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Our Universe: A Journey Into Mystery

Our Universe: A Journey Into Mystery

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Our Universe: A Journey Into Mystery

283 pagine
4 ore
Oct 1, 2018


Like all books on the subject, Our Universe is full of images of exploding stars and colliding galaxies. There are powers and distances beyond human comprehension. Darkness surrounds us as we discover most of this place we live in is not available to our eyes and senses.
It's all very nice, but you want more than just another "science on parade" book. There is a much more profound story hidden in the beautiful images spread over the scientific literature. Everything known to us comes from the Universe. If this is correct, can the Universe answer questions about meaning and purpose?
The answer is, yes. In the past 25 years, we have learned more about the Universe than in all recorded history. This explosion of knowledge is due to three disruptive forces: the personal computer, the Internet and the great space and land-based telescopes. It is now possible to tell the story of the Universe in 21st-century language and images that any interested layman can follow.
Using these tools, the secrets of this strange place are being laid bare. The Universe is ready to answer our questions. We are prepared to listen.
I pose three questions for the Universe to answer. Who am I? What is our home? What is the purpose of my life? It's a tall order for any book.
Our Universe uses the vehicle of science and the different ways humans know reality to allow the reader to answer these personal questions. We'll follow threads of connectedness from here and now back through time and space to the beginning, in the Big Bang. There lie the answers.
These threads are woven into a tapestry showing the Universe in all its glory. We don't know everything, but we know enough. The way forward is clear. The journey is from where we are now back in time to the beginning and perhaps a moment before, to what I call the Mystery.
This is the story I always wanted to write. It is the story hopefully, you are looking to discover.
Oct 1, 2018

Informazioni sull'autore

Jeff Jones is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church North in Plano, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Church-Based Training.

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Anteprima del libro

Our Universe - Jeff Jones

To Rick. Thanks for everything.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1 - Deception

Chapter 2 - Are We Alone?

Chapter 3 - The Habitable Zone

Chapter 4 - Earth

Chapter 5 - Mars

Chapter 6 - Beyond Goldilocks

Chapter 7 - Interstellar Space

Chapter 8 - Stars

Chapter 9 - Star Death

Chapter 10 - Galaxies

Chapter 11 - Expansion of the Universe

Chapter 12 - Big Bang

Chapter 13 - From Head to Heart



There are so many people involved in writing a book. I never knew it was such a cooperative project. Although my name is on the cover, there are others, just as significant who gave advice, criticism and encouragement along the way.

First, I would like to thank all the unwitting souls who came to my classes on the Universe and lent their wisdom and questions. They probably don’t know how helpful those conversations were. Then, thanks to my writer brother Rick. His writing is far better than mine. He held his tongue during the formation of this project as I sent many poorly written copies for his approval. His wise counsel was, get a professional editor. I took him up on his advice.

My editor Lynn Skapyak Harlin kicked my butt every day. She was unrelenting in trying to make me into a semblance of a writer. If I have succeeded in telling the story of the Universe, it is because of her efforts. Any failings are mine alone. One side effect is that I turned her into a science nerd. I think she is hooked on the message of the stars.

My daughters Amanda and Erin are tired of hearing about the book. Seems like it was always ready to be published in a week or so. Here it is. It contains a message for everyone, especially children. I thank them for being the strong loving women they are.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife of 50 years, Polly. She has put up with many hours of me being holed up in my writing cave. I think she was secretly glad for the peace and quiet. She also spent many hours listening to the story and reading it aloud checking for ease of reading. She is the love of my life and I cherish every moment with her.

I would also thank the Universe for allowing me to share her story. She seldom speaks in words and it took me 60 years to understand her language. I think the effort was worth it.

At Christmas, I try to give our grandkids a challenge. Last year I asked them to distill their wisdom into a sentence or two to be included in Our Universe. Here is what they have to say:

West (age 15)- Work hard at everything you do and have fun while you do it.

Sarah Anne (age 13)- Although it may be confusing, annoying or hard, your parents know what they are doing. They have lived something like this before.

Robert (age 13)-Never give up and if you fail try again.

Whit (age 13)- Life is not fair. It’s equal, everyone has 24 hours a day and air to breathe. You chose how to use your time.

Zach (age 10)- Never give up. Always give 110% no matter what you are doing.

Kate (age 4)- I love to dance.

Our Universe

A Journey into Mystery

Fig. I-1

Bubble Nebula WR 31a

Credit: NASA, ESA Heritage Team


Our Universe will be a journey of exploration. Too often it is presented as a recitation of facts and figures with no connection to our lives on Earth. Knowing the mass of Jupiter or what happens when black holes collide will not help the reader discover a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. This book is different.

Most books on the Universe disappoint me. They are full of unrelated data and images and placed in a blender. The resulting concoction is thrown against a wall and we, the readers, are supposed to make sense of the disorder. No attempt is made to connect the story to our lives. Our questions are left unanswered and we are unsatisfied.

If you want a conventional Science on Parade book with no attempt to construct a meaningful, personal story of the Universe, this is not it. You picked this book because you want more. You want to know how this story and its powerful images are linked to you and your life here on Earth. At the end of Our Universe, hopefully, you will know at least three things: who you are, the nature of your home and the purpose of your life. It’s a tall order.

The Universe is always our ultimate teacher. At times, the lessons are direct and to the point. Jump off a cliff and the results are the same for a king or a pauper. The teachings are subtler at times. How a distant supernova detonating billions of years ago, impacts our lives makes a fascinating tale.

Voyages of exploration are full of adventure and the unknown. There are challenges which baffle the mind and no trip into uncharted territory is without danger and a sense of fear. Our palms should be sweaty and knees weak. Girded with curiosity and strength, we are prepared. The story awaits us.

Listen to the soft voice of the Universe and follow the trail she has blazed in the sky. These flickering lights lead us into her very heart. It is a place that answers our most profound questions.

Following the path takes courage and a willingness to evolve into creatures conscious of the wonders of the Universe. The reward is worth the effort. You will be changed.

If you are intrigued, Our Universe may be the book you always sought to read. It is the book I always wanted to write.

The Author 

Our Universe was written to tell her story. These pages reveal a lifetime of study and wonder about the nature of the place we call home. It is my privilege to present her tale in a way accessible to any interested layman.

I am not a professional scientist but a retired physician/surgeon, who has a lifelong passion for science and the Universe. Like most readers, I am an amateur, one who loves their subject and studies for the joy and fulfillment it brings.

My interest in science began at around age 10 or 11. Growing up in the 50s, science was making great strides in medicine, nuclear power, jet travel and almost all fields of inquiry. These were heady times. Science held out a bright if unrealistic future for mankind. The prospect of a life free of poverty, disease and ignorance was too much to disregard. I was intoxicated. Science seemed to say, if I knew enough, the questions swirling in my head would magically be answered. I was naïve.

One of my first science books was The Golden Book of the Solar System or something similar. It was full of drawings and fuzzy photographs of planets, moons and asteroids. Each picture was accompanied by narratives of the mysteries to be found beneath the fuzz.

Venus was shrouded in clouds. Surely hidden below the opaque barrier was a tropical climate teeming with all manner of dripping flora and fauna. Mars had canals connecting futuristic cities and was the home planet of an advanced civilization. It was filled with aliens whose eyes were set on conquest of Earth. 

My child-like imagination was stoked with all the possibilities. There were few facts to get in the way. Everyone must start somewhere and the Golden Book was my beginning. It was short on knowledge but long on imagination, just what I needed at such a young age.

As I grew up, an uncomfortable realization crept into my worldview. Science is limited. There were warnings I hadn’t picked up. Such as the use of science for the destruction of life and Earth, or the rose-colored glasses through which progress was seen. Science needed boundaries or limits to keep from plunging into its destructive shadows. I had no answers. What I needed was beyond the borders of science.

Anything limited has boundaries. For science, it is where measurement and experimentation end. Strangely, science loses interest past this arbitrary point. It then arrogantly implies inquiry beyond this self-imposed limit is a useless endeavor. I would suggest past these restrictions are where things get interesting.

The first concrete realization of the limits of science was during my residency training. I was instructed to turn off the respirator on a hopelessly deformed, deathly ill newborn child. The life of this small baby was beyond anything we could handle. Science was mute. My scientific training had nothing to say. I was over my head.

Perhaps it was this encounter with the finality of death that made me look past what little I knew about the limits of medicine and science. With that one tragic event, an entire world opened for me. This aspect of experience, past the boundaries of rational thought, I came to call the Mystery. I had no other name for it. It is a realm beyond the capabilities of science and not a puzzle to be solved with enough effort and information.

As the years passed, these ill-defined boundaries and the Mystery beyond became more noticeable, appearing everywhere. I found my curiosity more piqued by the terrain past the border than what went before. It is a place where science is silent and has nothing to offer.

Science is a powerful way of looking at reality, part of the whole but not the entire picture. I found truth in the old saying, There is more to the Universe than meets the eye.

After my residency, I owed the Navy two years and they sent our family to the island of Guam. There wasn’t much medicine to practice and my free time was occupied by scuba diving and helping raise our two daughters. Our youngest daughter is a Guamanian, one of the few with red hair. After my two-year stint, I was ready to work and joined a multispecialty group medical practice in Virginia. Almost thirty years later I retired from the same clinic.

A career in medicine is an excellent way for the Universe to teach her lessons. The first lesson was, I wasn’t in charge. No matter how hard I tried or how well I performed, often things didn’t go according to my plan.

The second lesson was, all my patients were going to die one day, as was their physician. We don’t cure anyone. The best we can do is delay the inevitable and try and improve the quality of a person’s life.

The third lesson came while I was working in a free clinic. Even when the consequences of a patient’s actions were spelled out, they would almost always choose to ignore my wisdom on how best to live their lives. The message was, the medical profession doesn’t create health. Health is more a state of mind than the absence of disease.

During the early years of my practice, I met an Episcopal priest who was also a Buddhist. He became my spiritual director for over twenty years. To this day I am not sure I understood five percent of what he said. I kept going back and he kept listening to my babbling. Through this relationship, I learned to keep silence. One of the most enduring lessons of my life.

The Universe doesn’t tend to shout its truth. Sometimes you must be silent and listen. I continue listening to this day and it has been one of the Universe’s treasures.

Now I am retired and live in North Georgia with my wife of almost 50 years. The story of Our Universe and its teachings are important to me. I hope to spend the rest of my time bringing this story into public awareness. Her lessons are profound and life-changing.

The Story

The Universe may be 13.8 billion years old but the story of its evolution and its implications are less than 25 years old. All these tools: the computer, Internet, the great Earth and space telescopes and other instruments are brand new. Astounding wonders have been revealed, as the Universe has opened herself to our searching eyes. Virtually everything is available, in the comfort of our homes, with a computer and the Internet.

Starting off, I was probably like the reader. There were images in magazines and the Internet along with a never-ending stream of articles about the various wonders of the Universe.  While fascinating, it wasn’t a coherent whole. The information presented a disjointed story with no connection to our daily lives. The previous story was full of colorful pictures, vast distances and astounding powers. There was no thought of the Universe having the capacity to teach us lessons about the meaning of our existence.

After a lifetime of study, I was lost, with a head full of disconnected information. I couldn’t tell what, if anything, all this meant. Was there any purpose to the Universe or my life?  Where did I belong? What did the Universe have to say about who I am?

The opportunity arose for me to teach a course to adults titled Finding Your Home in the Universe over a six-week period. The discipline of preparing a course forced me to organize these facts and images into a coherent story. The result surprised me. I thought I knew the story but having to prepare a course and teach made me realize how unready I was.

The first time, the course was more of a Science on Parade story. I presented some of the impressive images and videos we have all seen. I tried to inject some coherence into the storyline about the workings of the Universe. How these pieces were connected and related to our lives was still unclear.

The questions these adult learners posed, were both scientific and beyond what I expected. Many were outside the boundaries of science. I was surprised. There was as much interest in the meaning of the story as to the details of the science. They were venturing far beyond the original design of the course. 

The second time I gave the course was different. It was as if someone had turned on the lights. It became clear the Universe was revealing herself in a way full of connectedness and meaning. Enough of the pieces have been exposed to decipher this new narrative and guide us to a satisfying conclusion. Each step of the way is documented and ready to be experienced by the reader. The account of Our Universe is non-fiction.

The ground is littered with threads of connectedness. They lie in tangles and knots and don’t seem to lead anywhere. Our Universe will hopefully untangle the clutter and show the reader how to follow these strong fibers to a meaningful conclusion. They track from where we are now back to the beginning of time.

For the first time in human history, enough is known to trace our ancestry through space and time. Going from the present to the instant of creation in the Big Bang and perhaps a bit before, the story is ready to be told. It is one of intimate science, universal connectedness and personal meaning.

Our Universe is waiting to transport us on A Journey into Mystery.

Chapter 1


Fig. 1-1

ARP 147

Credit: NASA, ESA, M Livio

Where Is Everything?

Space is vast, far beyond what humans are familiar with in their daily lives. Here on Earth, distances measured in miles or kilometers works fine. When considering the remoteness of the nearest stars, the number expressed in miles or kilometers is challenging to write. The zeros would fill the page. Space is so immense; distances are best measured by how far light travels in an interval of time.

There is a universal limitation; information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. There is no way around it. The Universe has put a limit on how fast things can move relative to one another. Due to Einstein’s concepts of relativity, the speed limit is only valid in a local framework. Meaning you will never measure a car or rocket ship zipping by you at more than the speed of light. 

Light, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, travels at a constant velocity in a vacuum. These are usually rounded off to 186,000 mps (miles/second) and 300,000 km/s (kilometers/second).

Distance is defined as the product of speed and time. The moon is about 1.3 LS (light-seconds) from Earth. Multiply the speed of light times time and you get about 241,000 miles (385,000 km). Continue outward to our nearest stellar neighbor Alpha Centauri, 4.3 LY (light-years) away. Figuring the distance in miles comes to 24.5 trillion miles (39 trillion km). When dealing with cosmological distances, it is easier to deal with light-time.

Some distant galaxies are moving away from us at faster than the speed of light. It may come as a shock to us when our whole lives we have been told nothing can go faster. The apparent contradiction is not a glitch in Einstein’s thoughts on Special Relativity. Instead, it is because the space between galaxies is expanding. The rate of the expansion of space is not limited to this cosmic speed limit. As a result, some galaxies appear to be moving away from us faster than light.

The Universe is much more subtle and strange than most of us imagine. Here on Earth, the distances are short and things are perceived as happening instantly. When looking at an apple, we recognize it now, immediately, in our time frame. There is no time lag in the view of the fruit and our perception of it. Its image seems instantaneous. The apple’s location and existence are assured.

This view is not correct. There is a time lag even at short distances but it’s so small as to be inconsequential. If the apple is close by, there is still a delay between when light bounces off its skin and the time it enters our eye. The pause is always present and it means you are looking at the apple as it was in the past.

An apple 10 feet (3 meters) from you, is seen as it was roughly a billionth of a second in the past. It’s not much of a delay and nobody would notice but it’s still there and measurable. It can’t move far in that tiny fraction of a second and its existence isn’t in question either. So, we perceive we are in the same time frame as the apple. For all practical purposes in daily life, we are.

On Earth, with short distances, it works well but we are citizens of the Universe. Our perception must expand if we are going to understand and not be deceived, by how things work over the vast distances of space.

If the apple were 1 LY (light-year) from us, the certainty of its location and state would be in doubt. By state I mean whether its condition has changed. The light reflected off the fruit is one year old by the time we see it. It has also traveled 6 trillion miles (9.6 trillion km) through space to our eye. Since the light is a year old, there is no certainty of where it is or whether it still exists. The information on the apple is one year old and may be out of date with reality.

A giant worm could have moved or eaten it. The apple could now be in a different place or gone altogether. Its condition and location wouldn’t be known for a year. There is no way around this limitation.

When getting to unfamiliarly vast distances, even in our solar system, light takes a significant time to travel from one place to another. The notion of a time lag in communication or knowledge of a distant object’s condition is difficult to accept. 

A signal sent halfway around the Earth takes about 0.06 seconds to get to its destination. We’d hardly notice. Communicating with spacecraft or astronauts over great distances presents problems. The delay in communication has real-life consequences.

As a newly space-faring people, there are real challenges to the

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