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!