Since the time Galileo uttered, “But still, it moves!” when he was forced to declare a stationary Earth, several centuries of scientific discoveries have shown that everything in the universe is in constant movement. Even the gigantic celestial objects, enormous masses that seem to be at a standstill, rush through space at unimaginable speeds.
While you are comfortably sitting in your chair or leaning against a pillow reading this article, you are rotating around the Earth’s axis at a speed up to 1000 miles per hour depending on how far you are from the poles. In addition, our planet is revolving around the Sun, in an orbit 186 million miles wide, at a speed of 67,000 mph. The Sun is taking its planets on a ride around the center of the Milky Way. In turn, the Milky Way, where the Solar System appears as no more than a small dust particle, is retreating from some galaxies and approaching others. For example, the Andromeda Galaxy is getting closer to us at a speed of 200,000 mph. And, even if you know all this, the apparent uniformity and order under which these movements occur enables you to feel at peace and to ignore them.
In distant space, new galaxies are being formed and many others are swallowed by mysterious black holes. Old stars collapse and explode to become supernova, or shrink and become little white dwarfs.
On our home planet which looks like a calm, blue marble from the space, atmospheric conditions from above and the volcanic forces from below cause continuous change in the layout of the continents and the oceans. Again, several centuries of scientific discoveries have shown that the continents are in constant motion, colliding on some fronts, and pulling apart in some other places. The theory of plate tectonics tells us that the continental plates float over the Earth and that when they collide, great mountain ranges (for example, the Himalayas) occur. For similar reasons, the Atlantic Ocean widens by four-tenths of an inch every year.
On the surface of the Earth, volcanoes rise and empty their contents as the building material for new lands. The wind and the rivers erode the soil, leveling the heights or causing deep canyons, slowly but steadily changing the layout of the land.
Animals and plants that sustain life on Earth come into existence and then disappear in lives that range from a few hours to several centuries. The plants recycle the soil and the gases and feed the animals, which return back to the soil when they die.
Your body is renewing itself without you being aware of it. Wounds heal, nails and hair grow. You breathe unconsciously and provide oxygen to blood cells that carry energy and nutrients to each and every cell in your body. The cells multiply for growth and renewal. The body fights against unknown intruders by producing its own medicines. The connections between your brain cells are constantly reestablishing themselves to enable you to understand and react to what you read or experience. Numerous decisions are made in the genes in the billions of cells in your body every moment to produce one or another kind of protein, which ultimately determines how your body functions.
The atoms, the building materials of all living or non-living matter in the universe, interact with other nearby atoms or even with atoms that are millions of light years away, reacting to their gravitational or electromagnetic forces. Atoms are bound to their neighbors, forming strong compounds or breaking bounds and releasing energy.
Even inside a single atom that is seemingly stable, a constant movement and renewal continues. The electrons circle the atomic nucleus at one percent of the speed of light. Even though matter in an atom constitutes a negligible part of the observed volume of the atom, the movements and resulting forces form the illusion of solid matter. When you are looking at a solid rock, are you aware that you are looking at an object that is 99.999999999 % empty? While the electrons continue their restless turn around the nucleus, they jump up and down the energy levels. The electrons seem to disappear from one level and reappear at another level without any continuum in between-hence the term “quantum leap.” When changing levels, electrons emit or absorb photons that are the building blocks of light.
The space-time continuum, first explained by Einstein, tells us that we will not be in the same place or at the same time twice. You will have traveled thousands of miles in the universe by the time you have finished reading this sentence.
In summary, everything in the universe, from the little subatomic particles to gigantic clusters of galaxies, is in a constant state of change.
In all this seemingly chaotic rush, there is a hidden order that keeps everything on course. When astronomers inspect the deep skies, they gasp when observing the beauty of celestial objects, like the nebulae structures recently discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope. On Earth, life continues to function on its course. Your body works until it has fulfilled its expected life span. And, despite all the electrons that are flying, disappearing, and reappearing, the book you left on the desk this evening will be there tomorrow morning-unless you have children at home.
It should be clear that any mishap, even for the slightest moment, might render the universe useless. So, why isn’t everything turning into a chaos of colliding, rotting, disappearing particles? What is the force that sets the harmony in the universe? This is best explained by Said Nursi, who wrote a century ago:
“The Glorious Creator of the universe is Self-Subsistent, that is, He subsists, continues, and endures of Himself. All things subsist and continue through Him, they remain in existence and have permanence. If that relationship of Self-Subsistence was cut off from the universe for even the fraction of a second, the universe would be annihilated.”
- See “The Great Attractor” at http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Cyberia/Cosmos/GtAttractor.html.
- Charles Flowers , Instability Rules: The Ten Most Amazing Ideas of Modern Science, John Wiley & Sons, 1st edition, March 15, 2002.
- See “Complete Coverage of the Hubble Space Telescope” at http://www.space.com/hubble.
- Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said, The Flashes, Sozler Publishing, 5th edition, December 1996.