Sunday, October 30, 2016

There Are Other Worlds Than These

Planet Claire has pink air
All the trees are red
No one ever dies there
No one has a head

~~ “Planet Claire” by the B-52s

Today we got a special treat, with a visit to the Notre Dame planetarium at the Jordan Hall of Science.

This was especially fun because we had NO IDEA that Notre Dame has a planetarium! They’ve had it for twelve years.

Why wasn’t I informed of this??

Anyway, Ken got the tickets through our local NPR station, WVPE. I haven’t found out yet how accessible or available it is to the general public. It looks like they also do journeys into molecules and the human body. COOL! Can I just hang out there all the time?

So here’s the deal. Notre Dame is a Catholic university. This program blended a journey through our known universe, using actual data and images from satellites and NASA, with theological readings from various scholars. It was way too churchy for me. As I told Ken later (we stopped for a beer at the Crooked Ewe and discussed amongst ourselves), I am in awe of the natural world and don’t feel any need to ascribe it to some sort of supernatural being.

Leaving the theological stuff behind, it was a truly awe-inspiring look into just how vast our universe is and how precious and fragile our pale blue dot is. The program put our place in the universe into perspective, pulling out to show our world, our solar system, our sphere of radio transmission, our galaxy, and the trillions of galaxies that lie beyond our own.

KABLOOIE. Mind blown.

The astrophysicist, Dr. Sakimoto, who runs the place took questions after the program and man, how great is it to be surrounded by fellow science geeks? Pretty damn great, for real! There were some good questions and Dr. Sakimoto had some interesting answers. One that he gave often was, “To be honest, we don’t know.” That was perfect. Science does NOT have all the answers. The reason we science is because we want to learn and figure it out!

There was some discussion of whether or not there are other civilizations and life-forms out there. Ken and I continued that discussion over beers and I wondered how we define life? Maybe there are other life-forms out there that do not jibe with our carbon-based life-forms. Exhibit A: the Horta in Star Trek, a silicon-based life-form. I know it was a TV show, but come on! It’s a valid point! Why do life-forms necessarily need water? Anaerobic bacteria don’t need oxygen. What if other life-forms evolved under different circumstances? What if anaerobic bacteria evolved into anaerobic beings??

KABLOOIE. Mind blown again.

It was a fun afternoon and it really made me ponder. It also made me realize that our little orb is very precious and that we need to protect it. Climate change denial threatens us all.

We are a long way from being able to colonize other planets. Let’s take care of the one we have, okay?