Out of This World (Please!)

Time to take a little break from the 24/7 cable news siren song of fear, anger and controversy to remind ourselves of the wonders of the world and universe we live in. I was just thinking about the end of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn last week. The long mission to Saturn was a scientific accomplishment worthy of wonder itself, let alone the mind-boggling discoveries made about Saturn and its moons. Imagine the complexity of calculating the numerous variables involved in steering a spacecraft millions of miles around the sun at precisely the right angle, with precisely the right burst of rockets and centrifugal/gravitational forces to gather enough speed to go faster than any man made object ever, then avoid several planets and thousands of asteroids, calculate the force of gravity, and brake at exactly the right orbit around Saturn with communications delayed by hours.

What a wonderful thing when a human brain can sort this incredible complexity into a successful mission. A collection of billions of cells in our skulls creates consciousness in a process we still can’t even understand how to study. Not only does the brain somehow create self-awareness, it creates the ability to think in three dimensions at a rate faster than any supercomputer yet devised. It transforms mathematical calculations into a mission like Cassisni and we see the tangible results in images and data!

Then there are the results of the mission itself to wonder at.  Cassini discovered that Saturn has at least 62 moons, one of which has an ocean beneath a frozen crust that may be able to support life (Cassini was deliberately burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid harm to any potential life form). Even the Rings of Saturn revealed new discoveries – billions of particles of ice and rock woven like a spinning rope on a perfectly flat plane. Saturn also has a single storm encompassing three quarters of the planet for entire years. It’s a wonder and wonderful.

I think that when we escape the gravity of our own human flaws and self-concerns we discover a wonderful universe and all the fatigue of conflicts evaporates. From the miracle of our brain and consciousness to the universe beyond our world, there is so much to discover and joy that is in discovering. If only we spent as much time staring at the night sky as we do at cable news …

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