The final frontier

There is something about watching videos that remind me of how small our planet is, and how impossibly small of a space we occupy in the universe, and how incredibly little we know about either planet or universe, that gives me that tingly feeling inside.

This week, I got tingly while watching The Known Universe by the American Museum of Natural History (via Gee Len on Facebook, who shared "This Link Leads You To The Entire Known Universe")

And that made me think of one of my favourite TED talks ever, wherein the delightfully cute Brian Cox talked about the CERN supercollider (before it was completed last year). The part I love is towards the end, from 10:50 to 14:35, in which he recites what he calls "a wonderful narrative --- almost a creation story, if you'd like --- about the universe, from modern science over the last few decades".

Mmmmm ... tingly.

When I was a kid, my first adult-like ambition was to be a teacher --- pretty much par for the course for any wee urbanite who's packed off to school where teachers wield all the classroom power --- but after that what I really wanted to be was an astronomer (which I've briefly mentioned before). Not doing well in physics, or really, in any science subject in school put paid to that vague dream, but I still get a kick out of reading or seeing astronomy-related stuff (the ones I can understand, anyway). The best non-visual link I've found recently is this lesson plan for "The Earth as a peppercorn" (via Slate's "Learning To Love the Moon"), which uses a "thousand-yard model" to help people understand the relative sizes of the planets and the distances between them.

In a nutshell: even if the Earth is represented by the size of a peppercorn, while the sun by a ball 8 inches wide, even then the distance between Pluto and the sun is, well, pretty damn far. Go read and imagine it for yourself.



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