Monday, 2 March 2009

We Are Stardust

Lately, I've had a bit of an interest in all things Physics. Well, sort of. If I had a list titled "Top Dumbstruck Learning Moments at School", i'd say a fair few of them occurred in my Physics class. Now I liked chemistry - that was my class' first introduction to science. I remember a series of bangs and varying degrees of blindness, before our teacher got back on his feet and handed out several mis-matched pairs of goggles and enormous white coats that swamped our eleven year old frames. Biology was quite fun - remember the onion skin test? Oh yes, we liked our microscopes. But though Physics was rather uncool, i'll never forget the day our dear teacher told us the universe was growing. That if it was growing, it surely followed that it had a boundary, an edge of sorts. That not only was it round, but that we should sit and try to imagine what the edge could possibly look like, and what was on the other side. To be honest, all I saw was whiteness - maybe a side effect from earlier experiments that day? Now that, my friends, beats even the largest of chunks of combusting magnesium. That mind-boggling speech was swiftly followed by Joni Mitchell sweetly singing out "we are stardust, billion year old carbon, we are golden!" That was our teacher's favorite song of course. 

So here's to that teacher who made all that science stuff so terribly brain-engaging. He was also very good at easter-egg hunts - scientifically based ones of course... It was also he that paid for my and a friend's tickets to go and see Dr. James Lovelock's speak at the local hall, which was the first i'd really heard of the dying surface of our planet Earth. I went and bought Lovelock's first book the other day, along with Hawking's "A Briefer History of Time". All of those tantalizing questions posed to us in that class are addressed in these here fine books, let alone that whole light year thing (did you know that light particles can travel 186,000 miles in one second? One second? That just blows the whole light year concept right out of my spatial comfort zone, yet how bloody exciting!)

Anyhow, I have yet to finish it and besides, i'm quite sure Hawking is rather better than me in explaining these sort of explosive existential tit bits. So i'll leave you with some images of our universe that quite literally blow my tiny human thoughts into a million particles of possibilities. What does your edge look like?

Photos courtesy of Jason Ware.

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