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Observing the unobservable

Former Sandia National Laboratory physicist Scott M. Tysonhas written a fascinating new cosmology book, titled "The The Unobservable Universe". But this book is more than just space science-it's a sweeping look at how we think about ourselves and the cosmos.

Tyson enjoys challenging long-held assumptions about the origin of the universe as well as perceptions about time, space and beyond. His biggest bone to pick is with the rise of doctrinal thinking-ranging through education, the arts, politics and the sciences.

Q. You've challenged conventional thinking regarding the accepted Big Bang Theory. In effect you seem to imply there's no beginning or end of things-no boundaries.

A. Science has really painted itself into a corner over the discussion of the origin of our universe. Any discussion of an "origin" to the universe should be just thrown out the window. The underlying foundation of the universe is simple: the perception of boundaries represents a completely unfounded illusion of the world we live in. The boundaries between my internal universe and the external universe don't exist. There's no physical basis whatsoever for the perception that boundaries exist between and among any of us and the universe in which we live.

Q: Next you say everything we've ever learned about the universe is wrong-you imply that we human beings simply are not as smart as we think we are.

A: That's right: everything you have ever learned is wrong. It's true in a very real sense. I'm terribly sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but here it is: humans appear dramatically limited in what they can hold at one time in their thoughts, so they make models that embody the approximations they have chosen to embrace. And these limitations don't improve with age. What is accepted and known is comfortable, the 'known devil', while new thoughts, concepts, and approaches represent new and somewhat scary things.

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