Alexandria Online

Saturday, March 22, 2014

In the Beginning, there was a Signal

ἐν τῇ ἄρχῃ  ἦν ὁ λόγος -- John 1.1
This well known piece of scripture is commonly translated, "in the beginning, there was the word." However, it's easy to play fast and loose with one of our favorite Greek words, λόγος: word, argument, reasoning, or thought. So I'll go a step further and translate it as "signal." In the beginning, there was the signal.

This week, we seem to have received that signal ( when astronomer John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics made public his research on gravitational waves received by super sensitive telescopes in Antarctica.

In layperson's terms, this odd, subtle, ubiquitous radiation is the signature ripple in space created by the big bang in the very Beginning of beginnings. Cosmologist, Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University, described it this way: "This is a signal from the very earliest universe, sending a telegram encoded in gravitational waves." Signal Number One.

The news has hit the scientific community like a thunderclap. But pause and marvel too at this: that we are here to receive the signal. Signals are only signals when there is both transmission and reception.

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