Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Appreciate How Impossible The Moment Is And How Fortunate We Are To Be Part Of It

"To show how real astronomical wonder can be presented to children, I'll borrow from a book called "Earthsearch" by John Cassidy, which I brought back from America to show my daughter Juliet.

Find a large open space and take a soccer ball to represent the sun. Put the ball down and walk ten paces in a straight line. Stick a pin in the ground. The head of the pin stands for the planet Mercury. Take another 9 paces beyond Mercury and put down a peppercorn to represent Venus.

Seven paces on, drop another peppercorn for Earth. One inch away from earth, another pinhead represents the Moon, the furthest place, remember, that we've so far reached.

Fourteen more paces to little Mars, then ninety-five paces to giant Jupiter, a ping-pong ball. One hundred and twelve paces further, Saturn is a marble.

No time to deal with the outer planets except to say that the distances are much larger. But, how far would you have to walk to reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri? Pick up another soccer ball to represent it, and set off for a walk of 4200 miles.

As for the nearest other galaxy, Andromeda, don't even think about it!"


"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been standing in my place but who will never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara - more, the atoms in the universe. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Donne, greater scientists than Newton, greater composers than Beethoven.

We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people.

In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I that are privileged to be here, privileged with eyes to see where we are and brains to wonder why."

- Richard Dawkins

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