The twilight hours are a funny place. Roald Dahl referred to them in his classic novel ‘The BFG’ as ‘The Witching Hours.’ And when the shadows grow long, and the night sky becomes lost to the horizon, the world can seem just that, bewitching. And at these times of magic I often find myself amongst the stars, or deep in our past, or between the very particles that made us. I am talking of learning, using the internet to discover the universe.
And it is the best decision that I have ever made. Becoming an #internetexplorer
Once we lose our fear of being tiny, we find ourselves on the threshold of a vast and awesome Universe which dwarfs — in time, in space, and in potential — the tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors.” – Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist and Science Communicator
Committing to the Universe
As I write this blog I am also watching ‘Vsauce‘, a Youtube channel dedicated to educating on subjects ranging from physics to psychology. The host Michael Stevens is an enigma, seemingly a deft hand with everything and yet almost always entranced. Mathematics, physics, the human mind, he can dance between them seamlessly. And its with that dance that I find a clue to our universe, it is all interlinked.
‘Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known’ – Carl Sagan, Astronomer and Science Communicator*
As I sit here writing, Stevens is discussing his desk and how it reflects the inner workings of his mind. It is a mess. I can relate. But on it is a globe, little puzzles, endless notes and most importantly, a computer. Information, unrestricted and potentially near infinite. And though his channel Collins is able to inspire me. By committing to learning, you begin to know the universe and your place in it.
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Science Communicator
Our pale blue dot as a bridge
Humans, as hailed as polymath Carl Sagan says, are ‘Johnny come-latelys’ to the universe. On our ‘pale blue dot‘, as he put its, we have acted out every good, bad and in-between of our history. And yet, this is a small time, a tiny snippet of the cosmic calendar. But, even in this sliver, we have learned more about our universe than anyone could have possibly imagined just 100 years ago.
The true virtue of human existence has always been wonder. When our distant ancestors glanced upward at the stars they saw great hunters, prey and predators cast amongst them. Little did they know that they were giving our meaning on giant balls of nuclear fusion so far away that the very light was older than they. They used tools, sharp stones, that would one day become surgical knives and the precursors to lasers that could split subatomic particles.
We tell stories of the universe, but the universe has infinitely more to tell us.
Our questions have always moved us forward. And our little blue dot, lost in a tiny corner of the cosmos, is our bridge to the universe. And you can cross it any time, all you need do is ask. And the solution is on Michaels desk, and yours, or in your hands, a computer (big or small.)
Become an explorer
Your brain, the centre of your universe, floats in a body of fluid called ‘Cerebrospinal Fluid.’ It is full of nutrients, and protects the brain from impacts as we go about our day to day. Without it, we would be in big trouble. But exploring is important, life is a necessity once born, but adventure a calling. It is using this brain we can truly venture forth.
If you want to truly know the universe it has never been easier. Simply by opening up a search bar, you can learn about anything. But I am going to suggest another way. Begin an adventure. After spending a year travelling, I learned to follow my passions, and the path becomes unpredictable.
Chaos theory, the science of unpredictability, helps to model the interactions of the many on their outcome. When it comes to adventure this means that you may never know where you end up. So start here, and type in any word you want. I suggest ‘String Theory’. Then watch the first thing, then click on the next, follow your mind and keep going.
You have now become an #explorer of knowledge, and with it, the universe.
- Read Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan and Sam Harris
- Share YouTube videos that interest you and tell others why
- Keep a ‘Learning Diary’ by noting new fascinating things
Image courtesy of Pixabay
*To label Carl Sagan, or his protégé Neil deGrasse Tyson, with such restrictive terms is somewhat painful. Both are more than scientists, storytellers or artists. They are something else, pioneers. In fact, Carls messages may be the first to be read in deep space by another species… but that’s for another day.
The views above represent those of Dr Ben Janaway and none of his affiliates. Please subscribe and follow him at @drjanaway. He is happy to discuss any work or commissions.