Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Space gives me an existential crisis

Warning: The following is stream-of-thought, so please bear with me.

I am fascinated by space. And, before you ask, yes, I did see Gravity in 3D and wasn't a huge fan (I don't really like Sandra Bullock). Many times, when I can't sleep, I browse Quora; especially answers from Robert Frost, an engineer/instructor at NASA. I've seen many videos of the International Space Station (ISS), space launches, and reentry. I even followed Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield's, twitter feed from the ISS.

All of this fascination could be the fear of possible aggressive alien species and the fear of not knowing. I think it's interesting that none of what we have explored in space is conducive to human life; that our DNA may have originated in space. 

I always assume that space = death. I can't comprehend that, once you leave the planet, you can still live and come back to Earth with no permanent adverse changes. I guess the same could be said about the ocean, but the ocean is part of Earth. We are all part of Earth. When we fail to stay connected to our planet, what then?

The universe is constantly expanding. What we see as stars are actually explosions that happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. A black hole will turn you into spaghetti, tearing you apart. I have a hard time grasping the theories of physics, especially in relation to cosmology and astronomy. Don't get me wrong, I've tried! It just makes my head hurt...kind of like when I tried to figure out Schrodinger's cat on my own. I eventually understood it, but I needed someone to break it down for me into layman's terms. On a related note, I whole-heartedly believe that the majority of people who think that they understand the example of Schrodinger's cat are lying to sound smarter than they are.


But, I digress. While I can't find evidence of this being fact, I've heard that our galaxy has a similar make up to an atom - our sun being the nucleus and the planets being electrons. I realize that this is a stretch. What we know of the human body and what we know about the universe don't exactly overlap 100%. It would be a work of science fiction to think that we are pieces of a larger being. Or is it? What if we are? Don't mitochondria have their own DNA? Could we be the universe to our mitochondria? (I know, I know...)

These are the things that keep me up at night, and, maybe, just maybe, it is because I don't fully understand the majority of these concepts. I did work in science for many years, despite hating science in elementary and high school. However, there are many different branches of science and very few people are experts of each particular field, much like doctors of medicine. A heart surgeon won't be the person you turn to for cancer treatment.

It all goes back to the fear of the unknown and the seductive nature of trying to understand our own fears. I am an agnostic and tend to value science over religion. My belief, although I would love to think otherwise, is that, when we die, life ends and we go on to complete nature's circle in feeding new life into the world. We become food for insects and plant-life. That plant life goes on to feed other animals, who then feed us, as well as directly feed us. We live, we die, and the cycle renews itself. We live on through our children and their children, who share our genetic make-up and our histories as their history; our knowledge as their knowledge. Yet, I always worry about the "something more" that's out there. The unexplained. The nature of life is not simple.

I guess these ideas about the nature of space are, in a way, searching for a god. Trying to understand why we are here and how. I know in my life-time, I will never really know - not even when I die. But I can try to understand. I can also panic about the concept of reality, but we'll save that blog/freak-out for another time.

This channel is awesome, if you have some free time.


  1. woah. i wish i had read this yesterday! because um, totally.

  2. Hahaha...I know! I thought that when I read your Facebook post. I was thinking, "I just wrote about this very same topic!"