Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hot Air Balunatic Time Travel

Recently, two scientists Nielsen and Nonomiya came out with what seemed to be a ridiculous theory. The Large Hadron Collider (a massive particle accelerator in Europe referred to as the LHC) has been experiencing significant setbacks to its opening. Between techincal problems, to overheating to even one of its scientists being arrested for connections with Al-Qaeda, it has suffered what appears to be an unnatural string of bad luck. These mainstream scientists (yes, they happen to be mainstream astrophysicists) have proposed that this is actually a sign that the future is traveling back to the past to save us. If not for their reputation, these scientists would have normally been laughed at and marginilized.

The basic concept goes as follows, the LHC should be able to detect a theoretical particle called the Higgs boson. This particle (if it exists) should be part of what gives items mass. If detected, some have argued that its knowledge could have potentially harmful effects and we could inadvertently annihilate ourselves (most scientists still feel that this is a ridiculous assumption). It has been nicknamed "The G-d Particle".

These scientists have concocted a theory that nature has its own protection mechanisms and, therefore, prior to our self-annihilation, it will travel through time to save itself. This concept reminded me of an explanation given to the Tower of Bavel story that is found in last week's parsha, Noach. Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz (Tiferes Yehonasan) mentions that humankind wanted to build a mechanism to transport them to the moon.

(Some rabbanim of recent seem to have misquoted or misunderstood this segment by stating that it proves that NASA's intentions are counter to Torah beliefs. Unless they are quoting from a different peirush of Rav Eibshitz, they state that he is arguing that space exploration is evil because of its haughty nature. A reading of the peirush shows that the evil nature of their spcae travel was that they were trying to escape from G-d and His judgement. These rabbanim also speak of the mechanism as being some complex rocket but, as is clear from the explanation given which I will mention shortly, this is clearly not the case.)

Rav Eibshitz suggests that they wanted to make a large sail (like a hot air balloon) and propel it above the lower atmosphere by means of gunpowder (that is what the "pulver" that he mentions) and then the lighter air would carry them to the moon where they could live without the fear of a deluge since the clouds do not go that high. Obviously, this contraption would not work.

Firstly, the amount of gunpowder necessary to elevate humanity would be enormously large. If they all got on the "ship" and lit the fuse, they probably would have blown themselves up right then and there. Secondly, if they made it afloat, they would have frozen to death when they reached the upper levels of the atmosphere Thirdly, if they somehow got around that, they would have died of asphyxiation when they ran out of enough oxygen. If, somehow, they brought along O2 tanks, and somehow (counter to all rules of physics) continued to float upwards against gravity, they would not have passed through the Van Allen Belts quickly enough and would have died of radiation poisoning. If they somehow made it to the moon, they would have died shortly with no water or resources!!! They were punished for their crime, but the Nielson - Ninomya theory was in effect, because it prevented the extermination of humankind by not allowing for their self-destruction.

Perhaps, if true, the Nielson - Ninomaya theory is actually the bracha that Hashem gave Noach when He said that He would never destroy mankind again (even by means other than a flood see Zevachim 116a). Even though a small portion of humanity would have been left (Avraham Avinu and wife) the vast majority would have perished (perhaps, earning them the biggest Darwin Award ever) and this would have mimicked the destruction of the Mabul with only a few remaining.

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