Wednesday, February 24, 2021 (26 days until the First Day of Spring)
My fascination with the Mars Rover notched-up my interest in the solar system. I’m almost pitiful after having begun reading Carl Sagan’s COSMOS. The complicated activities of stars, comets, and planets, are even more complicated as I try to comprehend distances as measured in light years.
I’m trying to understand a cosmos that hasn’t much captured me beyond moon sightings, sunrises, and sunsets. Like most of us, I’m no total novice, and understand common knowledge about the cosmos. After the Rover’s landing, I’m tuned into bits of information that grab harder at my mind and imagination.
Consider the ancient Near East a couple hundred years before the common era, when there was Eratosthenes, an astronomer-philosopher-poet-music theorist, and man of all seasons. He experimented with lights and shadows and determined that the earth has a curved surface. Armed with that knowledge and continuing to experiment with lights and shadows, he correctly calculated the earth’s circumference.
A modern reader who hasn’t delved deeply into the cosmos finds it amazing, the focus and dedication of Eratosthenes and scientists who followed. Ptolemy created a model of planetary movement where all in space revolved around the earth. Copernicus changed that model by determining that earth revolves around the sun. Galilei drew from European models of viewing machines to invent a powerful telescope.
Those bright men and their inventions represent more than just a string of history. Sagan’s work is making me realize how very small is earth in the immense universe. And in terms of time and space, how very small are we human individuals. We feel large while consumed by nearly-overwhelming survival concerns, but size has another reality.
It’s the power of human brainwork from earliest times to the present. Recently, human minds calculated the means and ways for a rocket to travel through the universe. That work enabled America’s Mars Rover to travel light years through space, and to land on time and correctly on a target planet. It will take light years for the Rover’s samples to return to earth for analyses. We needn’t wonder if those samples really will show up, for human brainwork has re-proved its merit in that accurate flight and landing.
Dear Friends: It’s mind boggling to delve into the cosmos, and to recognize a tiny earth and us. Diana