Sunday, March 04, 2007

WOW....

The universe is amazing. Seriously. The fact that we exist at all is amazing. And we are but the size of the head of a pin in the vastness of space. We're like a grain of sand on a planet full of sand! When we hear the astronomical figures, the ratios, the spaces between things in space, it makes the head swim. There are over 50 billion galaxies in the known universe, there are gazillions of stars, and the one star that is our sun is so large that a million earths could fit comfortably within it's warm and cozy interior. That is amazing. My brain hurts. And yet even with this knowledge, people are bored today. "What'd ya do this weekend?" "Nothin' much... what'd you do?" "Same ole same ole. What'd you do?" "You already asked me that." "Oh yeah.... huhmph." I believe we are starving today for a renewed sense of wonder at the universe. Let's be honest; aren't we burying our heads for most of the day in malls, offices, cars, and supermarkets? Our eyes more often reflect the glow of computer screens and TVs than the starry heavens above, or the shining sun for that matter (ironically, I'm typing this on my computer). But we do love getting those unexpected doses of humility from the stuff in the heavens: the rain, snow, sleet, leaves, wind, starlight, and an occasional lunar eclipse! They're stellar reminders of our smallness in the great big world. They help keep things in perspective. Sometimes they just blow perspective out of the water completely, and we just say WOW, like a clip from one of those new Windows Vista commercials (irony again!). So last night, we had one of these cosmic moments. I didn't get the chance to see it (I saw a foggy moon abit after the fact), but reading about it and seeing the pics has been rather "illuminating." It was a lunar eclipse, and the best seats in the house were in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. (A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon, closing off the sun's light for a period of time. Coooooolness.....) I can't help but wonder what the ancients must have thought when the heavens did such crazy, creepy, and unexpected things. One thing I'm sure of.... it must have WOWed them, filling them with that healthy sense of their own smallness in the universe. On the flip side, in reading about the eclipse, this statement from one of our "modern" astronomers just made me shake my head: "It's not an event that has any scientific value, but it's something everybody can enjoy," said Professor So and So, of Britain's Royal Astronomical Society. Scientific value? It's not an event that has any scientific value? Why does it have to have scientific value? Some things, I believe, are just made to WOW us.
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