Saturday, 19 January 2013

Board that boat.

When did we get so bored? When did the wondrous thing which is the world around us become so banal, so dull, that we felt a need to fill our time with obsessions over celebrity, sports players, fashion, politicians and gossip? I realize that to a good portion of those who will read this, I am ‘preaching to the converted’, so to speak, but I think that we are part of a startling minority, and I hold hope that at least one of the unconverted will read this.

We have all heard of Kim Kardashian, a woman whose fame baffles me, since from what I can gather she is famous for being a whore and little else; but whom among you have heard of Louis Pasteur, who furthered the germ theory of disease and created the first vaccines, or Norman Borlaug, who developed GM crops which were able to grow in environments in which such crops would usually succumb to the elements? The number of lives saved as a result of the combined work of these two brilliant men is said to be counted above one billion people. Explain to me how Paris Hilton or Channing Tatum are names which everyone has heard, but the above gentlemen, and hundreds of other people who have actually contributed to society, done important work in pushing us forward as a species, are never heard of? Why is the science section of the news always in the footnotes, placed quietly (if at all) after the latest news about a footballer who got drunk? As I started the post, WHEN DID WE GET SO BORED?

Oh, what I would give to live back to the 60’s for a few moments, and be one of those people glued to their TV sets watching images of one of our own (for at the moment of that achievement, it was not simply an American, but a human, an Earthling) stepping foot onto the moon. That was a time during which a nation was propped up on the shoulders of its scientists; people were fascinated. Enrollments into physics, chemistry, and engineering degrees at colleges and universities rocketed, and a period which resulted in much of the technology which we take for granted today. But times have changed. Despite that time still existing within living memories, it would seem to anyone focused on pop culture today, that it was ancient history.

Watch the flight of a bird, and be amazed at its ease, consider the workings of the car you’re driving, read about how the waves are coming out and in. Give some thought to why the sky appears blue, how a baby knows not to inhale if placed underwater, or why the moon does not succumb to gravity and fall back in and annihilate us. Get a little crazy and read some quantum physics, a field which, after reading, has had me look in wonder at the fact that I can pick up an object without it falling though my hand (for, you will discover, everything is made of significantly more empty space than it is actual matter). Every single facet of the world is fascinating, if you  look hard enough. The very fact that you are alive and reading this, is the result of a startling amount of chance, on a scale which the mere human mind will struggle to comprehend; for we can, with enough work, trace our roots to the stars which fill the night sky. Yes, you are stardust. You are the universe, trying to understand itself. I won’t elaborate on that. You can go and read about it.

I apologize about the rather ranting nature of this post, but I am constantly bewildered at the nonchalant way that people conduct their lives. Within us all, to some extent, is that primitive human, thousands of years ago, no longer satisfied with that which he already knows, looking out across the shore, rickety wooden boat at the ready. This is, I must admit, a rather corny metaphor, but I like it. We need to get back to our roots. Climb into the boat. Learn something new. Had that hairy humanoid not been willing to get into his boat, where would we be now? I urge you to expand your horizons. Make it a resolution that you can claim at the end of every week that you have learned something new, regardless of how small it may have been. You will find yourself with a level of fulfillment at better knowing the world around you. And it is a good feeling.

I'll end this post with a Youtube clip containing the wise words of a man who often inspires me, Mr Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American Astrophysicist, speaking on what he considers to be the most astonishing fact which he knows. This is a clip which inspires me everytime, without fail:

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