The tiny Earth

One of the greatest things about astronomy is that it makes us feel small.

Imagine this: you’re sitting underneath the evening’s glorious dome, mind halfway to Neptune, pondering about the constellations out there, then retreating to the constellations within. Infinity can make any heart skips a beat.

The universe is 13.7 billion light years and the Earth is just a speck of dust; insignificant, easily swept by a meteor swinging our way. We are, in many ways, a cosmic accident, chance and choice conspire in their grandest way to create us, the portal back to the universe. And we happen to live in the most insignificant neighborhood, around an ordinary star, in the outer age arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Continue reading “The tiny Earth”

Advertisements

Is it Orion or Waluku?

“I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.” – Wisława Szymborska

In 1856, Sultan Pakubhuwana VII from Java, created an agricultural calendar using the conspicuous hunter figure in the sky, Orion.

In the northern hemisphere, Orion is a broad-shouldered hunter who is ready to take down his prey. Betelgeuse, one of the brightest, matured red star is the hinge in the shoulder; the source of power, and the three equally sparse stars are his belt where Orion keeps his weapon and also, a pocketful of nebulae. Orion is a remarkably noticeable constellation from anywhere in the world throughout the year, hence it’s often the starting point for newbies to browse through the sky.

But in Indonesia, Orion lays down, resting above the lush tropical forest with his back facing the sky. The Javanese didn’t see it as a man ready to hunt, but a farmer’s plow, a traditional tool that finances and supports their livelihood. Now laying and facing down, his body is the body of the plow and his leg is the handle.

Continue reading “Is it Orion or Waluku?”

Space is the Place

“I’d hate to pass through a planet and not leave it better than I found it.” Sun Ra

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere,” said the beloved astronomer and storyteller, Carl Sagan. The 20s-50s period were the glowing years of astronomy. Within a short few decades, Einstein coined the term spacetime, giving us an understanding of the fluid relationship between space and time; Hubble proposed a theory of an expanding universe; and along with that, George Lemeitre hypothesized the origin of the universe with the Big Bang theory.

Yet as our imagination ascended beyond the visible sky, the two biggest political bodies, too, ascended their weapons of war towards entire humanity.

Continue reading “Space is the Place”

Carl Sagan’s Romantic Prose to Evening Sky

I always find the Moon to be a poetic piece in the sky. Its origin and reality is quite an anomaly. As a satellite, it’s a giant. When other satellites are only 0.04% the size of its planet, our Moon’s size is a quarter of the Earth’s.

The Moon doesn’t have atmosphere, and one time, it was reverberating as if it’s a hollow rock. Its oddity has tempted some people to assume it’s an alien space ship. But even with all these eccentric characteristics, the Moon gives us a familiar radiance in the sky, a soft gaze that has illuminated millions of humans, from the Homo Erectus to us, for millions of years. It’s the steady boat against the infinite sea of time, and it gives us a tremendous sense of calm. Because, unlike the Earth, the Moon is patiently and generously remain the same for millions of years, giving us a common language to the past and to the future. And isn’t that romantic?

Continue reading “Carl Sagan’s Romantic Prose to Evening Sky”

Writing Up for People

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.” E.B. White

Enter a child’s headspace and you will find a perpetually unfolding space for stories and beauty. Children are driven by wonder and endless curiosities. Yet children’s books rarely capture this spirit. They downsize big ideas—in E.B. White’s words: “writing down to children”—even though kids are the most inquisitive creatures who happily swallow mind-stretching topics and swing from one discipline to another like a natural interdisciplinary student.

Recently, we are seeing a reemergence of children’s stories that, like children themselves, galvanize on little mundane things in life, like mornings, a blue bird, or a city’s soundscape. I call them ‘children’s stories for adults’ for its quality that transcends age and time. Working as modernized and simplified fables, these children’s stories for adults mark the realization that adults, too, are still little children inside. Continue reading “Writing Up for People”

Scientific Pleasures and Guilt

Don’t scientific meanderings propel us to a different universe? Aren’t they pleasant daydreams done on a daybed with eyes grazing the clouds, mind half way to Neptune, fantasizing about space travel, the Future, and humanity’s fate? We won’t hesitate to give it a whole day, yet at the same time nearby are neighbors with a family of four earning few hundred dollars a month.

Being able to make space in my head for illustrious distractions, while pondering about big themes in life, is a luxury. And this inevitably begs the question: what’s the purpose of all these meanderings? Is it simply for self-pleasure and reimaginings? How does this become useful to my surroundings, other than as my own mental escape?

Continue reading “Scientific Pleasures and Guilt”

Who’s technology and what’s us?

As we expand our technological capabilities, our spiritual and creative beings are expanded and stretched, too. When years ago we could trace our influences to the immediate surroundings, now we are shaped and molded by bits and code sent from a great distance on the Internet. When decades ago we define our identity mainly through our racial backgrounds, now we define our identities through quirky likings and interests we pick up from various digital niches. The internet has elevated us on to a new experience where the physical bodies couldn’t possibly reach. Instead of having a physical travel, we travel in our minds, diving into the rabbit hole, to the depths of the internet that illuminates unknown corners within ourselves. And this is the intimate marriage we have with technology: a relationship of comfort, domestication, and tyranny.

We drool over the technologies that smoothen edges in our life, which becomes an easy commoditizing motive for any entrepreneurial moves. Technology that makes our life easier is a good start, but is deeply misleading. Whenever we see a chic advertisement of the latest tech product, we’re persuaded that what’s useful is fashionable, and what’s fashionable is useful. But I personally believe that there’s a great spiritual potential in technology that goes beyond the promise of ease and efficiency.

Continue reading “Who’s technology and what’s us?”