The James Watt Telescope. No news of creation’s postcode

Pictures from the James Watt. Where?

Seeing the recent pictures from the James Webb telescope I recalled an answer a Professor of Astrophysics at an Oxford College recently gave me when I asked him,

‘Where is the Universe?’

As in ‘Where do you live, what’s your address, will I need a visitor’s parking ticket if I come after nine am?  Talking of time, what are the Universe’s hours?

Is it above something, is anything next to it, is there anything below it or, as Einstein once joked, does it sit on a turtle and it’s ‘turtles all the way down.’

Does it have an edge? Are there warning signs saying, ‘Edge of the Universe 2 light years ahead ‘?

In answer to these the Astrophysics Professor seized my hand and pointing to the centre of my palm announced

‘It’s there.’

It’s not  good enough.  Here we are, all that money spent, and we still don’t know where we live.


A learned friend explained the Professor’s answer. It comes from Buddha & The Monkey: After escaping from Laozi’s furnace, Sun Wukong battles his way through heaven until the Buddha is called in to halt his rebellion. The Enlightened One makes him a wager that, if he can jump out of his hand, the macaque will become the new ruler of heaven. Monkey agrees to the wager and jumps into his palm. With one tremendous leap, Sun speeds towards the reaches of heaven, clouds whizzing by him in a blur of colours as he travels across the sky. He lands before five great pillars, thinking them to be the edge of the cosmos. He tags one of the pillars with his name and urinates at the base of another in order to prove that he had been there. Upon returning, he demands that the Buddha live up to his end of the bargain. Yet the Buddha explains that he had used his infinite powers to cloud Sun’s mind, tricking him into thinking he had left, when he actually stayed in his hand the entire time. But before Monkey can do anything, the Buddha overturns his hand, pushing it out the gates of heaven, and slamming it onto earth, transforming it into the Five Elements Mountain (Wuxing shan, 五行山). There, Sun is imprisoned for his crimes against heaven (fig. 1) (Wu & Yu, 2012, pp. 193-195).



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14 Comments on The James Watt Telescope. No news of creation’s postcode

  1. I need another learned friend’s extra expalanation of your learned friend’s explanation of the Professor’s answer which intuitevely seems OK.
    Stay safe, sound & happy

  2. Talking of astrophysics. A man attended an Astronomy lecture at which he looked more and more worried as the Professor assured his audience that “over the next billion years the Earth will grow hotter and hotter until it becomes uninhabitable”. The Prof looked down at the worried man. He repeated that “over the next billion years disaster would strike the Earth.” The worried man visibly relaxed; “Billion? That’s all right then; I thought you said ‘million'” You must excuse me, I have to go and buy some potatoes.

  3. The cosmos appears to have evolved brains that not only examine itself but ask why anthying exists at all. This is the biggest conundrum of all.

  4. I had a similar cheerful reading and diagnosis on my love life from the daughter of the famous Gipsy Rose Petulangro on Blackpool promenade 40 years ago.
    I look forward to the deployment of other traditional skills, reading crystal balls, the casting of bones and so forth, as the upcoming third world complementary sciences are introduced into Oxford and Cambridge before percolating across academe, enhancing and replacing old fashioned objectivism.

    • I hope the prof was being ironic. ‘Where are we?’ is the most fundamental of all questions in science, because both ‘where’ and ‘time’ applied to the universe is meaningless. Even the idea of the universe having no beginning and no end imports the notion of time, and as for ‘where’? It can’t be turtles ALL the way down to a place where there is no bottom, but then again…..!

      • The universe looks like a process in development, albeit with occasionally chaotic features such as the apparent meteoric disappearance of the dinosaurs, and seems to have no obvious explanation for itself. Why should it? Somehow it looks a bit too lumpy to just take for granted. Hence the cosmological arguments from “contingency” to a Self-Existent Creator (T. Aquinas, G. W. Leibniz, G. Joyce, F. Copleston, W. L. Craig). This however raises questions as to the nature of “creation”, the purpose of a universe for a self-sufficient Being, and why this particular universe.
        The problem of natural evil (e.g. animal pain) is another issue. But Time raises a special issue for Christian Trinitarians such as the material composition of the Second Person of the Single God known as Jesus now “up there”, etc.
        Maybe our brains are not yet competent enough to explain why the universe exists or produced our brains. Have we the will and ability to improve our capacity for explanation, or for a future species or a set of robots to do so – long after we have gone – to Heaven or Hell or Nothing?

      • @ John Sampson & Myles Harris
        Look up Universe, Existence, Nature, Space, Time, Infinity, Causality, Reality, Consciousness, Creation, Free Will and Metaphysics in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, online. All they know – and all ye need to know?