whirling through the cosmos at ridiculous rates. But there are also hundreds of billions of other star-embellished paisleys called galaxies that fill the cosmic jewel box that is the universe. It’s preposterous. There are more stars, planets, and galaxies looming in the universe than our brains can really register. What’s more, the vastness of vacuumic space separating galaxies is so dauntingly gargantuan that our animal synapses can barely begin to imagine it. Yet the vastness swells as I write because of the acceleration of the cosmic expansion. And there’s nothing “outside” of the universe because the Big Bang itself sprouted time and space. Unless… there were other Big Bangs, in which case we live in the Multiverse, a stellar landscape of bountiful bubble universes. The Multiverse is not science fiction. If another universe touched ours or interacted with ours then we could detect it’s eerie existence. Some cosmologists think we’ve already found evidence of this!
Our celestial palace is something … absurd. And we are immersed in the absurdity. It can only get more absurd from here on out.
So, we’ve put ourselves on the map. But gosh, we don’t have any idea how far the map should stretch… We’re the cosmic Columbus in this flicker of earth history. We know where one green dot lies on the galactic map. But that’s it, we’ve only started. We’ve only just quasi-realized ourselves. Time to set sail on the wild waters of the cosmic oceans.
. . .

As gravitational waves rushed up around her feet at the space-dock, she slowly scanned the celestial palace with her palm, reinitializing invisibility…


Stellar Story


The cosmo-evolutionary story of humanity is so lunatic-inducing you’d think there was a wizard at work, weaving and warping the cosmic embroidery. Instead, the cosmos is sculpting us into it’s very own wizards… So let us unroll the story of the earth-inhabitants that science and society have been painstakingly piecing together for centuries.

Humans are keen on stories. Especially stories about themselves. We find stories about us meaningful in part because they make us integral parts of a plot about the world… and we want, we need, to feel that integration. Religion, the meaning monarch, is for the most part a mosaic of stories. A fabricated framework, however, might be very aesthetic, but when it starts to fragment at intersection with truth-fringes, it’s not so optimal. There’s nothing fabricated about the human story I’m about to tell you.

A creation story this is not. There is no wicked physics-architect behind the curtain of the cosmos waving a wand into the workings of nature. Ah, but please don’t be disappointed. The universe is doing something much, much more fantastic – creating itself with nothing other than itself. Even more magnificently absurd – it used a nonexistence to sprout an existence, a vacuum to generate everything-ness. The cosmos manipulated non-time and non-space into time and space… Talk about constitutive absence!

It’s unbelievable, unfathomable, ludicrous to us. But we’re just animals weighed down by all of our biological needs, desires, and fatigues. We shouldn’t expect finite mammal minds to truly grasp how the laws of the universe molded nothingness into the all. We are not evolutionarily built to understand such towering cosmic endeavors. But we can try.

… How did the primordial void of the cosmos transform into trillions and trillions of solar systems? And how did we go from solar system to society? How did the patterned complexity on every level of existence—from spiraling galaxy and coiling DNA to shimmering peacock feather and swarms of geometric diatoms to the innumerable gods of the Ancient Egyptians and the technological web of cities that currently veils our globe—originate?

Remarkably, the inherent disposition behind a handful of elements gave the green light for the emergence of myriad designs of nature. Through a cosmic-evolutionary process, the atoms that formed in the Big Bang now reside in chambered nautilus seashells, in human brains, in laptop computers. A string of proliferating symmetry breakings has allowed the ornate order of nature to proliferate in time and to overpower the pile-up of disorder in the universe.

But that didn’t quite answer it… just how does this cosmic-evolutionary process do it all? How is it possible that we are experiencing this present instance on a stardust-particle-planet abound with teeming life, human civilization, and night’s cosmic window to it all? The fluctuant kaleidoscope of beautiful-being in life, humanity, and cosmos was born from the combined ramifications of many self-manifesting masterminds of nature; symmetry breaking, emergence, evolution, the three great phase transitions (of matter, life, and consciousness), spontaneous self-organization, contingency, the availability of free energy to flow through open systems, the fine-tuned parameters of the cosmos, and the tug-of-war between entropy and negentropy… Witnessing all these nature-geniuses operating in symbiosis, we suspect the prevalence of a looming cosmic aura indicating that there is a “deep, inner creativity woven into the very fabric of nature” that drives existence to its current heights of compounded splendor.


Ok, that’s some of the general “how” in how it’s even conceivable that I’m here typing this. Let us push on with the plot.

The cosmos began with a mere hive of buzzing photons and currently contains self-aware beings with brains firing billions of electrical pulses that are trying to crack the mystery case of the cosmos… Our goal here is to unravel the elevations of awe in that miracle.

The primordial cosmic morph from radiation to matter umbrellas the first great rung in the ladder of cosmic evolution and the first great phase transition of actuality. Photons from the Big Bang mingled to manufacture the very first matter in the cosmos in the form of electron-positron pairs. This tremendous cosmic stride emerged due to a symmetry-breaking, structure shift – the inhomogeneities in the early universe that transpired due to gravitational instability… In short, light remodeled itself into matter!

Huh. So, light, that resplendent dimension of reality that we are relentlessly interacting with, has the potential to bump itself up a level into matter?!  Makes you wonder what consciousness is capable of bumping itself up to…

Space and time make some things more possible than others. So what is it about the physics of our universe that allows you to be here reading about my love of the cosmos? Let us ponder some of the crucial constants of physics that encase the core reason that you are conscious and breathing at this moment. If the force of gravity was a few magnitudes stronger—human skeletons would collapse and no creatures greater than a few inches tall could emerge. The quantity of nuclear efficiency, e—0.007—governs the longevity of stars, but if e was greater by 0.001 then no hydrogen would have remained after the early universe and thus no water or life could form. If e differed by 0.001 less, helium would not be able to form because neutrons and protons could not bond through such weak nuclear interaction. Such a universe would be simply a soup of hydrogen and no planets would exist… So the universe is fine-tuned for us? Is this a mistake? What’s going on?

Let us consult the Multiverse…

… Unfortunately for these purposes, the story of the cosmos is a little bit longer than other tales you’re probably familiar with. About 13.7 billion years longer that is. That means we’ll have to return to our stellar story in a future cosmic blink to come. But don’t worry, I promise I’ll come back to why you, and not some hocus-pocus agent behind the screen of the space-time continuum, are the wizard of the cosmic wavelength.