May. 19, 2022

Beautifully Alone

In writing about acient Egyptian and Irish civilizations 5,000 years ago, I was inevitably awed by the amazing artistic, language, and architectural feats they were able to achieve without the advances we enjoy today. And, of course, humans today continue to push the boundaries. Who cannot stand agog before the Empire State Building, the Large Haldron Collider, or a modern aircraft carrier?

Yet, with all our advances, the majesty of the universe is there to remind us to be humble.

An example would be the amazing journey of the Voyager 1. I read today that NASA continues to communicate with the Voyager 1 probe it launched 45 years ago, and which is now 14.5 billion miles away in interstellar space far beyond Pluto, a distance it has achieved by traveling at the heady speed of about 11 miles a second! Truly incredible.

But...

The closest star is Proxima Centauri, about 25 light years away. After 45 years, Voyager has not yet traveled a light DAY (the distance light would travel in 24 hours).

If one does the math, that means even at 11 miles per second (about 38,000 miles per hour), Voyager 1 will take 18,250 years to cover a single light year, and could not reach Earth's closest neighbor for over 77,000 years.

While I agree with Carl Sagan--that, in an infinite universe, if there's no other intelligent life out there, it's an awful waste of space--it would seem that the Grand Designer did not ever want these life forms to meet.

Like the ancient Egyptians and Celts, we still stand on the shores of our familiar world, gazing out at the stars, wondering what we might find if we could touch them.