yes, we can look back in time

March 30, 2009

After a weekend in which a massive debate erupted in the comment section of a post discussing the merits of giving the Institute for Creation Research the ability to grant master of science degrees, one recurring theme has caught my eye. If to be scientific and objective, we need to observe and experiment, how can we possibly observe our universe and see what happened billions and billions of years ago? Hasn’t time already passed so now everything that we’re saying about how the universe formed and grew just guesswork?

paranal observatory

Well, actually, on the biggest scale of them all, we can observe exactly what happened all those billions of years ago and construct a model based on direct and indirect observations. Light is a stream of photons that travel at 299,792,458 meters per second or 6 trillion miles in a given year. But wait a second here. Something doesn’t add up. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 25.2 trillion miles away. A photon emitted from that star or reflected from anything that lies in its vicinity would take 4.2 years to get here. So when we look at Proxima Centauri, we see light that’s been traveling over four years. And that would mean that we’re seeing the star just as it was when the photons left it and are in effect, looking back at time.

The same concept will also work with the farthest objects in the observable universe, 78 billion trillion miles, or 13 billion light years away. When we look at them, we’re actually looking at the dawn of the universe. Thanks to the basic laws of physics, astronomers have the ability to look into the past and even if they can’t see anything visible to the human eye, they can still detect a wide variety of energies and waves that take as long as light to reach us. Our ability to see into the slow birth of our universe is only limited by our tools and as we keep going, we’ll be able to see and detect more and more, giving us an ever improving idea of what was going on. Maybe, one day, with the right set of tools, we’ll be able to probe down to the Big Bang itself. It’s all just a question of the technology we’ll need and knowing what we should be looking for when we’re aiming our sensors and dial in on the right part of the sky.

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  • Fricken brilliant article. You’re a shepherd shining light upon a miraculous observance that exists in the universe. There is so much out there. Space is big! And Creationists need to do more than have faith that things happen.

    ps {You have a typo, third paragraph “so as we’ll* keep going” .}

  • Amadan

    Ah, but you’re way behind the geniuses in AIG (the scientific fraudsters, not the financial ones) (as far as we can tell, anway). Y’see, the’ve got a guy with a PhD (OK, it’s in Christian Plumbing, but that’s not important) and he says the speed of light has been slowing down since God waved his wand, so all that light that looks like it must be a gazillion years old is really just a few thousand years old!

    Only a kitten-strangling baby-barbecuing atheist would point out that the only way to measure a change in the speed of light in this universe would require you to observe it from another universe. Or that a change of light in one place that doesn’t affect another place would blow the living crap out of all those atoms & stuff. Go say your prayers instead.

    Anyway, good God-fearin’ folk don’t need to worry about all that science stuff. Least of all kids in skool. All them science jobs are going to India anyway, and they worship an elephant with twenty arms and freakin’ laser beams on his head! Says so in the Bible, God’s honest truth…

  • Amadan

    Sorry! Atheist glitch in the submission button.

  • Greg Fish

    Funny enough there is a theory that the speed of light has changed during the inflation period at the very beginnings of the universe and that’s been derived on the basis of math and observations about how much the universe swelled since the Big Bang over a few hundred thousand years.

    All told, this may change the total age of the universe by 100,000 to 300,000 years if it becomes an accepted theory and for a 13.7 billion year old universe that’s not even a rounding error.

  • millie

    hii. dont like the site thing. ugh.. sucks

    i loove it tho. =D

  • millie

    hey… um great site sorry i have issues but i really want to go back in time i miss my cat jack he died 2 years ago (sigh) :D.. CRY…

    also.. i feel as tho. this site has helped me to remember the good times with jack =D

    Thank you !

    i apreciate the kind thoughts that u have given too meee.