Today’s inspiration: discovery. Whoa, you don’t say! I’m walking across America to discover things?? I will elaborate, of course.
“How much do you still wonder about the world around you? What is your state of curiosity? When you pass something that you don’t know or understand do you pause and reflect on what the answer might be?”1
You can hear that in this video at 04:45. In the video Dr. Tyson is giving his definition for scientific literacy, but I’ve found this to be an excellent way to put into words much of my driving force. The universe is full of knowledge and experiences, and it’s easy to just sorta get into a routine and forget this reality. We as humans aren’t really wired to think in long timespans, so when we have our job, food, and shelter it’s easy to not feel like introducing new elements to our days because we have what we need.
Curiousity is powerful, and it can give most people so much energy. Just look at kids, most are curious to the point of constant exploration of their surroundings, often to the chagrin of their parents.
“Don’t get in the way of children who find it natural and obvious to explore the world around them – even if it means they make a mess of your kitchen or living room. It’s all about your perspective on these things. Let them play. When you do, the kids do not have to be reintroduced to ways of questioning nature, and the task of promoting science would be a trivial exercise.”2
I am fortunate in not needing to be reintroduced to questioning nature, but being faced with those who do need it would be infuriating if I wasn’t aware of the reality this quote highlights.
I often find myself trying to grasp where I am, where we all are as humans. As I’m sure many of you have seen in the inspirational video that floats around from time to time, we’re made of the leftover materials of expired stars. So how does this happen?
With a star like our sun, it happens in layers. “Hydrogen goes to helium, helium goes to carbon, carbon goes to nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, neon, [this process] goes right on down the table of elements all the way to iron.”3 After burning up it’s fuel, the star goes unstable and explodes, scattering it’s forged elements throughout the surrounding space. The rest of the processes are too long to lay out here, but these elements go on to accumulate into planets, and in Earth’s case, go on to form us!
“What this life actually is, we’re on a f***in’ giant ball that’s spinning in space and nobody talks about it. It’s going a thousand miles an hour floating in the sky, above us is a giant fireball a million times bigger than the Earth, and you need it for vitamin D. If you stare at it you go blind, it’s trying to give you cancer, and if it’s not there you get sad. You’re not freakin’ out?”4
This well encompasses my sentiment. I don’t blame people for not really thinking about this often; it’s not necessary for daily living after all. But the thought that people can hear a quote like that and not start questioning things blows me away at the same time!
On that note, did you know time is relative? Einstein’s work tells us that time passes more slowly for an observer in closer proximity to a higher-mass object than another observer who is further away. Or if the first observer is moving faster than the second! How is that so? What keeps out solar system together? What is heat? What in the f*** even is quantum mechanics? People don’t wanna learn about this?
Okay, so not everyone is interested in physics. But what about our origins? The origin of everything we know to exist? What does it mean to be a creature with an expiration date? To face mortality? If we have a purpose in this life, how to you even begin to find it? I want to know what people think of these questions. I want to seek the answers as much as a person reasonably can.
The more I discover in people, the world, and the universe, the closer I’ll get to those answers, if there even are answers. We may never know all of these things, but I my entire life to learn.
1A Conversation with Neil deGrasse (Full Session) | Interactive 2014 | SXSW, youtu.be/0FMGTVCIDbU
2“Neil DeGrasse Tyson Quote. A-Z Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2017
3The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson, S1 E2, ~24m30s
4Joe Rogan: Rocky Mountain High, 2014