WickedEye's Quotient

10/03/2006 at 18:06

He lives below the senseless stars and writes his meanings in them. -Thomas Wolfe

So the COBE guys have been officially recognized as millenium-class badasses.

And no, I’m not talking about the guys brandishing meat cleavers at astoundingly expensive chunks of cow, though admittedly those guys are impressive. COBE is the Cosmic Background Explorer, the satellite which examined the cosmic microwave background--the mind-bogglingly faint hiss of our universe’s afterbirth.

The men and women who designed, built, launched and operated it are the people who found and definitively mapped the infinitesimal fluctuations studding that attenuated, diaphanous veil of energy.

Who extrapolated the positions of those irregularities and realized that what they were looking at was the variation of densities in the universe’s inception.

Who recognized--in those 0.001% variations in a pattern composed of energy only 2.73K, less than 3 degrees above absolute zero--what would one day be incomprehensible expanses of flaring, pulsing, dark-crowned, starlit extravagance.

Who mapped the universe’s pregnancy with the galaxies and intergalactic matter which define its limits.

These are the human beings who looked  back 14 billion years and saw the warp and weft of the space and time in which we live.

These are the people who conquered, for now and always, the idea that products of a pattern cannot see its origins.

These are the homo sapiens who extended the reach of our species’ minds to the bounds of the universe in which they exist.

Oh, yeah--they also won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics today. But after being shown the borders of space, the beginning of time, the magnitude of human understanding, Sweden isn't far at all.

Anonymous Calladus said...

I'm always amazed at what it is that we mere humans can learn. Math, Science, Art - we have risen so very far above our roots that it makes me wonder what other creatures can aspire to achieve.

Will the ancestors of other contemporary apes develop math? Do dolphins understand philosophy? Will there ever be an elephant Einstein?

Through serendipity the versitle human brain is demonstrably good at things that don't seem to be directly related to our survival. Telescope-gazing doesn't add food to the table, doesn't clothe or house your kids.

But staring through a telescope, launching multi-million dollar space exploration probes, doing esoteric physics - these are long-range survival traits that allow us to identify opportunities for humankind, while identifing possible dangers that we need to be aware of.

Mather and Smoot are not just explorers - the findings from them and their team teaches us more about how the universe really works, which may someday be added to other knowledge to make human lives more productive and safer in a dangerous place.

The mere fact that learning new things happens to be fun for us all is just icing on the cake.  


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