FROM THE “BIG BANG” TO PROTONS, NEUTRONS AND ELECTRONS—PARTICLE PHYSICS

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

BEGINNING PONDERINGS:

Beginnings can be rough, and the start of the Big Bang is a reminder of that:

  • Have you ever been so “hot” (angry) that you can’t see straight? Calming down can make a big difference and allow things to literally settle, right?  There is an interesting parallel with the production of the fundamental particles and subsequent generations of matter from itself…
  • Similarly, have you ever felt “crowded” in a space, or backed into a corner? Again, if you can get a little space (a.k.a. experience a little expansion), things won’t seem so dense and jumbled.  Matter needed space to come emerge from energy and organize itself into more complex structures!
  • Yes, the order of matter came in stages. With particle physics, the building blocks did come together, creating exciting possibilities along the way, provided there was enough space and relative calmness (in terms of temperature)!
  • Reflect on how your unbridled anger has prevented your consideration of community!

 

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE PONDERINGS:

FROM THE “BIG BANG” TO FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLES—PARTICLE PHYSICS I

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In the 1920’s scientists were working out the implications of Einstein’s work on general relativity from the previous decade.  In 1929, Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, observed the light from newly-discovered galaxies and discovered it was red-shifted, that is to say, the observed energies were less than expected, shifted towards the relatively lower energy red and away from the higher energy violet light. (This is essentially a light-version of the more familiar Doppler effect associated with sound.  Think of a passing ambulance who siren sounds higher-pitched as it approaches you and then lower-pitched after it passes and is receding away from you.)  These observations are consistent with an expanding universe, which Belgian astronomer and mathematical (theoretical) physicist George Lemaître had proposed in the year 1927 when he obtained his Ph.D. from MIT. (Independent parallel work was done by the Russian mathematican Alexandr Friedman around 1922.) Einstein was cautious about the consequences proposed from these works.

A few years later Lemaître proposed his “hypothesis of a primordial atom” as he began to consider the consequences of reversing the timeline to ask, “What might cause an expanding universe?” Today we know this idea popularly as the “Big Bang” theory, originally a disparaging name given by an early critic of Lemaître’s theory, fellow astronomer Fred Hoyle.

In the beginning according to science was the “Big Bang.”  Now this idea may sound like it is against or opposes theology, but I can assure you it does not.  Did you know that George Lemaître was also a Jesuit priest, who saw no conflict between science and religion?

The beginning of the Big Bang was necessarily hot.  Consider all the known energy (and future matter) of the universe confined to an extremely small space.  We don’t know what the very beginning was like, but we can work out what probably happened once things started.  The production of fundamental (a.k.a. elementary) particles happened in the first millionth of one second as the universe cooled down to 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000 = 1012) Kelvin (K).

Reader’s Note:  Based on our current though necessarily incomplete understanding, there are two types of fundamental, or elementary, particles in physics: fermions, associated with matter itself, and bosons, associated with the interactions between matter.  These later particles are associated with the more familiar gravitational and electromagnetic forces, and the perhaps less familiar strong and weak nuclear forces.  The Higgs boson is related to the idea of mass…

http://palaeos.com/cosmos/primordial/images/birth_of_Universe.jpg

  • Planck Epoch: At the start all 4 forces (gravity, electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear) are assumed to be combined by the yet unconfirmed supergravity theory. The initial temperature was around 1032  There was only energy and no matter yet.
  • Grand Unification Epoch: At 10-43 s, gravity split off from the other three forces, making the Grand Unified Force and gravitons.  The universe was still unbelievably hot, 1029
  • Inflationary Epoch: At 10-36 s, as the initial temperature dropped to only 1028 K, a second fundamental force, the strong nuclear force, separated from the others, leaving the only electroweak force in a unified state.  Consequently, from 10-33 s to 10-32 s, the known universe expanded, by a factor of 1026 (!), to the size of a grapefruit.  The first particles, quarks and leptons were produced at this time. Remember E = mc2.
  • Electroweak Epoch: At 10-12 s, as the electroweak force split in the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces, it made numerous W and Z bosons and Higgs bosons, mediating the weak nuclear force and mass, respectively. The fundamental particles were a plasma of independent quarks in a sea of gluons which was distributed through the “grapefruit” universe. Leptons split into electrons/positrons and neutrino/anti-neutrinos at this time.  Temperature: 1014
  • Quark Epoch: Shortly after the electroweak epoch until 10-6 s, that is in most of latter part of the first millionth of a second, two types of leptons, electrons and neutrinos, were formed as the temperature continued to decrease to around 1012  At this relatively cooler temperature, the electromagnetic and weak forces finally separated forming now a total of four separate forces.  The energies are still too high for the quarks to combine into hadrons like protons and neutrons.
  • By the end of the first millionth of a second, there were
    • 24 types of fermions
      • six are called quarks: up and down, charm and strange, top and bottom.
      • six are called leptons: the electron and its neutrino, the muon and its neutrino, and the tau and its neutrino.
      • six more are anti-quarks.
      • the last six are anti-leptons.
    • 4 types of gauge bosons associated with each of the forces in the universe
      • (The graviton associated with gravity is proposed but is yet to be found.)
      • gluons (strong nuclear force)
      • W bosons and Z bosons (weak nuclear force)
      • photon (electromagnetic force)
    • and 1 scalar boson, connected to the concept of mass

You Big Bang of glorious energy, bless the Lord,
Particles and antiparticles, bless the Lord,
Quarks and leptons, bless the Lord
Bosons associated with the four fundamental forces, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God forever!

FROM FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLES TO PROTONS AND NEUTRONS—PARTICLE PHYSICS II

The electron, the third part of an atom, is also a fermion, but not of the quark type.  It is from a family called leptons which differ from quarks in that leptons do not interact with the strong nuclear force the way fermions do.  To date, quarks and leptons are the smallest particles of which we are aware.

TIMELINE AFTER THE BIG BANG

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We continue with our timeline of the early universe from the end of the millionth of a second to 380,000 years!

  • Hadron Epoch: In the remaining time before the first second had elapsed, as the universe cooled to a mere 1010 Kelvin, quarks began to combine into hadrons.  These include the proton (2 up quarks & 1 down quark) and the neutron (1 up quark & 2 down quarks).  This is an instance showing the power of community on the smallest known scale of matter of which we are currently aware.  Neutrinos were formed when protons were hit with electrons forming neutrons; some of these neutrons and neutrinos reverted again to electrons and protons.  These hadrons and antihadrons annihilated each other to a great degree, leaving only a slight excess of hadrons (matter) over antihadrons (antimatter).
  • The limit of energy currently attainable by the Large Hadron Collider leads us to believe that quarks are fundamental particles in our own time only, mainly because at this time we cannot create temperatures higher than this within particle accelerators! We believe this is the reason the quarks of quark-based fermions have never been observed separately from the fermions of which they are a part.
  • Lepton Epoch: Now just after l second as the universe cooled down to just 109 Kelvin, leptons and antileptons dominated the universe.  Leptons and anti-leptons took up to 200x longer (until about 3 minutes) to annihilate one another, leaving again a slight excess of leptons (matter) over antileptons (antimatter).  Specifically, as electrons and positrons (antielectrons) collided and annihilated each other, photons were created and vice versa.
  • Big Bang Nucleosynthesis: Now that the stage was cleared a bit and as cooling continued down to 107 Kelvin allowing the strong nuclear force to take hold, protons and neutrons were finally able to form simple nuclei (no atoms with electrons), from 3 to 20 minutes:
    • [Protons by themselves make up hydrogen-1. This is not a “combination” nucleus like the others that follow.]
    • Deuterium, hydrogen-2, a combination of 1 proton and 1 neutron, the simplest “combination” nucleus
    • Helium-3, a combination of 2 protons and 1 neutron.
    • Helium-4, a combination of 2 protons and 2 neutrons.
    • Lithium-7, a combination of 2 protons and 4 neutrons.
  • Until about 380,000 years from the Big Bang, expansion and cooling continued to just above 4000 K, the universe now consisted of
    • atomic nuclei: roughly 75% hydrogen-1. The fusion reactions made most of the remaining 25% as helium-4.  Much smaller amounts, on the order of 0.01% were made of deuterium and helium-3.  A smaller amount of lithium was also made.
    • free electrons, unbound to nuclei.
    • energy, in the form of photons.

Protons and neutrons, bless the Lord,
Atomic nuclei, bless the Lord,
Free electrons, bless the Lord,
Photons of energy, bless the Lord,
Praise and exult God above all forever! 

REFERENCES—Timeline of the Big Bang:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdPzOWlLrbE  National Geographic Video

www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_bigbang_timeline.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe

https://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/astronomy-terms/big-bang-theory4.htm

https://web.njit.edu/~gary/202/Lecture26.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang_nucleosynthesis

Posted in News, Weekly Word

8-6-19 Justice Updates

One of our Chapter Commitments calls us to transform oppressive systems. There are numerous ways to do this including putting pressure on banks, financial organizations, and organizations with investment portfolios to stop supporting companies who are involved in these oppressive systems.  In the past few months, eight major banks have decided to end their relationship with the private prison sector which are involved in housing asylum seekers and children separated from their parents. This decision is due to the work of the immigrant community, activists, and ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility) members (we are members) who have put these banks on notice for financially supporting facilities with documented human rights abuses, including medical neglect, sexual and physical assault against detainees, understaffing, and overcrowding. Action is being directed to regional banks that remain invested in private prisons and immigrant detention centers.  This article provides more information.

The number of asylum seekers being admitted to El Paso was reduced dramatically with the MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols) or Return to Mexico Program implemented by the administration.  Immigrants are being forced to wait weeks before their credible fear hearings in very dangerous conditions. Please read this article about what’s happening.

What does trafficking look like?  Human Rights Watch describes this story. Take the story of Seng Moon. Her family fled fighting between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Army in 2011. They took refuge in one of northern Myanmar’s many displaced persons camps. After three years, when Seng Moon was 16, her sister-in-law said she had found Seng Moon work as a cook across the border in China. Seng Moon didn’t want to go, but her family desperately needed the money she would earn. During the car ride to China, her sister-in-law gave her what she said was anti-nausea medicine; Seng Moon fell deeply asleep and woke up terrified and alone with her hands tied.

What ensued was a horrifying narrative, one that is sadly not uncommon. Seng Moon’s sister-in-law sold her to a Chinese family as a “bride.” Gender discrimination in China, exacerbated by the government’s “one child policy” in place from 1979 to 2015, has resulted in there being about 30 to 40 million more men than women in China, and this has created a market for trafficked brides. Seng Moon was locked in a room for months, suffered repeated rape and mistreatment, and was forced to bear a child. It took two years, the kindness of strangers and 1,000 yuan ($160) before Seng Moon was finally able to escape her nightmare and make it back to Myanmar with her baby son. And Seng Moon is one of the lucky ones – most victims who escape are able to do so only by leaving any children behind.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the loved ones of those killed by these senseless killings. But what about those shot?  They will live a life of pain and deep wounds. Read this story from Boston Public Radio about one survivor.

Another attack on the poor by this administration means that 500,000 kids could lose eligibility for free school lunch under the current proposed rule changes to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Here’s more information.

The administration is still separating migrant families despite a court order to stop.  When we were in El Paso in January and February and recently, we saw intact families from Russia, Cuba, Brazil, and Venezuela. Families from Central American were being separated. In addition, children are still being separated from their parents. See this investigation from the ACLU and information from the NY Times.

Continue to pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country for the Dominican Month of Peace last December. The Ebola Epidemic shows no signs of ending.

Attorney General William Barr has just directed the Justice Department to bring back the death penalty — and to immediately schedule the first five federal executions in 16 years.

Pope Francis, the National Council of Churches, and countless other Christian leaders have long spoken out against capital punishment. As Jesus said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Catholic leaders have expressed their concern about the reinstatement. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty released a statement criticizing the federal reinstatement of capital punishment, arguing the practice goes against the fundamental principles of conservatism.

Yet some religious leaders are loudly cheering on the death penalty. Appearing on Fox News earlier this year, Robert Jeffress — one of Donald Trump’s favorite pastors — dismissed objections to executing the wrongfully accused, outrageously arguing that “the greatest example of an innocent person being executed was Jesus Christ himself.”

Please consider signing on to this petition to end the federal death penalty.

The Homestead Migrant Child Detention Facility has been closed!! There is a possibility it will re-open after the Hurricane Season. It is not clear when all the children have gone or where the next big facility might be.  Watch this documentary about witnessing at Homestead.  The Homestead facility is only one of many for-profit prisons. We need to shut them all down.

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Act Now

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Three weeks ago, Sr. Manuela and I stopped at Walmart to pick up a few groceries and some medicine. It was in El Paso – the same Walmart that was the site of the horrific shooting on Sunday.  Had the gunman decided to come earlier to do his dreadful deed, we might have been among the victims. I have never lived or ministered in a neighborhood where I was afraid to walk outside so gun safety or anti-gun violence legislation was always more of an intellectual exercise than a personal need.  The El Paso shooting has changed that for me.

I have ministered in El Paso twice and during both my experiences, I met many, many kind and generous people. There were concerned about the asylum seekers coming to the United States for a safer life. They care about their community.  They live in one of the safest cities in the U.S.  They did not deserve to experience such evil.

It’s pretty clear that the shooter acted out of hatred for Latino people especially those seeking asylum.  Where did he get the idea that this hatred was justified and that killing was a legitimate method for eliminating them?  It comes from the very top of our government.  Speech vilifying people of color especially those from Mexico and Central America and actions to ban or mistreat their legitimate requests for asylum gives individuals the OK to take action into their own hands.

So what do we do?  Assault type weapons should be taken off the market and made illegal for all but military use. There is no possible reason that a person needs to own an assault weapon expect to perpetrate events like El Paso or Dayton.  Weapons manufacturers should act in a responsible way and remove them from the retail market.

Universal background checks must be implemented and anyone with records of violence or mental illness should not be allowed to purchase weapons.

Red Flag laws also called extreme risk protection order laws, that allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others should be implemented. Family members or others can petition the court for these orders if they fear their loved one is in danger of killing himself/herself or others.

Hate speech should be condemned at every level of government and society.  News organizations should bleep out this language just as they do with swear words. This message should be preached from every pulpit – hatred of anyone is not part of our faith.

Our state and national representatives have by and large refused to act on legislation that would reduce gun violence. Only 30% of Americans own a gun. 57% of Americans believe that we need stricter gun legislation. Why do our legislators feel the rights of gun owners especially the most extreme are more important that the safety of everyone else?

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Two mass shootings in less than 24 hours.

At least 29 people dead.

At least 50 people injured.

Is this Domestic Terrorism?

Do we have a white nationalist terrorism problem?

Do we need to transform the mental health system?

Do we need more sensible gun laws? (i.e. Should we ban access to military-style weapons and high-capacity cartridges?).

I say: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! (and Yes!)

I am sick and tired of innocent people being gunned down as they go about their daily lives – visiting a park, sitting in a movie theater, shopping for school supplies, attending a religious service, enjoying a concert or festival, performing a task at work, sitting in a classroom, etc.

It has been reported that in 216 days of this year, there have been 251 mass shootings that left 520 dead and 2,000 wounded. (Go back and read that again: THERE HAVE BEEN MORE MASS SHOOTINGS THAN DAYS!)

What are we doing to stop the massacres?

We are beyond the point of soul- searching and debate.

Don’t you think it’s time to take action?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

The Joys, Assumptions and Challenges of Intercultural Community Living

 

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald

Are you drawn to life in community?

Are you wondering if you could live with 5, 10, or 60 other women in the same house?

You’re not alone.  Most of the women we walk with in discernment feel a strong call to community, yet wonder what it will really be like and if they can truly live it.

It was the same for me.  When I was discerning religious life, one of the big draws for me was towards community.  I saw the sisters with whom I volunteered and interacted as having a loving, vibrant, faith-filled and healthy community.  I admired their dedication to each other and to their mission as Dominican Sisters.  As I celebrate my 25th Jubilee as a sister, I continue being drawn to live, minister, pray and be in community.

Community is one of the four pillars of Dominican religious life. When we enter a congregation, we never know with whom we will live and minister.  That is part of the great adventure of religious life.  Community is where I have found my greatest joy, reconstructed my assumptions about others and have been challenged to be truly welcoming and inclusive.  In our Constitutions (#18) we read: “Together we pursue our common mission, values, and goals. As members of a community, we share in a diversity of gifts and challenges, joys and hardships. We value the uniqueness of each sister and offer one another companionship and loving support. We celebrate our strengths, accept our weaknesses, and acknowledge our need for healing and reconciliation.”[1]

One of the great joys of living in a multicultural community is that we are all different.  It is in community that I have been challenged to try various cultural dishes, prayed in another language or in another way unfamiliar to me.  I have been enriched by the gifts my sisters bring to community.  I hope they have been enriched by what I have brought and shared.

We all come from different cultural perspectives formed by our ethnic, generational, national and families of origin.  As we mature, we become more aware that assumptions can cause many misunderstandings, hurt feelings and broken hearts.   One of the biggest ones is when we group people together and expect them to think and behave in the same way.  The way you interact with one person may or may not work well with another person. Therefore, like any human being, living or working with a multicultural community, on-going awareness and on-going learning are the keys.

As Dominicans, study is a primary part of our life.  St. Dominic taught that all of the members of the Order needed to study in order to preach, teach and to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel and to the life to which we have been called.  Last year, in community, we studied a book called, Living Mission Interculturally[2].  In that book, I discovered that there are a myriad of factors making up one’s cultural identity.  It has led me to see that getting to know others is a great adventure and offers an opportunity to be stretched, enlightened and challenged in new ways.  I thank God I was called to this congregation and have the opportunity to live and minister with sisters of many different cultures.

Are you open to living in a multicultural and intergenerational community?  Are you willing to cast your net out into the deep?  Then, contact one of us to begin your discernment or attend our  Come and See Discernment Retreat that will be held September 13 – 15, 2019 at our Motherhouse in St. Catharine, KY.  For the flyer and to register, click  here.

[1] Constitutions of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, 2010.

[2] Living Mission Interculturally:  Faith, Culture and the Renewal of Praxis by Anthony Gittens,

Posted in God Calling?, News