Left Coast / Right Coast: A speck on the wall inside the Grand Canyon – the Cosmos

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

Whenever I find myself becoming too involved in all the trivia of day-to-day living, I find myself  “Up on the roof.

Look at the first stanza’s words:

“….When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me….”

What the Drifters were saying in their song is that for them the same thing holds as what I’ve written above. Sometimes you just have to “zone out.” Only in that way can you “center yourself.

For me, reading about the Cosmos is the best way to re-center myself.

Let’s look briefly at our Cosmos: If we just look at our own solar system which once upon a time consisted of the sun and nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Unfortunately, in the late 1990s cosmologists decided that Pluto was not, in fact, a planet, but simply a large asteroid. Pluto’s problem is that it is actually a part of the Kuiper belt, which is a very large disc of asteroid type bodies, which starts at Neptune and extends well beyond where Pluto is located.

How awful it must have been for Plutonians (highly unlikely that they exist there) to discover that they were no longer on a planet.

Not that it matters, but staring into space – especially on a clear night away from city lights, you can see a number of planets with the naked eye. Mars, the planet that cosmologists think is the most likely to be able to sustain life (with a tremendous amount of technology) is on average 140 million miles from earth.

It would take an average of 22 minutes for a radio transmission to get from one planet (ours) to Mars. So carrying on a conversation would be very difficult. About the same speed as Stephen Hawking can communicate to another person using his cheek controlled computer.

The vastness of space always snaps my head back. It makes you think how insignificant we are here on planet earth. I saw a documentary the other day on celestial bodies, mostly asteroids and how unlikely it is that another one would strike earth. (About 60 million years ago, one struck earth wiping out virtually all life on our planet including the dinosaurs.)

In fact, life on earth itself was a highly unlikely occurrence. It required a planet with oxygen, water and a temperate enough climate to have allowed life to evolve. This type of planet is called being in the Goldilocks Zone (not too cold, not too hot, just right).

Initially, it was very simple single celled life forms. (Think Amoebas.) Then through the miracle of evolution, these life forms evolved over billions of years. One branch of evolution created primates, then ultimately humans. I always think it is remarkable that human life still exists at all.

Why do I say that? Because in just a half-century, humans have developed weapons that would assure complete destruction of all life on earth. (Although some think that creatures like cockroaches would survive a mass extinction.) In fact, over 99% of the approximately five billion species that evolved are now extinct.

Now when we learn there are trillions of planets out there, it is almost a certainty that life has evolved on other planets in other solar systems. I take a certain comfort in that fact as if we do annihilate ourselves; it appears as if life will go on. Most certainly, not in our current human life form.

In fact the great S. Hawking has warned earthlings that we should not be that anxious to find other human-like life. He concludes this saying that these other life forms would most likely not be that hospitable to us. All you need do is watch one of the "Planet of the Apes" movies to see one version of what an inter-species confrontation might be like.

But these types of lofty thoughts really help me re-center myself by realizing how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. It really gives one perspective.


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