Life: A Love Story

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Cover Photo courtesy of NASA. 

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.

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5 thoughts on “Life: A Love Story

  1. This thought has literally kept me up at night at times. I remember before my GenChem final last semester, my friend showed me a video narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson that discussed how insignificant we are in terms of the rest of the universe and it made me feel like the exam didn’t hold as much weight as I had previously thought. Honestly, it was both super relieving and super depressing all at once, but I think what I took most from it was that although we may feel small in comparison to the universe, we are big enough to have come this far in figuring out our surroundings. Very interesting and relatable post, 10/10.

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  2. I think this is exactly why I decided to take this class. I think it’s so cool how despite how small we are compared to the vastness of the universe, humans are still so committed to study the space around us. It’s a perspective that makes the subject so fascinating, but also makes you look at life a little differently.

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  3. The thought of how small Earth truly is is one that fascinates me each and every class session. Do you think there is a chance that another life form is looking at us now? Do you think that other civilizations will judge us harshly for how we have treated our home? I can only hope that someday, when we discover life on another planet, or in another galaxy, that we can share with each other how to care for the Universe.

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  4. Judging by the already posted comments on this blog post, I would say that this is a pretty thought provoking and relatable piece. Sometimes, especially on a day to day basis, it can be so difficult to see things from a more cosmic perspective. The piece that we read at the beginning of the semester by Neil DeGrasse Tyson was an interesting primer on this idea. Like you mentioned, it is especially important to consider the footprint that our society leaves behind through fossil fuel and hydrocarbon burning. The way that we judge the practices and traditions of civilizations that have come before us, I often wonder how our civilization will be characterized. Great post!

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  5. It really is crazy to think about isn’t it? It can’t be possible that we are in a seemingly infinite ever expanding universe all alone. There are trillions of other galaxies and in each of those there are billions of stars around which billions of planets orbit. I agree, this is the type of thought to keep you up at night.

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