By: Sonia Schmidt
The idea of space is nearly incomprehensible. The vastness is intangible. The idea that it is ever expanding, from nothingness, into more nothingness, is absurd. Yet scientists pursue this topic with unwavering excitement; the more obscure and quite frankly, terrifying, the better. One of the most valuable, most tested, and most mind-blowing theories that has ever been widely accepted is Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
In short, Einstein’s theory includes the notion that matter distorts spacetime (this concept suggests that space and time exist together, but do not evolve or grow. They just exist, interwoven). Furthermore, the theory proposes that matter interrupts the flow of space and time, creating ripples, ridges, valleys and peaks. Thus, what we think of as gravity, comes from the way space and time have been curved by the presence of the Earth and the sun. His theory allows for the existence of black holes, simultaneously discourages and encourages time travel, and argues furiously with quantum mechanics (the main theories that dominate how we perceive the world, based on what happens at atomic and subatomic levels). Essentially, it’s really freaking incredible.
Besides the fact that the idea of spacetime itself is mind-bogglingly fascinating (and extraordinarily complicated), it also offers insights into philosophies that are often overlooked. Beyond the insane mathematics, spacetime offers the romantic idealist a touch of scientific hope into why they might matter, at least a little bit, in the universe. Given that scientists can use our modern technology to prove that matter does in fact distort time (for example, they have detected that the mass of the sun slightly bends radio or light waves), one can find comfort in the fact that something so intrinsically linked to our lives literally bends the way the universe works. Our little star, in our little galaxy, bends the actual fabric of space and time.
If that doesn’t have you excited, consider this: we can literally see the heaviest objects warping space and time, but what about what we can’t see? If I am matter, am I bending space and time? Making ripples that are small enough that our equipment can’t see? Physicists don’t know the complexity of spacetime, just that it is a continuum (thanks Minkowski) with no beginning and end, completely interwoven. If this idea of spacetime and how matter affects it is as complicated as we hypothesize, then every individual of our human population could be making the tiniest of ripples in the fabric of the universe, including you; who knows, maybe right now we just can’t detect them.
But also, it is important to keep in mind that the perception of what is large and small, or meaningless and important, is completely subjective in itself – self love side note, if it’s a big deal right now in your life, it’s a big deal. Your life relies completely on your experiences, so if you feel like something matters, then it matters. Emotions and experiences are linked, but not weighted on some universal scale. Part of Einstein’s theory states that there is no absolute way to determine how something occurred in time intervals or distances in space, because everything depends on your perspective and physical point of view during the said event. Therefore, according to Einstein, no one can tell you about the extent to which you feel or experience something, given that it is completely based upon your perspective, which is also completely and utterly your own. End of story. Einstein said so.
Just remember, whether you are a star that literally fuels a whole solar system, or one individual amongst millions, you are a part of the little bump, ripple, curve, or knot we are creating in spacetime. And however long Earth’s chapter is, you will always remain a part of its history; beyond your corporeal life, you will have left your mark, however small, on the vast expansion of the universe.