An Artful Universe and A Beautiful Mind – Part 2: The Fireworks of Heaven

artful universe thunder fireworks           EVERYBODY LOVES A GOOD FIREWORKS SHOW. They are a glorious, if ephemeral, art form. A fourth of July celebration is never complete without one. In the middle of April in Louisville, Kentucky, every year there is another enormous fireworks show two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, to kick off the “Kentucky Derby Festival”. Always one of the largest annual pyrotechnic displays in the country, the show launches over 50,000 exploding shells into the night sky in only 30 minutes. For this short but spectacular show the Zambelli Fireworks company spends months in preparation.

artful universe crab nebula            ON JULY 4TH IN A.D. 1054, A NEW “GUEST STAR” WAS OBSERVED in the sky, in the constellation Taurus, by Chinese astronomers. So bright was this object that is was visible during the day for nearly a month and visible at night for over a year and a half. Modern astronomers now know that this “new star” was actually the death of an old one—the massive explosion of a star literally blowing itself apart, called a supernova. This supernova occurred 6,500 light years away, within our own Milky Way galaxy, meaning it had actually exploded 6,500 years beforartful universe orion nebulae it was first observed on Earth. 960 years later this star-burst shell is still expanding as the Crab Nebula.

THE BEGINNINGS OF STARS can be as beautiful and “ah” inspiring as their endings. Star Forming Regiartful universe s106on S106, 2000 light years away and the Orion Nebula, 1300 light years away, are nebulae where new stars are being born.

LOOKING FARTHER—much farther—out into the vastness of space, the universe is filled with the fireworks of galactic pinwheels. The Andromeda Galaxy, our close neighbor at 2 ½ million light years, and the Whirlpool Galaxy at 37 million light years, are beautiful spiral galaxies whose rotational arms enfold billions of stars. There are billions of galaxies in the universe (Here is a good site to see some of them: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/galaxy/spiral/npp/all/).artful universe galaxy andromeda

All galaxies rotate, very slowly from our perspective—just once every couple of hundred million years. Stars form slowly, over millions of years. The whole vast universe was brought into being nearly 14 billion years ago. The eye of man is too fleeting to catch these fireworks of heaven, but not the eye of their Creator. Time, space, and matter, and the laws of the physical universe, came into existence at the will and word of Goartful universe galaxy whirlpoold, and they react, arrange and rearrange according to the fixed decrees of God, in the fantastic unfolding of creation.

FOR GOD’S OWN DELIGHT the fireworks of the expanding universe have unfolded for 14 billion years, spinning out the Crab and Orion, the Whirlpool, Andromeda and the Milky Way, the rings of Saturn and the planet Earth. Imagine if the entire history of the universe were compressed into the space of a 30 minute Zambelli extravaganza! A bit less than 1 ten millionth of a second would represent one year of a fantastic display of starbursts, spinning galactic pinwheels, and a rainbow palette of nebulae. Reason enough, perhaps, for a universe.

BUT BEYOND BEAUTY AND GREATER THAN GLORY, the creation of the cosmos reveals the unfolding love of God. We inhabit a small island in a vast sea of galaxies and stars; the Earth, and all the planets wandering the cosmos, are the cinders left over from the ongoing fireworks of cosmic history. We have arrived in the late third of the life of the universe. The first two thirds were arranged to bring us here.

It can sound as hubris to say that the entire unfolding of the material worldartful universe earthrise was intended to produce one small rocky planet orbiting a rather ordinary star. But we are not great. We are beloved. And our Lover has built us a home. Even atheists have remarked that the Earth and the cosmos that ebbs and floods against its shores look like a fix-up job; imagined, planned, and constructed so that we and the little corner of the world we inhabit can be here, now. The universe is just so, seemingly poised on the edge of chaos. If any of the hundred sets of initial conditions of creation were altered slightly, neither we nor our planet could have existed. Who are we that God is mindful of us? We are the children of an artful, beautiful, and loving Creator.

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About Michael W Nicholson

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband, father, and grandfather, a brother and a friend. My professional career has been in education. I taught Industrial Arts in Middle School for six years, four years as an adjunct professor in theology and philosophy, and fifteen years teaching classes in Old Testament, Apologetics, and Worldviews in a Christian High School. Like everyone else who breathes in American culture, I am infected with chronic postmodernity, but I am aware of this and regularly administer the treatment: Historic Christian Orthodoxy as contained in the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments. I am fascinated by almost every subject imaginable, except economics. I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I believe in a God who wants to be found; who leaves signs and suggestions, trademarks, signatures, and signposts scattered throughout every aspect of our existence. And if we are truly looking, He will find us. God is the great Story-teller, and the story he is telling is the great drama of Reality, unfolding before us and of which we are all inescapably a part. And so I am collecting fragments, in Philosophy, in Science, and in Art and holding these fragments up to the light and turning them this way and that, and trying to see and say how the Story—the metanarrative, the Christian Worldview—is involved in, and makes sense of, every aspect of our being-in-the-world (to borrow a term from Heidegger and take it where perhaps he did not intend for it to go). And by doing this I hope I am helping to light the way Home; back to the sea, the ocean, the Ocean of Infinite Love. My blog covers a wide range of topics around this central theme that the transcendent realm surrounds and permeates our existence. I put up new posts periodically. I hope you enjoy them. I hope they help.
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