Thought — 2 Min Read

Fools We Are

by Case Greenfield, May 25th, 2023

Thought — 2 Min Read

Fools We Are

by Case Greenfield

May 25th, 2023

We have the most beautiful planet in the Universe. A source of joy and happiness. A precious treasure. But most of us don’t see it. We are fools.

A bit more humbleness would fit us well, and carefulness, and caring, and loving … for our cozy rabbit hole, the pale blue dot. And for each other, because it is all we have.

You may know that I have a background in Theoretical Physics. That gives one an interesting perspective of life. Especially the insights from Astronomy. An example is the simple – often asked or chatted – question “Where are you?”

Zoom out

You may answer “I’m in Main Street”. And the other person may ask “Where is Main Street?” You may answer “In New York.” “Where is New York?” “In the USA.” Where is the USA?” “On Earth.” “Where is Earth?” “In the Solar System.” “Where is the Solar System?” In the Milky Way.” Where is the Milky Way?” … Well, you get the picture.

Another often asked question is “When will you be here?”

You may answer “I’ll be there at one pm.” And the other person may ask “What day?” You may say “Tuesday.” “What week?” “Week 12.” “What year?” “2023” “What year 2023?” “AC, after Christ.” Well, you get the picture.

Space dimensions

And now, for some people it gets scary. Did you know how many galaxies like our Milky Way there are? An estimated two trillion!, that is. How many stars are there on average per galaxy? Nobody knows exactly, but a reasonable estimate seems to be to take the – estimated – number of stars in our Milky Way as an average. That is about one trillion stars in one galaxy. So, a reasonable estimate is that there are roughly stars in the universe. Finally, it is estimated that there is on average at least one planet per star. That’s a lot of planets. And we inhabit one. One! Only one! (And, to make it beyond human imagination, some astronomers have postulated that there are an infinite number of universes, the ‘multiverse’ hypothesis.) And, mind you, no time soon, probably never, will we be able to leave our planet. Forget it, even Mars.

Time dimensions

Are you boggled at these numbers? Already? Well, buckle up. It gets worse. The – technology driven – world that we know, exists, let’s say, about 350 years – roughly since the invention of the steam engine in 1769. Civilization exists, let’s say, 5,000 years – since the rise of agriculture and trade and the earliest networks of urban settlements. And we can go on like that. Homo Sapiens evolved from early hominid predecessors about 200,000 years ago. So, let’s make some big steps. Dinosaurs – and most of life at that time – were killed 66 million years ago by a just 10 km wide asteroid, giving mammals a chance. (Earth diameter is about 12,750 km.) Earliest life on Earth – simple microbes – started probably about 3.7 billion years ago. Earth itself is probably about 4.5 billion years old, the Sun about 4.6 billion years. And, another big step, the Universe itself started with a Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, that is 13,700,000,000 years ago.

Where and when are we?

So, it is clear that we are less, much less than a sand grain in the universe. Famous physicist Carl Sagan once called our planet “the pale blue dot“. And that is what it is. Our planet, that we find is so big is just a very very tiny dot in the universe, totally negligible. It is two billionth, no trillionth, no, there is not even a word for it, ten to the power minus 24-th of only all planets – which are a tiny fraction of all matter – in the Universe, practically zero. We live on a sand grain in a vast desert of emptiness. Pretty lonesome! But it still is our world, our life, our cozy rabbit hole. All we have is each other.

We live on a sand grain in a vast desert of emptiness

How long have we, modern humans, been around? Let’s say 2,000 years. How long will we be around? Could be anything from zero to, let’s say, 2,000 years: zero if we all soon die of a lethal plague, global warming, an earth-crashing meteorite, nuclear war or whatever, or up to 2,000 until we have completely transformed ourselves into a new species.

You may say it will not happen, because it hasn’t happened the last 700 years, since the Black Death pest plague, but the longer we exist, statistically the bigger the chance gets that a ‘black swan’ will occur; it is a matter of time. With COVID-19 we were simple very lucky that it wasn’t very contagious and lethal combined.

Just imagine, in the end we will probably have existed maximum 4,000 years. Let’s assume the Universe is half way its existence. Then, we will exist about 4,000 years out of 28 billion years, that is about one ten-millionth, or 0.0000001 of the life span of the universe. A blib in the Universe’s timeline. Practically zero. Yet, this is our time, our short moment of fame.

Okay, I will stop now. It is clear, we are a very short, tiny little spat in the universe.

Fools we are

Yet, some members of the tiny little spat that we are, feel and think that they are the most important thing in the world, on Earth, the center of the Universe. Interesting, right?

In (another) reality, of course, we are totally vulnerable: natural disasters, such as sun flares, cosmic radiation, sudden changes in Earth’s magnetic field, meteorites, lethal plagues for one, or self-inflicted disasters such as global warming or nuclear Armageddon, just to name a few. Yet, many of us – ignorant or lazily denying – live in the assumption that we are untouchable, living in excess, without gratitude or thankfulness for what we have.

And what do we have! Probably one of the the most beautiful planets in the vast Universe. A source of joy and happiness for us. We have the brightest colors. We have the best tastes. We have the greatest smells. The best feelings. A precious treasure. But most of us don’t see it.

We are fools.

Fools we are.

A bit more humbleness would fit us well. And carefulness. And caring. And loving. For our cozy rabbit hole, the pale blue dot. And for each other, because in the vastness of universal space and time, that is all we have. Who knows for how long …

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