I must admit, I’ve never quite gotten the love many people seem to have for astrophysics. Almost every time someone wants to promote science, it seems, they talk about the grandeur of the universe, and it’s never really done much for me. So, at first, I focused my observance of this week on the stuff I like more – the philosophical stuff.
I reread parts of one of my favorite books from college – Thomas Nagel’s the View from Nowhere. The book is a discussion of objectivity. Nagel writes that we gain a lot when we look at things from a relatively more objective perspective. Knowledge could not progress if we did not constantly try to put our idiosyncrasies aside and take a wider view of the world. But, he goes on to argue, we also lose something. Just because a concern is subjective is not to say it’s not real or important. Nagel exhorts us to live with the tension that comes from seeing ourselves from multiple perspectives at once. Anyway, I love the book and the way Nagel things about life. I think he has really put his finger on a fundamental human experience.
I also really enjoyed Massimino’s talk. I recognized that sense of loneliness we feel when we forget how connected we really are. I tend to isolate sometimes and it was a good reminder for me to reach out.
I bought some freeze dried Astronaut ice cream. It wasn’t nearly as good as real ice cream, but it was fun. I probably would never have gotten around to trying it without the prompting of this week, and I’m glad I did.
And then I tried star-gazing. I’ve done it before and, as I said, it didn’t do much for me. Stars are pretty, I guess, but I’ve never felt anything special. But I went again, primed with thoughts of my place in the universe and… almost, sort of, felt something. And then it was gone. I’m sorry, I just don’t care about the twinkling little lights. The walk home, though, was a different story. I think it was the cold and the dark and the solitude (I just happened to go alone) more than anything. Those things all tend to make me reflective. But by the time I got back I did have a feeling of greater perspective, a feeling of greater calm as I went back to my everyday life.
What were your experiences this week? Comment to share them!