Eddington: The Impulses of Evolution

In the year 2017, we seem to have delegated the task of comprehending through observation and exploration of the heavens to a select few with their advanced instruments.

There was a time, at the onset of certain faculties and skills in the human race, one and all humans dedicated their time to the skies of night and day. When the larger ball of fire appeared and we could see clearly around us, the surface of our planet and its intricacies. The smaller disc allowed us just enough, to glimpse the sky beyond the boundaries of our planet. We now recognise it as the science of Astronomy.

Left- Sir Arthur Eddington, right A chart of the 1919 Solar Eclipse Experiment conducted by Eddington to prove Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.

Many scientists have been credited and celebrated for their persistent contributions to the field of Astronomy. One such scientist was Sir Arthur Eddington. With the backdrop of the World War when the world was emotionally torn because of politics and violence. The tension between Germany and England were at their peak. At the same time, a friendship steeped in the pursuit of scientific truth fueled by similar anti-war and humanitarian beliefs was brewing between Sir Arthur Eddington the English Astronomer and the German Physicist Albert Einstein.

Left- Albert Einstein and Right- Sir Arthur Eddington (Picture Source: Google Image Search)

It wasn’t only by chance that Eddington would become the first to conduct an in-depth study of and bring proof for Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity but also by his mastery of the subject of Astronomical Measurement as well as an impartial determination towards the advancement of science.

Einstein had his own symbols which he used to represent physics and mathematics which was one of the first challenges which Eddington overcame and decoded. Along with his immense scientific credibility, Eddington was known for his ability to translate complex scientific data into language understandable by common people.

In his book ‘Science And The Unseen World’ he talks about evolution with the clarity of a man who has observed the skies as his life’s work and can speak of the cosmos as one would about an old friend.

Looking back through the long past we picture the beginning of the world- a primaeval chaos which time has fashioned into the universe that we know. Its vastness appals the mind; space boundless though not infinite, according to the strange doctrine of science. The world was without form and almost void. But at the earliest stage, we can contemplate the void is sparsely broken by tiny electric particles. The germs of the things that are to be; Positively and negatively they wander aimlessly in solitude, rarely coming near.

The Universe’s “baby picture” WMAP’s maps of the temperature of the microwave radiation shows tiny variations (of few micro degrees) in the 3K background. Hot spots show as red, cold spots as dark blue (Source: NASA.gov)

Snapshot from a computer simulation of the formation of large-scale structures in the universe, showing a patch of 100 million light-years and the resulting coherent motions of galaxies flowing towards the highest mass concentration in the centre.

He goes on to talk about the role of played by Gravity in bringing clarity to chaos.

The years rolled by, million after million. Slight aggregations occurring casually in one place and another drew to themselves more and more particles.
Thus gravitation slowly parted the primaeval chaos.
These first divisions were not the stars but what we should call “island universes” each ultimately to be a system of some thousands of millions of stars.
As it had divided the original chaos so gravitation subdivided the island universes. First, the star clusters and the stars themselves were created.

This artist’s conception shows what an invisible “dark star’ might look like when viewed in the infrared light that emits as heat. The core is enveloped by clouds of hydrogen and helium gas. A new University of Utah study suggests the first stars in the universe did not shine but may have dark stars. (Photo Credit: the University of Utah, Picture source: Space.com)

Just as we think that everything would run as rhythmically as clock-work and clarity would govern the rest of the evolutionary process. Eddington informs us otherwise, that the first impulse of evolution had brought chaos back into the picture and infiltrated the core of the Stars which defined the first stages of evolution as a stage of intense heat.

A graph showing the temperature of the intergalactic medium when the universe was between one and three billion years old, overlaid on an artist’s impressions of the emergence of galaxies over the same period. the shaded region shows the range of possible temperatures measured from the team’s data. The warming occurred at a time when the growth of galaxies was in full swing. (Photo credit: Amanda Smith/IoA) (Picture Source: Space.com)

And with the stars came light born of the fiercer turmoil which ensued when the electrical particles were drawn from their solitude into denser throngs. A star is not just a lump casually thrown together in the general confusion; it is of nicely graded size.
Aggregations rather greater than our Sun have a strong tendency to subdivide, but when the mass is reduced a little the danger quickly passes and the impulse to subdivide is satisfied. Here it would seem that the work of creation might cease. Having carved chaos into stars, the first evolutionary impulse has reached its goal.
For many billions of years, the stars may continue to shed light and heat through the world, feeding on their own matter which disappears bit by bit into aetherial waves.

The first primordial stars begin as tiny seeds that grew rapidly into stars one hundred times the mass of our own Sun. Seen here in this artist’s impression, swirling clouds of hydrogen and helium gases are illuminated by the first starlight to shine in the universe. (Photo Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA), Picture Source: Space.com)

A ‘one in a hundred million’ chance encounter was needed to reach an evolutionary stage of cooling off. It is that chance which brought us here, our planet and all its species; something outside Nature’s regular plan.

In the vast expanse of the of the heavens traffic is so thin that a star may reasonably count on travelling for the whole of its life without serious risk of collision. The risk is negligible for any individual star, but ten thousand million stars in our own system and more in the system beyond afford a wide playground for chance. If the risk is one in a hundred millions some unlucky victims are doomed to play the role of “one”.
This rare accident must have happened to our Sun-an accident for the Sun but to us the cause of our being here.
A star journeying through space casually overtook the Sun, not indeed colliding with it, but approaching so close as to raise a tidal wave. By this disturbance jets of matter spurred out os the Sun; being carried round by their angular momentum they did not fall back again but condensed into small globes- the planets.

As we move on to the third and the last-The 92 building blocks and element №6’s contribution to the birth of organic life was another abnormality in nature- and most crucial evolutionary impulse stated in the book we are compelled to further marvel at the fact that we exist at all.

Out of the electric charges dispersed in the primitive chaos ninety-two different kinds of matter- ninety-two different chemical elements- have been built.
In the matter which we handle daily, we find original bricks fitted together and cannot but infer that somewhere and somewhen a process of matter-building has occurred. At high temperatures this diversity of matter remains as it were latent; little of consequence results from it. But in the cool experimental stations of the universe, the differences assert themselves.
The chemical characteristics of element №11 (Sodium) arise from the fact that it has the power at low temperatures of gathering round it eleven negative electric particles; those of №12 (Magnesium) from its power of gathering twelve particles; and so on.
It is tempting to linger over the development out of this fundamental beginning of the wonders studied in chemistry and physics, but we must hurry on. The provision of certain cool planetary globes was the second impulse of evolution, it has exhausted itself in the formation of inorganic rocks and ores and other materials.
We must look to a new exception or abnormality if anything further is to be achieved.
I do not know how otherwise to express the fact that organic life would not have begun if natures arithmetic had overlooked the number 6. The element carbon, embodying the number 6, and because of the peculiarity of the number 6, rebels against limits.
The carbon atoms love to string themselves in long chains such as those whih give toughness to a soap-film. Whilst other atoms organise themselves in twos and threes or it maybe in tens, arbon atoms organise themseles in hundreds and thousands. From this potentially of carbon to form more and more elaborate structure a third impulse of evolution arises.

Though the evolutionary process doesn’t end here, much like me, Eddington prefers to step aside from indulging too much with the domain of biological sciences. Though his choice in the matter comes from a place of information and mine comes from ignorant behaviour. He moves to further investigate the Unseen World and the problems with Man’s relation to it.