Space on the brain

Thursday, Feb 10, 2011 1:26 pm
William Barnes

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space. – Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I like astronomy. I like to read about planets and things that are too big and far away to grasp. But I do it in moderation. I do it enough, however, to notice the effect (which I will call the Carl Sagan effect though others might prefer to call it perspective) it has on those who pursue astronomy as a career. In other words, I thought the following quote was cool:

ONE CAN WHIMSICALLY SHOW that essentially any occurrence, any circumstance, is a virtual impossibility. Simply trace its origins back through time until the accumulated serendipities within that chain of chance overwhelm logic and reason. This game applies to everything, from the formation of the Earth and life upon it, to your birth or your first love. All that occurs and exists is but the thinnest sliver of light, bookended by the infinite, muted depths of what will never be. Call it luck, call it destiny, but this intangible something seems the only arbiter between being and nothingness. – Lee Billings: The Long Shot

And these:

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 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. 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. – Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot

Shepherd Book said they was men who just reached the edge of space, saw a vasty nothingness, and went bibbledy over it. – Kaylee: Serenity