I should be working on three papers that are almost done, one of them in fact, has been accepted with minor changes. I have two more in a less “developed” stage. This is good. I could also be working on some of the ideas that I have for my next books. I think they are going to be good! I have several others work-ish things to do.
Instead, since I mowed the lawn yesterday and is a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold with a nice breeze, I am sitting on a lawn chair in my backyard under a tree, reading.
I looked up, and I saw a little bug flying past me. I think it was a firefly. They come out this time of the year. It was weird seeing it in daylight. It flew in front of me; didn’t even hover to take a look at the big bald thing by it.
Of course I started thinking…
From where I am sitting, I can se a line of trees in my neighborhood. I thought about a hypothetical tiny bug that was born, lived and will die in one of those trees. As with the bug that flew past me, it certainly has no notion of what’s “out there”. They have a limited perspective of what the universe really is. This is true for all life forms that share this planet with us. Are there other life forms “out there”?
The view from my lawn chair. Credit: Baldscientist.
Are we the same as tiny bugs that will never be fully aware of all the things that may be outside of their immediate universe?
Methinks (and of course, this is a hardly original thought) that we humans also have a rather limited perspective of the realities of our universe.
You see, humans do not venture very far from home either, comparatively speaking. Even if we move to the antipodes of where we were born, we’ll never be farther than about 12,000 miles or so from where we began to exist. In the **really big** scale of things, this is a trivial distance. Even the about 12 people in all known history that have been to another place in our solar system (the moon) only travelled about 240,000 miles from home; again, a mere pittance compared to what’s “out there”.
I need to enlist the help of one of my scientific heroes to try to make my point; as usual, Carl Sagan said it best as he pondered on the “Pale Blue Dot” that the Earth is:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
The bright spot among the orange-gy colored ribbon is the Earth as seen from Neptune’s orbit. Credit: NASA. Downloaded from http://www.astro.cornell.edu/academics/courses/a102/pbd.html
I do not think that I am the only one that finds the above quote quite beautiful and rather poignant at the same time…
Sometimes I wish for something like a more optimistic version of Borges’ “Library of Babel”, a much more user-friendly version, fully searchable and able to show me everything that I want to see or know about. Alas, it is very unlikely that such a thing exists… At least I cannot imagine how (maybe heaven?) and as silly as this thought is, it makes me sad. In another post I talked about missing the “…things that I’ll never know…”.
That being said, I love that I am able to learn about things even if I am hopelessly limited in time and space. Somewhere else, actually, in the introduction of my book I wrote:
“I feel quite privileged and even grateful of being able to try to understand some of it, however little I can really understand in my limited time, ability, and opportunity on this planet.”
And I intend to take full advantage of it.
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