C.O.S.M.O.L.O.G.Y 101

Hey guys, I am back with a whole new article on cosmology. For those of you who were not in the inside circle last time, posts under this category will be based on the different aspects of cosmology. I repeat again, cosmology is a branch of astronomy which deals with generating theories on the origin, evolution and the fate of the universe. (For better understanding, I hereby do advice my readers to assimilate posts in the order in which they are posted)

As I wrote in the previous post that cosmology is of 2 types, i.e., physical cosmology (involves observation of the universe and then providing the conclusions) and religious/mythological cosmology (based on religious and mythological beliefs)

*Now, here I would like to add that in the previous post i wrote that metaphysical cosmology comes under the section of religious cosmology. Here, I would like to correct something. Actually metaphysical cosmology deals with thinking about a metaphysical concept and giving conclusions on it based on the thought. A metaphysical concept is something that has never been seen or experienced, and the current grade of technology cannot comprehend it. That is the reason that metaphysical cosmology is regarded as a sub-set of religious cosmology.

Well guys, in this article I’ll be explaining about the birth and history of cosmology (#cosmology 101). The birth of cosmology dates back to the birth of mankind. The human curiosity gave birth to cosmology, so its fair to say that the age of cosmology is same as that of the age of the human race. Our ancestors asked questions such as, “What is going around me?” “What is the reason that anything changes from its original attire?”, which then ultimately developed into a much bigger question, covering all the answers, “What is the universe and how it works?”, and this is the key question that cosmology has been asking from since its birth. To religious studies, cosmology is about a mystically created world ruled by supernatural forces. To scientists, modern cosmology is about developing the most complete and economical as possible understanding of the Universe that is consistent with observations elucidated by natural forces.

The earliest physical evidence of astronomical and cosmological thinking is a lunar calendar found on a bone fragment in Sub-Saharan Africa dated at about 20,000 BC. Late megalithic structures with astronomical purpose appear in Africa and Europe around 5,000 BC (primitive versions of the famous Stonehenge complex in Britain). Also, everyone should pay attention to this that these structures were constructed by different cultures who had no link whatsoever to others. In other words, the conclusions they reached about the cosmos were universal and the people of that time were willing to commit significant resources to express these ideas. The earliest recorded astronomical observation is the Nebra sky disk from northern Europe dating approximately 1,600 BC. Early Egyptians impressions of the night sky formulated into various myths which then later became the core of Egyptian religion. Since its principal deities were heavenly bodies, a great deal of effort was made by the priesthood to calculate and predict the time and place of their god’s appearances. Because the sun god, Ra, was the pre-eminent god, the annual solar motion along the horizon was a key astronomical observation for the Egyptians. Perhaps one of the greatest influences on modern thought are the ideas that arose from Greek philosophy between 600 BC and start of the Roman Empire. The works of scholars from this era influenced philosophers and scientists of the 21st century and many of our modern cosmological frameworks have their root in ancient Greek ideas. While many of our first cosmologies were based on myths and legends, it is the Greek philosophical tradition that introduces an intellectual approach based on evidence, reason and debate. While many of their ideas barely qualify as scientific theories, their reliance on mathematics as a tool to understand the Universe remains to this day.

Both Plato and Pythagoras influenced the first logically consistent cosmological worldview, developed by the Greeks in the 4th century B.C. This early cosmology was an extrapolation of the Greek theory of matter proposed by Empedocles. This theory states that all matter in the Universe is composed of some combination of four elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air. These four elements arise from the working of the two properties of hotness (and its contrary coldness) and dryness (and its contrary wetness) upon an original unqualified or primitive matter. The possible combinations of these two properties of primitive matter give rise to the four elements or elemental forms.

Some of the earliest roots of cosmology and night sky study can be traced back to the period of the Indus-Valley civilization, which is as far as history can tell us, is considered as the oldest civilization, the roots of which were on the banks of the river Indus in the Indian subcontinent. The pinnacle of Indian astronomy came in the 5th-6th century, in the time Aryabhata and Lagadha. The earliest astronomical text—named Vedanga Jyotisa details several astronomical attributes generally applied for timing social and religious events, and this text was written by Lagadha. Even in Aryabhata’s time, without the help of any modern physical instruments, he explicitly mentioned that the Earth rotates about an axis and that this was the reason of the apparent westward motion of the stars. Aryabhata also mentioned that phenomena of reflected sunlight is the cause behind the shining of the moon.

Modern cosmology is on the borderland between science and philosophy, close to philosophy because it asks fundamental questions about the Universe, close to science since it looks for answers in the form of empirical understanding by observation and rational explanation. Thus, theories about cosmology operate with a tension between a philosophical urge for simplicity and a wish to include all the Universe’s features versus the total complexity of it all. Well, that’s it for me all. Thank you for spending your time reading this. I’ll be back again with more 🙂

**If you have any problems or doubts regarding the post, please do feel free to contact me in the ‘contact’ section.


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