Monday, November 15, 2010

Small Us, Big Everything Else

My old friend Michio Kaku was on TV again last night, his usual place, the Science Channel. He and I were in school together. He was the dumbest kid in class. I don't know how he got so smart since then, unless he just decided to apply himself. So it might be true, what they say about applying yourself. I wonder if it'd work for me after all these years.

I'm just kidding, of course, since I am a giant brain. That's what they used to call me, anyway. Whether I actually know anything -- heart knowledge -- or whether it's all just head knowledge, that's another question. I think I know quite a bit. I watch Jeopardy almost everyday, and usually can get 10-12 of the answers right. Double Jeopardy's always my downfall.

Michio was talking about the universe -- what else? In this case he was talking about black holes, which I'm coming to appreciate more and more all the time. I never really knew what a black hole was -- still don't, but I'm learning more about them all the time. For one, they say there's a black hole at the center of every galaxy. I hear something like that and I start thinking of something mind-blowing. All this time I thought they were just random, maybe theoretical things out there somewhere, not at the center of everything.

So, to review, I don't know that much, because I never applied myself. That, and possibly that in combination with the fact that my potential is not all it might've been. But I'm brainy enough to know that my perspective on the universe depends on me being here -- so that's something. Take me out of the equation and everything would keep going as it always has -- or maybe it'd collapse.

Another science show was also on galaxies and communicating with advanced civilizations possibly out there. The stuff of SETI and armchair scientists using their own PCs to scan for radio signals from distant sources. The host, a scientist, was more than a little skeptical that any of this can do any good. The biggest problem, the vastness of the distances. He said we keep hearing that our radio/TV signals have been beamed into space for close to 100 years, like that's anything. But the galaxies he's talking about out there won't be able to receive our signals for another 900 years! Meaning it's a little early to be expecting a reply when they've still got nine centuries to make sure their sets are adjusted!

So are we small? He held up a piece of dust and that was the Earth. Then the vastness all around him was everything else. It gave me a humbling perspective on some of the tasks that I need to do around here, including raking the leaves. As though, perhaps, maybe, it doesn't make that much difference. Except in the sense that it makes a difference to me, and the neighbors also appreciate it.

We're left with the distances being vast. But they've always been so. And we haven't felt insignificant all this time. So it's our decision to keep on like we've been keeping on. The fact that I'm about to have 1,000 blog posts on this blog is still a major event in world and galactic history. I will blow a party horn when the magical day arrives.

None of us needs to feel so small that we don't matter. Let's turn this thing around: The Earth may be a tiny place. There may be incredible vastness all around us. And so forth and so on. But at this point a lot of that stuff out there isn't habitable. Just look how smart we were. Look how we beat the odds and happened to be born on a planet that is habitable! I could've picked a world that wouldn't sustain life, but I didn't. And my parents didn't either. They picked Earth. I come from a really smart family!

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