I recently visited the Museum of Science in Boston with my family and discovered something rather distressing.  We went to the Hayden Planetarium’s presentation of  Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond our Sun which revealed to me in dramatic fashion and great astronomical detail by Harvard and MIT PhDs that I am, against all superior judgment, NOT the centre of the universe.  Okay, that was a bit of a cosmic shock, if I may say so, but I guess I had it coming.

For some people, it’s important to be one leap for mankind closer to answering the almighty question, “are we alone?”, but for me the answer to that question now points to more species slowing my high-speed internet and clogging my satellite TV.  Sad face.

In the two and a half decades since I have graduated from university, astronomers have discovered the existence of exoplanets – planets that are outside our solar system.  An unbelievable 800 or so such planets have been discovered. As astronomers find more of these exoplanets, like HD 142 b in the constellation of Phoenix (yes, that’s far, far, FAR away – farther away than Pluto), I am not only closer to realization that I am not a dominant force in this universe, I now also have to get used to the fact that I am really rather insignificant.  If  our sun is nothing more than a pinhead on a vast sandy beach in the cosmos, what does that make Earth?  More to the pinhead, what does that make me?  A tiny speck?  A speckle of a speck?  A “pinhead” used to be a bit of a derogatory term, but now I find out that being a pinhead at least has some significance in our cosmos … while I have none … barely even a speck of dust! This, on a Monday morning.

During the presentation, I found myself thinking Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, clearly providing some explanation why I am not an astronomer from MIT or Harvard.  Horton said, “There’s a tiny person on that speck that needs my help!”

In the vast cosmos, I am not even a tiny person on a speck.  I’m not even a speck.  I slowly started to feel invisible, like I do at BestBuy on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas.  Or when asking for technical assistance from my internet provider.  Or while waiting 45 minutes for my scheduled doctor’s appointment.  Or when having to wait for my kids down the street around the corner from their teen party.  Come to think of it, apparently I have a great deal of experience being inconsequential!  Horton, I just want you to know that I aspire to be more than just a pinhead.  I’m working hard to be the best terrestrial speck possible!  In the immortal words of Horton, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.

If there was a bright star in this cosmic disappointing discovery it was in reminding my family that THEY are not the centre of the universe either.  And that my star-gazing friends, made my starry, starry night.  Nananabooboo!

Do you wonder if we are not alone?  Or like me, would you rather be left alone?

20 Responses to Earth: The Pinhead of the Universe. Making me … what?

  • If there are “others” out there, they better start following your blog. Your best pinheaded fan, Amy

  • I don’t think I’m alone. I have little ghosties that traipse around after me. I’m sure of it.

    For an astronomer, what must it be like to go to work every day thinking – no, *knowing* – that you are a mote of solar dust? Depressing….

    Yes, I like being alone. It’s my preferred state. And I’m there with you, pushing the rock up the hill, trying to be the best speck o’ dust possible!

    • I never even thought of ghosts or the afterlife! Wow – think of the overcrowding as our Universe expands! Mindboggling 🙂
      P.S. You’re a pretty special speck o’ dust EMC (oh no! and another reference to theory!)

  • Love this. Who knew pinhead is practically a compliment? Since we’re just speckles of specks I kinda feel like I lost weight…. ; )

  • Astra, ten years ago I would have wondered if we are alone. Today, I just want to be left alone to drink my wine and belch in private. That said, you are a phenomenal terrestrial speck and I have a hard time believing how you could ever feel invisible. When I start feeling inconsequential, I look around and think, what do they know? ha! Here’s to being pinheads! Cheers! 🙂

    • Cheers to you, my fellow pinhead; you are too funny! To heck with the Universe and my inconsequentiality, I shall clink and drink and belch in your honour 🙂

  • I would say you are one of the more funnier pinheads around. This is too much to think about at the end of the week, let alone a Monday morning. And how do they possibly name all these planets? Just like Eloise, I think I have more to worry about with the ghost thing. Just as I was writing this, a couple of my pictures just fell down and no one is in the room where they fell.

    • Thanks Anne! I’m sure you’ll do a better job naming the ghosts that knock your pictures off the wall than NASA does naming the exoplanets! Thanks for stopping by ~A 🙂

  • Have you seen Men in Black, the scene where Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) opens the locker and inside is a small universe.. or even at the end when he opens the door and Will Smith almost falls into another cosmos…. How can we not wonder, which I do, in my spare time, which I have to tell you is soooooooo seldom. I don’t have any friends to bother me, or rather they find me boring now since I am always writing, thinking about writing, talking about writing, or dreaming up stories to writes, so I am mostly left alone with my own dust bunnies, real ones. BTW, are you submitting your stuff, your writing is a treat on the eyes..

    • I have seen Men in Black (but not the newest one out now, mind you). Hopefully we get along just as well when we really DO meet ETs! I appreciate your comment about my writing too! I submit stuff here and there but the right venue is elusive 🙁

  • Astra, I’m one of those folks who is too busy to stop and think of the cosmic meaning and whether or not we’re alone. But when I do stop to think about it, I find it boggles the mind and it’s just too much to try to grasp. So I’ll go around my business, being the worker bee that I am, and leave it to the scientists–and you, of course–to figure out. 😉

  • What you have pointed out is the truth and amazing reality of the miraculous Astra (albeit in your usual humorous tongue-in-cheek way!) Keep ’em coming girlfriend.

  • So…I’m a science fiction geek and find this topic fascinating. The curious side of me says: yes, let’s find out… but the side of me that have seen the countless horrid Hollywood depictions of those not from Earth have left me feeling a bit raw about the prospect. I would imagine that hearing that lecture was humbling. Does it force you to consider/re-consider YOUR place in the universe?

    • Yes – it sure made me pause to think! I often use the phrase, ‘think global, act local’ in considering my actions. Now in thinking of my place in the universe perhaps I may be forced to think beyong global (but still act local!). My 14-yo son had a different reaction: total amazement and wonder at the possibilities! He was hooked!

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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