Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Fun with Nerds!

Ever wonder why nerds have fewer children than non-nerds? It's because while everyone else is in bed, we're outside looking at these things:

Doesn't my camera rock?

Ok, seriously, that's from NASA's website. The shuttle and the ISS made another brief appearance tonight. We tried to see them with the telescope, but we weren't fast enough. Maybe next time? They looked like two slow-moving airplanes, except they weren't blinking. It was very cool.

I highly recommend Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything if you ever want to boggle your own mind with the vastness of space. Or, if you don't have twelve bucks burning a hole in your pocket, there's always this.

When you look at things on that scale, from 10 million light years away, it's hard to imagine that we matter at all. We're completely invisible at that scale. The largest things we are capable of building, the farthest distances we are capable of traveling, they aren't even detectable at that scale. In a universe so vast, how can something as tiny as a virus or a germ matter at all?

But, if it's your kid who has the virus, it matters a whole lot. As with all things, it's all a matter of perspective.

When I get too much inside my own head, sometimes I like to look up. I like to remind myself that there are about 5,999,900 people who don't give a rip about me and my tiny problems - and that's just on this planet. Who knows how many other planets like ours there are out there? (I don't believe that those planets, if inhabited by creatures like ourselves, pose any threat to us, nor do I believe that the inhabitants of said planets, if they could get here at all, would make exclusive contact with people in the desert and in mobile home parks. I'm just saying that in the vastness of space, chances are pretty good that there's another Earth-like Petri dish of a planet out there creating some kind of humanish critter remarkably like us. Not that we'll ever get a chance to see them or anything...)

Anyway, I look up. And I remember that in the great scheme of things, I really don't matter at all. As Dad would say, "100 years from now, who's going to care?"

And then I get blown away by the fact that we all start out as two cells; cells so small that they're invisible to the eye. And from those two cells (5 microns long for sperm, 150 microns in diameter for eggs) we grow an infinite number of new cells (inside my body, how did I do that?) , without reading any instructions or anything, and in a relatively tiny amount of time (yeah, try telling me that next time I'm in the 3rd trimester), a whole new living, breathing, kicking, thinking person is born. A person who would be completely invisible from 10 million miles away, but who matters so much. I read Horton Hears a Who to the girls tonight. "A person's a person, no matter how small." Great book.

Anyway, it's bed time. I'm through thinking for tonight.

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