Sitting in my late-night astronomy lab last night, we watched a computer simulation (based completely on real, observed data) take us out as far into the universe as our understanding has gone. Starting in the Himalayas, Tibet, then Planet Earth, and rapidly, sooner than I thought possible, we were so far out of my realm of understanding, it made my heart race.
There is no way that I can look out at the tiny speck of dust which the Earth is, and the even tinier speck of dust upon it which our little school is, and think that we are special. Can it be coincidental, the collision of all the right materials, mixed with the right distance from the sun, the right temperature? The more we advance technologically, the easier it becomes to see across the dark void that is our Milky Way, our universe. And the more we see, the more we know, reading the spectra of other planets orbiting other stars, knowing that as we are made up of star stuff, our neighbors are as well. And our neighbors looking back at us, they too will see the fingerprint of our society’s addiction to fossil fuels and the burning of hydrocarbons. Will they look at us, millions of years more advanced, living sustainably perhaps, and see a glimpse into their own past? Could the evolution which turned us into who we are, have turned them into something else? We are looking out into the haystack as a needle, looking for another, who may or may not be looking for us too.