Cosmology questions our intuitive understanding of reality

We take many things in the world for granted. Time passes at a steady pace and we expect cause to precede effect. According to cosmologist Syksy Räsänen, however, the past century of research has proven that reality is not at all what it looks like.

"In the 20th century, the study of the universe has revolutionised our understanding of reality as it is described by classical physics."

Syksy Räsänen states that quantum physics and the general theory of relativity have permanently changed the way we think about time, space, matter and the origins of the universe.

"Quantum physics has revealed that the world is ultimately completely random. Meanwhile, the general theory of relativity has shown us that time and space are not separate and absolute, but instead, that time passes at different speeds in different places and that space itself changes in time."

These theories seem to run contrary to common sense.

"Matter can also be in an indeterminate state. The famous example of this is Schrodinger’s cat, which is simultaneously half dead and half alive."

The limits of human understanding

According to Räsänen, the conflict between intuitive everyday concepts and the world view supported by cosmology prove the limits of the human mind.

"Our understanding of time, space and the universe has developed to describe the conditions that are relevant to our everyday lives. In reality, they are just an approximation of the actual laws of nature."

Räsänen claims that humans are incapable of thinking about their surrounding reality as it is described by quantum physics. The human brain struggles to comprehend cosmic scales. However, a cosmological world view can offer a new perspective on our concepts of people and society.

"It is frightening to think how badly our everyday assumptions fail to describe the most fundamental things about our universe. Knowing this, on the other hand, liberates us to be critical towards other things we take for granted."

In March and April 2015, researchers and other experts will take us on journeys into different world views. Read more about the New World View science programme and join the conversation (#maailmankuva).

Syksy Räsänen will join the Space, time and history event at Think Corner on Tuesday 31 March.

New World View 16 March – 12 April 2015

Think Corner