Look nearby for our cosmic address
There’s nothing like a look into the heavens to remind us how tiny and, some say, insignificant we are in the annals of time and the vastness of space. But there’s nothing like a real-life milestone to return those thoughts to the only world most of us will experience.
Like most community newspapers, we have reported on tens of thousands of those milestone over the years: the births and the deaths; the graduations and marriages; the accomplishments and awards; and so many smaller contributions and activities along the way. They are the glue that keeps a community newspaper together, and an important part of local connectivity.
In contrast, there are out-of-this-world thoughts of our place in the cosmos, defined simply as “the universe seen as a well-ordered whole.”
Scientist Carl Sagan first presided over an on-air tour through the universe with his 1980s television series, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.” This month, Neil deGrassse Tyson launched his updated journey with an even more amazing series, “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.”
The new documentary series, again drawing on concepts popularized by Sagan, opened with a spellbinding trip through time defined as Earth’s 13.8-billion-year cosmic calendar, downsized from Sagan’s 15 billion years. Tyson condensed that calendar into a 12-month period beginning with the Big Bang on January 1.
From that perspective, each minute represents more than 26,000 years in time. Evolution of life began on September 21, man’s earliest ancestors appeared on December 30, and Columbus voyaged to the Americas only two seconds ago.
Tyson characterized our “cosmic address” beginning with the Earth, our Solar System, other galaxies and, finally, the “observable universe.” Next, he offered the mind-blowing suggestion that our already unimaginable universe is just one bubble in an infinite sea of universe bubbles.
Such ideas seem to dwarf efforts to make sense of global warming, possible extinction of the sage grouse or the Russian annexation of Crimea. Of course, even those earth-bound issues, among thousands more, exist and evolve far beyond our day-to-day lives.
And so, we have the births and the deaths; the graduations and marriages; the accomplishments and awards; and so many smaller contributions and activities along the way. We have the family and friends, the co-workers and associates, and now the virtual acquaintances connected through e-mail and social media.
Those experiences and relationships are the glue that holds our lives together. For most of us, they are our cosmic calendar, and our cosmic address.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news register.com or 503-687-1223.