Individual Excerpts from Reports on the Stars
History of Science 3023 / Fall 2002
...although we may know some of the "what?" s, we have yet to answer " why?" . Why is there a universe at all? We may never know. In this sense, despite all scientific advancement, we are hardly closer than we were in prehistory at figuring the universe out.
How does it all fit together, and what else is out there? . . . How can something go on and on with no end? That thought alone blows my mind.
It would be really cool to fly to the moon. That is so awesome to think that we can get into a rocket and take off straight up into the air and end up on the moon, which looks like a small white basketball from here.
Some of the stars seemed to be closer than others to the point of almost reaching out and touching them. I placed my thumb up towards the sky covering up a star and then uncovering it. I thought to myself, the smallest star is far bigger than my thumb. I continued to gaze into the sky but I could not tell where the end of it was. I thought the sky is so much bigger than me, but so small compared to the Creator.
The stars seemed to wax and wane, sometimes they shimmered like a reflection in the water. What caused the shimmer, I wondered? Was it the wind of space disrupting the light particles? Did the light from the stars shed bits of itself as it traveled through space? Did gravity from other heavenly bodies, dark matter, or passing comets disrupt the straight even stream of light?
After some thought it occurs to me that I see a different sky every night. Each star is not in a fixed location nightly, nor is the moon the same fullness, nor are the clouds in the same places. The night before was the same canvas with a different painting. It seems that because I presume to know enough astronomy, I have become too lazy or indifferent to see the nuances above me. I never take mental note of the constellations or the position of the moon. I simply accept the sky as the background set for the play unfolding below it.
I went way out into the country to get away from the city lights. It had been quite awhile since the last time I sat and stared at the stars. I first noticed how bright and cluttered the stars were, and how you can catch a twinkle from one as if it were trying to communicate with you. The sky seemed to have a life of its own.
Does He laugh as we contemplate this universe that is so much larger than us? Does He smile and say, "They are never gonna guess this one!" What are His thoughts? What does He delight in? Does he smile as a star falls from its hanger? Does He enjoy watching the squirming children as the sun peeks over the horizon at all the sleepy faces? Does He sit and watch me, staring down at my face, as I stare up at the heavens, searching for Him?
I chose to observe the night sky in the early morning as it began to give way to the daytime sky. As I observed, the sun was still well below the horizon but the line that divides the night sky from the day sky slowly began to obscure the distant stars. . . Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the obscuring effect that the sun's coming light had on the dark night sky provided a metaphor for the way the human race attempts to explain the nature of Nature.
When I look at the stars and the Earth, the most perplexing problem is trying to find a link between the two. It just seems that both are so completely different. The Earth is able to be experimented with, while I know virtually nothing about the other.
It is hard to believe that in the vastness of the universe that this planet alone has intelligent life forms on it. It is interesting to wonder what it would be like to step on those worlds and to meet those people. . . There may be someone or something out there doing the same things we do. He is going through his life pondering questions of life: Who am I? Where do I come from? Is there anyone like me out there?
I don' t understand most things in this universe, war, love, hate, mosquitoes. I do, however, completely comprehend its beauty. God was having fun when he created this universe, using colors galore, and all shapes and sizes. It's quite mind-boggling, though, to think about its vastness. I don't think I've ever wondered more about anything. . . . Imagination is what brings this whole world together, and without it, the world would be flat.
Part of being human is the need to explain Nature, by imposing order on chaos. In a random array of stars we find constellations, we track the path of the stars to be able to describe their orderly procession across the heavens. The seeming order and predictability of the "motion" of the stars is belied by the fermenting chaos within them. What seems to be a solid, uniform, twinkling particle is actually a humongous heterogeneous mass. Within it are millions of atoms chaotically colliding, giving off the light we sense from light years away.
To me nature is harsh, destructive, beautiful, serene, powerful, colorful, full of secrets.. . . Why there is a reason to everything that nature produces would take more than two pages so I will end with this: Nature will always produce questions and science will continue to harvest answers.
I believe that Nature is both about science and God. When I sit outside, I can almost feel Nature with all my senses. I can hear, touch, taste, smell, and see the sky, the stars, the wind, the grass, the trees, the insects and everything else in Nature. I think about how I have life and how I gave my son life. There is scientific evidence on giving life, but God also gives life. Nature is also life.
Nature is simple but crowded by information. We, humans, tend to complicate our lives in looking too far for solutions that are so simple and close. . . The world we live in is so perfect if only we could understand the big simple picture. In the end or the beginning, I am only one more human trying to find his way.
The sky looks as if it was swallowing the whole world because everywhere you look you can see the dark sky surrounding you. It is very overwhelming to look at something so enormous and me being so small, as like a mere speck of dust upon the earth. The sky is beautiful because it is one of God's creations. God is the maker of the heavens and the earth; therefore, looking at nature is to study God and all of his creations.
The fact that we are but a small tiny speck is quite humbling. We, the 21st century man, perceives himself as the ruler of his own domain and in a microcosm the world itself. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life we never take the time to gaze at the sky and think about where it came from and what it means . . . how do the heavens pertain to me?
The stars are lying to you. When you look up at the sky, they smile down on you with their light. They deceive you. They do not exist. Maybe not all of them lie, but of all the stars you see in the sky, some no longer exist. They exploded long ago into oblivion. The light you see takes so long to get here that by the time it hits your cornea, the source may no longer exist. It may be dead. What you see is not the truth. And that is scary.
First and foremost, I have always loved the fact that everything in this universe is so complex, but yet so simple. Each detail is placed in a specific way to work with others to perform huge or even simple tasks. A minute detail has just as much importance in everyday life as does a huge detail. Every little electron and each tremendous galaxy has a major role in the way life is.
Every time I look into the sky, I wonder if there is another planet exactly like Earth. I wonder if there is another person just like me, doing the exact same thing I am doing at that very same moment. There could be someone out there looking right back into the sky at me thinking the exact same thoughts as I am.
I think that man has persisted in revealing the mysteries and histories of earth= s make-up for centuries over God's creation. Since we cannot see all the design, order, and evolving of nature within a lifetime, just as I cannot see the objects in space but merely their reflected light, man has collected studies and data through science for records in order to piece together the unrecognizable patterns of God's earth/universe.
The heavens and earth provide direction for nature. They provide stability. They also provide a timeline.
Whatever the purpose is for each example of nature's resilience, we as humans have a duty to explore and discover all that we can. Humans must take their own gifts and use them to learn all the purposes and all the beauties that nature has to offer.
The first thing I think about when I look at the sky is how big it is and how far out into space you can see. I can't even come close to seeing the whole thing. I wonder how many stars there are in the universe, and if each star has a solar system and if they have a planet like ours. If so, what is living there and are they as advanced as we are? I know these questions will probably never be answered in my lifetime.
Either by design or chaos is the world made. The Earth spins on its axis at an odd angle. The moon has been smashed again and again. A storm appears from nowhere, causing destruction in its path. Somehow the planet keeps turning in its orbit around the sun, providing life-giving atmosphere to its creatures. The glue of life is a mystery. The forces that hold us all together are divided. They seem to be related, but no one now knows how. Someday the great equation will unify all.
As I look at the star, I imagine a single, particular photon beginning its trip, heading off in as random a direction as any other. . . finally this little photon happened to arrive at the planet we, at the moment, call Earth. The photon's journey was not finished, though. It still had to wade through the thick atmosphere in which my eye was immersed. Finally, the photon arrived at my eye, and was perceived by a sentient organism. Whether or not sentient life exists on other planets, it is almost certainly very, very rare, making it even more amazing that this tiny little photon was able to find its way all across the distance separating us.
I generally accept the big bang theory; however, there are still questions left in my mind about how our universe was created. Questions just pop into my head as I think about the beginning. What created the matter before the big bang? Did it always exist? The part that is hard for me to grapple with is: what created whatever was here initially?
What both intrigues and scares me is the fact that for nearly all of the universe's existence I have not existed. I cannot remember many things from my early childhood, and I don't remember anything before my existence. For all I know life could simply be a dream. I think that a large driving force in human exploration is to find out where we came from, and, more importantly, where we're going, even though we may find that the answer to both of those questions is the same thing.
Many scientists have devoted their lives to finding the laws of nature and have struggled to reach one universal law of nature. The scientific discoveries must be something valuable, unchangeable, and forever. However, if we reach one universal law of nature that explains everything from beginning to end, then what? There may be no need for us to think: no inspiration, no curiosity, and no imagination. As the saying goes, we think, therefore we are.
Out of everything in the universe I find the sun most interesting, although it is not in view at the moment. What is it made of and what is keeping it together? Why does it give off solar flares and how long will it live? What will happen to Earth and our solar system when the sun goes nova?
We are all unified under this huge blanket of stars -- we are, in a sense, one nation. I believe that God created the heavens the way he did so that we could look up at them and come to the realization (as I did) that although we are important as individuals, our only real strength comes from our unity as a world.
When I look into the night sky, I don't contemplate exactly how the planets move in their orbits, or what physics makes comets shoot in and out of view. I see the celestial view as a sense of constancy in a chaotic world. While the world around us is constantly changing, with competing religious sects, political power struggles, and just the everyday hustle and bustle of earthbound life, the stars are one thing that remains constant.
Understanding where we come from and how our world has changed is such a privilege. Looking at the stars, it is apparent that we are such a small part of the bigger picture. Science allows us to better understand nature and how we fit into the scheme of things. To constantly grow and develop is natural and science is a main ingredient in our growth as a population.
It is just second nature for "an early twenty-first century intellectual" to look in the night sky knowing the chemistry/astronomy/physics behind these balls of fire that we call stars. . . I hope that all spirituality in the world does not fade away as science advances further than we can ever imagine.
As I gazed into the night sky, I found the universe to be absolutely amazing. I found myself astonished by the perfection and beauty I saw from so far away. I could feel the power of God in such an amazing creation.
Nature, like the universe, has cycles. In the universe, all of the planets, comets, and other debris orbit the sun in cycles and in nature there is the life cycle. If it wasn't for these cycles there would be an overcrowding all over the planet. It is just nature's way of replenishing itself, getting rid of the old and starting over with new things.
When I look at the sky and don't focus on the science of it all, I can't help but think of how peaceful it all seems. Life on Earth is so fast-paced and cruel. The nighttime sky is a brilliant contrast to the everyday human experience. Every star in the sky seems at perfect harmony with all of its surrounding elements. The moon seems soft and gentle.
The sky is one of the few things in this world that can draw the passion out of me. . . I don't think of the sky and the stars as cosmic events brought about by spontaneous combustion or some other force in the universe. I don't see it that way because I see them as works of God that are often unexplainable by science.
When I look up into that sky, the first thing that I notice is the sheer beauty of it. I wonder if all the scientific minds of the past were ever able to appreciate the universe for that alone, or if the need to discover its essence outweighed its magnificence. That beauty and magnificence has always made me feel as if I was living under a giant canvas, a living piece of art with strokes of dark and countless points of painted starry light.
The night is an almost scary place full of deception, intrigue, and mystery. The moon is for the romantics and lovers, but the stars are for no one. Here I am, being nobody in the grass developing a rash from the pollen. God what a night. I can almost hear the constellations call out to me. No, wait, that's the doctor telling me to hold on while they press the oxygen over my face. Damn allergies.
The heavens are very mysterious. They hold meaning for us in every nuance of their expressions. They encompass the midnight sky, the vast expanse of darkness -- the great unknown. They encompass a multitude of stars -- beacons of light, symbols of hope. What is meaningful to the human heart holds a powerful place within it. I cannot help but gaze upward in wonder at what I am a part of, and what is part of me.
Thinking about the star got me thinking about the planets surrounding that star, and of course the possibility of life on one of those planets. Our sun is just one of billions and billions of stars across the universe, and our earth is just one of trillions of planets. Life exists; there is no doubt about it. It may be on a planet a universe away or on a planet in a nearby solar system. What if one out of two stars had a planet that was favorable to life? Are we ready for that possibility?