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”
“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”
“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”
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”
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?”
What’s life without the world within us, a perpetually unfolding space that is the kaleidoscope to our reality? Children, being so free from the constraints of adulthood, roam in and out of this space without care, bringing traces from one world to another. These are the years of soft imaginings; of observing the world like a sponge which takes in all that it can take, without the pretense of an intellectual or the fear of being wrong.
At the same time, we are taught that these meanderings are nothing but child-like tendencies to understand the world. As we step into adulthood, we are transforming our minds to be computation tools to synthesize information, leaving the imaginations behind and forgetting that these kinds of meanderings, too, still remain to be the most fertile space to understand the world.
Scientists too are vivid imaginators. From Carl Sagan to Albert Einstein, the greatest scientists agree on a crucial thing – the role of imaginations to create space for theories and calculations. Carl Sagan lamented the ways parents dismissed children’s quirky questions, while Einstein had understood for a long time that “creativity is intelligence at play.” So what’s a better way to learn about this fluid spectrum of creativity and intelligence than to peek into some of the greatest scientists’ early beginnings; their first steps of fascination towards the worlds of invisible matters.
Continue reading “How to Raise Scientists”
AND THE RETHINKING OF HISTORY
Democritus, or fondly called the Laughing Professor, was the first person to theorize the existence of atoms 400 years before Jesus Christ and a millennia before the invention of algebra:
Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.
A thousand years before the invention of telescope and microscope, Democritus vividly imagined that all things are composed of tiny matters that are indivisible and indestructible. These atoms, in Democritus’ mind, are pointy and sharp if it is salty, slippery if it’s liquid, airy and whirling if it’s air atoms, and have hooks and barbs that govern the interaction between each atom.
Democritus’ line of thought was ‘easy’ (too easy, even), clear, reasonable and practical (to the point that, in some sense, humorous), without spiritual fringes akin to Plato’s line of thought who believes that the physical world mirrors the godly world. It’s no wonder that Plato hated Democritus’ ideas so much that he required the burning of all his books. And perhaps hence, the beginning of our dismissal to Democritus’ sensibilities in thinking.
Continue reading “Democritus”