What’s not to be exhilarated about space? The alien vacuum environment, the non existent of sounds , the dark, frigid seemingly endless horizons of pitch-blackness that looks empty from the naked-eye but in reality have blobs of matter and energy (!!) in between? The science-cy bit is exciting, but what i’m more interested in is how this gained knowledge affects the better conduct of our daily lives. Knowledge should move you. Ideally, it should move you to a better state. If it didn’t , it is just random pieces of information holding in our heads. Personally, knowledge without active manifestation of translating it into a tangible result is an affront to civilization.
If one could conceive and visualize the vastness of space, it should be enough to make you feel quickly humbled.
For example, the ‘Jupiter Eye’ can fit three earths easily. And our solar system in general (all 9 planets and a Sun combined) is just flick of bright of pulsating light in the grand scheme of the universe. Planet Earth is a joke, with all of humans grandiosity and esteemed importance, of all of our egos and intelligence reduced to just a speck of dust. The second element about space that should humble you is the more you learn about it, the more you don’t know. So much space. So many possibilities. Inadvertently, all of space ventures have been narrowed down to
Nevertheless, the ability of human intelligence to conceive what’s going on in the universe billion light years away, described what had happened billion years before in space, and also predict what is going to happen in the future in space–just by studying the particles existing during the present is nothing short of remarkable.
This irony of both quality of greatness and smallness contained in the same dimension should blow any reflecting mind away. As an extension, it demands one to reflect greatly about God; having acknowledged that we’re not so big after all, and how little we know about life in the grand scheme of things. Carl Sagan put it eloquently in his famous speech “The Pale Blue Dot” , a speech that affects me greatly till this day.
“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 Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
If our history have proven to us, mankind’s thirst for exploration have never been dried by the notion of ‘the only world known so far to harbour life’. If we come back and imagine the crazy idea by the first man to arrive at the edge of dry land, and further surmised that going into the treacherous water that seemingly has no end is a brilliant idea. It takes a certain amount of initiative, to boldly go beyond the limits paved with many uncertainties, for no other reason than just curiosity.
Inadvertently , it’s the same spirit that carries us into the modern exploration of exoplanets. This dogged fascination of scientist in finding Earth-like planets is not just due to curiosity whether we have company in this realm. It is also about survival–that evolution driving force.
The Earth as we know and love will not be here forever. There are plenty of ways that the Earth can be annihilated and become the dust of the stars in space like many other but here are the two certain, and prevailing theories:
- The Sun, a ‘small’ star will expand and become a Red Giant. At that point, a lot of things could happen. It could expand big enough that our planet will become scorching-ly hot and not ideal for life. (in short, all living things burnt to death). Although a more gradual process will happen that would concoct the Earth into becoming hostile to life, it could become a super greenhouse, like Venus. It starts with overglaciation, heading towards ocean evaporation and the net result would be a loss of the world’s sea water by about 1.1 billion years from the present.
- Second, it expands and the more mass it gains, the more cosmic rays it exudes, resulting in reduced or altered orbit trajectories of planets around the solar system, causing the Earth to alter it’s orbit, OR the Earth itself is stripped away of it’s life sustaining atmosphere by the ever stronger stronger cosmic rays like what had happened on Mars.
Let us all not even go to the extent of the other theories of possibilities ie. the Moon colliding with the Earth, or stopped sustaining the Earth spin due to the altered orbit of the Moon ( and lag the gravitational force to keep the spin going ) etc etc. I’ll regale that if anybody asks.
In all angles, the grim reality is that the the world will end. It won’t happen in our lifetime, but the beloved Earth as we know it will meet it’s doom , rendering the human race obsolete. Knowing mankind, it will try its creative best to sustain it’s survival, and i’m optimist it will, learning from Ser Darwin’s itself.
For now , as we ponder at our minuscule existence,let us marvel the bit about the Big Bang , where the scientific consensus ascertained that that is the time when life all begins in the Universe, packaged in the Quranic perspective :
“Are, then, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We then parted asunder? — and We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, believe?” (21:30)
And to Allah belongs All Knowledge and It’s Source.