Monicks: Unleashed

Thinking Critically

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We are insignificant…and that is awesome!

The picture that science presents to us is, in some sense, uncomfortable because what we’ve learned is that we are more insignificant than we ever could have imagined. You could get rid of us and all the galaxies and everything we see in the universe and it will be largely the same. So we’re insignificant on a scale that Copernicus never would have imagined. And in addition, it turns out the future is miserable. So the two main lessons that I like to say I like to give is first we’re insignificant and second the future is miserable. Now that – you might think that should depress you, but I would argue that, in fact, it should embolden you and provide you a different kind of consolation.

Because if the universe doesn’t care about us and if we’re an accident in a remote corner of the universe, in some sense it makes us more precious. The meaning in our lives is provided by us; we provide our meaning. And we are here by accidents of evolution and the formation of planets and we should enjoy our brief moment in the sun. We should make the most of our brief moment in the sun because this is all we have.

And even if we’re so rare that we’re the only life forms in the universe, which I doubt, that makes us, in some sense, while we’re more insignificant, we’re more special. We are endowed with a consciousness that can ask questions about the beginning of the universe and learn about the universe on its largest scales and experience everything that it means to be human. Music, art, literature, and science. So for me it should be spiritually uplifting that we’re not created with a purpose by someone who takes care of us, like a mannequin or with strings determining everything. We determine our future. And that makes our future more precious.

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Celestial Fireworks – Astronomy Picture of the Day

Credit: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Click to Enlarge image

Resembling the puffs of smoke and sparks from a summer fireworksdisplay in this image from NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, these delicate filaments are actually sheets of debris from a stellar explosion in a neighboring galaxy. Hubble’s target was a supernova remnant within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the southern hemisphere.

Denoted N 49, or DEM L 190, this remnant is from a massive star that died in a supernova blast whose light would have reached Earth thousands of years ago. This filamentary material will eventually be recycled into building new generations of stars in the LMC. Our own Sun and planets are constructed from similar debris of supernovae that exploded in the Milky Way billions of years ago.

Credit: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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Astronomy Picture of The Day – The Red Spider Nebula: Surfing in Sagittarius

Credit: ESA & Garrelt Mellema (Leiden University, the Netherlands)

Huge waves are sculpted in this two-lobed nebula some 3000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. This warm planetary nebula harbors one of the hottest stars known and its powerful stellar winds generate waves 100 billion kilometres high. The waves are caused by supersonic shocks, formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. The atoms caught in the shock emit the spectacular radiation seen in this image.

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