Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Little and Humble

            In the past summer, I met a guy from Malaysia who is a fairly nice person. Even though he doesn’t share an interest in astronomy or science, he does have something interesting to share – religion.

He is a worshiper of the Holy Platypus. This belief comes from an idea that, since the existence of god is not completely disproved, and if a god did exist, why not he takes a form of a platypus. Humans, selfish and arrogant, often consider god to be human-like. If the god really had created all living creatures, shouldn’t He share characteristics with plenty types of life form? And that’s where the platypus comes in. It shares characteristics of a bird with a duck-like beak; it shares characteristics of a mammal with fur and mammal glands; it shares characteristics of an amphibian with web-like feet; it shares characteristics of a reptile with its egg-laying and water-based habitat properties.

With a long description of the reason behind the Holy Platypus, I was struck by the main idea – be humble. As I looked back more and more, I found many signs and identifications of humans’ arrogance. The first thing came to my mind is a picture of an alien. From popular media, either movies or novels, an alien appears to share great similarities with human – two eyes, standing on two feet with head as the highest organ, two arms, two feet, ability to see only in visible light etc. Look around, even only on this Earth, there are millions of species and life forms. It would be disappointing that in the universe, plenty of time larger than our Earth, exists only a human-like creature. In movie, a creature maneuvering a spacecraft never has rose-like form. There is no reason why that couldn’t happen. Moreover, we assume that highly intelligent life tends to have similar size to human. May be there is a civilization at atomic or galactic level.

            Not only in popular media, but also astronomy that humans’ arrogance shares a great portion. Earth was believed to be a center of everything – on a pinnacle. Later, we knew that, actually, the Earth orbits around the Sun. That’s not too bad – we are down just to the Sun but on a higher priority than millions other stars. However, the more we explored, the more minute and less important we are. The Sun orbits around a gigantic black hole and is part of the Milky Way galaxy; our galaxy also orbits in a bigger cluster. It’s a long way from Earth as a center of the universe to the position where Earth is now.

            Modern technology emphasizes how “not” important we are. You, me, Cahill building, the whole Caltech, or even this Earth are made up of matter – an “ordinary” matter. However, it turns out to be that matter is just a small fraction of what created the universe – dark matter, dark energy. We use the word “dark” since we cannot see them. May be to other civilizations in the universe, if there is one, we are the “dark” matter ourselves.

In the end, I would like to share a famous picture “Pale Blue Dot.” The picture was taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1, destined to leave our solar system, from approximately 6 billion kilometers away. Around middle of the brown band, there is the Earth as a tiny dot in a vast dark space. Aren't we so "little"? On the day that humans can abandon their hubris and become more humble, the Holy Platypus would provide us the Unified Theory.

Picture from:

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! I agree with your sentiment about aliens. Hollywood has a serious imagination deficit when it comes to alien forms. Two arms, two legs, two eyes...boring.