All posts tagged: theology

Contemplating the Cosmos: God is Good—at Physics

One of the first questions people ask me, upon learning I am a physics major, is what exactly I study. In an abstract sense, I study the universe—its fundamental particles, forces, and the mathematics used to describe their interactions. Since this is usually still too broad, I describe my particular field of research: nuclear astrophysics. My advisor and I write and run computer code to simulate supernovae, the collapse and subsequent detonation of massive stars. Supernovae, as it turns out, are element factories, taking light elements (hydrogen, helium, carbon, oxygen, etc.) and fusing them together to form heavier elements. In the words of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, “We are all connected, to each other biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe atomically.” We owe our very existence—the elements in our bodies, in the air, and in the soil—to the stars, and to the nuclear physics governing them. But to what—or to Whom—do we owe physics? Any intellectual pursuit must begin with wonder. One of my most profound experiences of this …

Contemplating the Cosmos: An Introduction

I remember that when I was applying to Notre Dame, one of the questions I was asked on my application was this:  “Why should we care about the rings of Saturn?”  That question really intrigued me, and I believe I wrote something along these lines:  If there were no universe surrounding this planet Earth, then human beings would have very little reason to think about their existence and be drawn to contemplation of a reality outside of themselves.  We would be self-enclosed, turned inwards, and greatly lacking in creativity and imagination.  Instead, the existence of Saturn and its rings inspire us to contemplate our place in this vast universe and think about why we are here.  We are invited into a particularity other than our own.  On the other hand, compared with immensity of the ever-expanding cosmos, we feel so small.  We then have to ask ourselves this question:  Do our transient lives matter at all? I often feel overwhelmed by these questions on days when I sit alone on a bench outside and marvel …