Humans are wired for ignorance

Humans are wired for ignorance

Imran Jan May 19, 2024
The writer is a political analyst. Email: Twitter @Imran_Jan


Curiosity is driven by the sheer human need to know and understand the truth. As we journey into the depth of understanding, we realise that there is so much that we don’t know. The more we progress, the more ignorance becomes our stubborn shadow.

Answers are viewed as more important than the questions that are born inside the human brain but many have rightly argued that those questions are rather more important than the answers. What is it that we are not wondering about? What is it that we don’t know that we don’t know? What is it that we don’t know to imagine?

I was driving around Houston today and was listening to my favourite radio show called Science Friday with Ira Flatow. They were talking about space, blackholes, dark energy, and the expansion of the universe. Very fascinating topics if you know about them and understand them. However, what I realised was that in everything that humanity has explored and discovered, our super dominant identity in this entire effort is actually ignorance. We know a lot but it is a lot less than what we don’t know.

Blackholes are regions of space usually created by a star that collapses due to its immense weight or after running out of its fuel. It has an immense density from which even light cannot escape. Let me attempt to simplify that notion. When rockets fly up into space from the earth, they do so by flying with a speed more than 40,270 km/h. That is the escape velocity of the earth. At that speed, anything can escape the gravity of earth. The fastest thing in this universe is light. The speed of light is 1,079,252,848.8 km/h. The gravity of a blackhole is so strong that its escape velocity is more than the speed of light. Therefore, light can never leave it. Anyway, back to blackholes; there is not much else known about blackholes as to what happens inside. The equations of Einstein do not work inside blackholes.

Dark energy is the name given to the force in the universe that behaves opposite to how gravity behaves. It pulls the universe apart. Everything in the universe is moving away from each other, especially the intergalactic space is expanding enormously. Many years from now, coming generations may not even see the stars and planets that we are able to see today. Then there is gravity, which we also do not really understand, but gravity somehow is not able to slow down this mysterious expanding force.

Then there is dark matter. It is the black space that we see. The mass of the entire universe as calculated by scientists is contributed to by stars, planets and other known cosmic bodies. But that contribution is about 15% of the universal mass. About 85% of the mass of the universe is made up of this dark matter, which we cannot see and which we do not understand. We only can feel its presence indirectly. Not much else is really understood about it.

Astrophysicists are firm believers that time is a dimension and that the distinction between past, present, and the future is but a stubborn illusion. We are always being born, we are always dying and perhaps in the farthest edges of the universe, copies of us exist and they do exactly what we do. Yes, someone like me is writing this article as I type this and someone like you is reading it as you are right now.

It is believed by scientists that there are possibly 11 dimensions around us. We cannot see or detect them but we can imagine them. Most of humanity’s efforts result in knowing that we don’t know. Some astrophysics, such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, go further and argue that we do not possess the intelligence to make sense of it all. It will take many future evolutions where cognitively far superior beings in a distant future just may understand the mysteries of the cosmos.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2024.

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