Friday, April 20, 2012


Above is one of the latest from Hubble. (It gets bigger when you click on it.) My cosmologist friend knows more about what we're looking at than I do, but I know this much: it's spectacular. If the word "awesome" has any meaning left, it should apply only to things like this. Our minds can't contain, let alone fully comprehend it. Amazing as it is, this picture is like trying to understand a desert by looking at a grain of sand.

And here's another thing: the light from these images has traveled for billions of years. We know this. It's measurable; there's no other way to explain it. To look at this picture and still believe the universe is six thousand years old is not only to be willfully ignorant, it's to lose the opportunity for inspiration and wonder -- at what is, at how we know it, and how much more there is to know. All you need of gratitude and joy of being here is in that picture.

Guy I went to college with was one of the astronauts who did the first fix on Hubble, floating out there in space, making one of humankind's greatest achievements closer to perfect. Haven't seen him since college. Can't imagine what it must have been like to be him at that moment. How did his heart not burst? (Other than the pressurized suit, I mean.)


Frank Drackman said...

Looks like the exhaust from your typical Teeming-Masses-Yearning-to-eat-Free Ill-legal Aliens car...
and I think your playing fast & loose with numbers again(You Surgeons!)
"Billions" of years??,
well if I'm not mistaken, most nebluae are in our own Milky Way Galaxy, which is at most, 150,000 lightyears in diameter.
Or 1/6000th of a billion..
Or maybe Jehovah's a Woman, and shes not entirely truthful about her age?
And whats with the Astronaut Dropping?
I mean, I was in the same Freshman English class as Bo Jackson, do you here ME bragging?
Umm you don't know who that is, do you?


Sid Schwab said...

Well, I may not know, but Bo Knows.

And, yes, you are mistaken...

Finally, you like to tell us, pretty much all the time, how much money you make. I settle for remembering that I used to have friends.

Frank Drackman said...

Wow, talking about your Non-Sequitors...
In fact I don't think I've mentioned that Me and the Missus made more than His Nappiness and the First First Lady with Processed Hair did last year..
and you don't see ME contributing 6 figures to Charity(unless you count the "Cents" column)
I'm more of a Joe Biden when it comes with parting with my hard earned Shekels...
And lucky thang your "friend" was born when he was, seeing as how there's no sucessor to the Shuttle anywhere in the near future...
I know, they can still strap it to the top of a 747...


Larry Simoneaux said...


The Hubble picture that moves me is the shot of "The Pillars of Creation."

If you do believe in a Creator (as I do) and are human, you look at these photographs with awe and humility and understand that any understanding of God only follows our ability to understand what He created.

Our knowledge of the universe is still rudimentary, but what it has shown us is how much more there is for us to learn. Believe in a Creator or not, you come away from any - even if it's only passing - consideration of "what's out there" with the thought of just how infinitesimal is our part in all that's around us.

Either way, it's breathtaking.


Anonymous said...

My father spent a solid twenty years of his life as a design engineer for the company which did the optics for the Space Telescope (or "ST," in their parlance). He's ~85 now, and has never lost his sense of wonder at the images that thing brings back. We just got him an iPad and he pulls up images and is tremendously proud to have been part of the team that created it. He likes to point out that science has learned far more about the universe from that device than cosmologists expected - and they expected quite a lot.

And it has gathered light from billions of light-years away....the Horsehead Nebula, or the Eagle Nebula, to name just two, let alone the profusion of smaller objects well outside any visible spectrum.

Also, for any RWS detractors who will argue that the mirror was flawed gov't work - the mirror was, at the time it was created, the finest mirror ever ground. The spherical aberration of the mirror is such that if it were the size of the Gulf of Mexico, no single ripple would be larger than 4 inches. It's a hell of a piece of engineering and another example of the government working with and directing private enterprise to create an artifact which speaks to the best elements of human character.

The new telescope (I think it's called Cassini) which will replace it will be better still. We aspire and struggle and dream, and learn, and do better. And that's an essential part of being human - learn, build, observe, integrate, and more learning.

And Frank, if you really think the universe is only 6000 years old, I suggest you avoid places like the grand canyon and roads with rock-fall signs....if the universe was 6000 years old, rocks would be falling and eroding at a rate sufficiently great that you'd be able to observe it. That rocks don't fall in such profusion as to be able to ding your somewhat mineralized soft-centered cranial apparatus may or may not make an impression on you, but it suggests that ideology trumps facts in your perspective.


Anonymous said...

Dr S:
Does the awe such a glimpse inspires make you think about how it all started? To me, things not fully comprehended, especially those that produce amazement-- make the case for god.

Sid Schwab said...

DD: to me, not knowing something doesn't make a leap to god; it just means there's more to know. Same with feeling inspired; you don't need to fill in blanks with something unknown to feel it.

I can't get past the question, who created god? Either way you have to accept the existence of something pretty complicated without having been created. Either the universe, or god.

The answer believers give is, well, we can't understand it; or, he just always existed. Which could also be said about the universe before or after the big bang.

I can imagine we're like a science project for someone more complex; that the universe is the equivalent of the terrarium you see at fairs...

And I'm absolutely sure of one thing: if there is a creator -- and I have no way to prove there isn't -- it's clear as can be that he/she/they/it is in no way like the god of the bible. The world we observe is simply inconsistent with an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god, who knows us before we're born, who has a plan for us all, whose will be done. It's self-evidently impossible to reconcile.

Frank Drackman said...

Ok Sid,
I'll give you Mad Props for knowing who Bo Jackson is/was..
Now if you know his REAL first name, I'll admit BHO was born in this Country...
But MY Almer Matter produces both Heisman Winners AND Moon Walkers..
Whens the last time Hah-Vud won anything Athletic???
And it reminds me of this Devout Buddhist Cardiologist.
Me and this Red Neck Surgeon were arguing about Hey-Zeuss, when Slanty Eyes interrupted.
"You Both Wong" he said, "The Universe is a Sphere on the back of a Gigantic Turtle"
Umm. but what does the Turtle sit on? I cracked.
"Another Turtle"
and what does HE sit on?
"Still a larger Turtle"
and I was about to go on when the Surgeon said
"its no use, its Turtles all the way"


Sid Schwab said...

Pretty old joke, Frankie. (Or is it Vincent?)

There's even song about it.

Anonymous said...

Dr. S
Agree-- that whatever god "is",does not resemble human-created versions (as depicted in the Bible or mythology). And earthly religious institutions are often very flawed (e.g. Catholic church)
Neither science, philosophy or religion can answer the "who created god" question, and we may never (in our brief lifetime) understand or "know" that. As for an "all-powerful" creator, well that is not consistent with free will. In every situation we have choices (though they may not be the selections we want: e.g. shall I have a lumpectomy or radical mastectomy?)But we get to decide how we deal with our life; as a song lyric says " we have two lives the one we're given and the other one we make".

If you have children Dr. S, you know the feeling of accepting their (adult) choices, because you love them. Not because their choices are what you would choose (for them) or because they are best. Maybe god functions something like that. At the heart of the god question, I guess I want to believe that we (humans) are not alone in a vast universe and that our "souls" are connected to each other and to an intangible, divine force. Maybe, along with the natural world/universe, we are part of god.

Jim said...

DD, I would suspect that most of us wish for something after this life that our consciousness might appreciate.

I believe it is in our nature and always has been to seek explanations. When we can't find obvious or logical explanations we will invent something. You only have to look back in history and marvel and the quantity and quality of the gods and myths that were created to explain the daily events in life.

Just the shear number of such gods, in part, leads me to doubt the existence of any.

In the end, it is whatever gets you through the day. My problem begins when fanatical beliefs in someone's myths have negative impacts on my life which is becoming more and more the case as a result of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

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