Weekly wonders #2
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This week I wrote a longer form post, originally posted on Reddit. Here’s the direct link, and here’s the full text:
My biggest and most profound realisation…
It started when I stood outside and looked up at the night sky, and I could actually see the moon move across the sky inch by inch. I realised that we’re all part of a solar system – which means connected bodies that are moving together through the gigantic void of space.
I heard a rustle in a tree nearby and saw a possum on a branch (we have really cute ones here in Australia). I thought that a long, long time ago my ancestors would have filled a similar ecological niche. Looking at it felt a lot like I was looking directly at my ancestors.
I looked at my hands and realised that my nails are just a modern adaption of tough claws. All aspects of my body, from the power in my muscles to the detail of my eyesight were shaped by distant ancestors tens of thousands of generations ago, which helped them survive in their tough environment.
Stretching my legs and neck caused waves of sensation which I assume is blood flowing through them, which was an amazing feeling. I just wanted to spend the rest of my time meditating and doing yoga – just feeling the sinews and muscles of my body which is like my vessel in the cosmos.
But the most profound experience came when it all kind of stitched together into an emotional realisation of what we are.
A hairless species of ape – the result of millions of generations of evolution, on the side of a rock with a thin atmosphere, which is orbiting a gigantic nuclear fireball, which is just one of BILLIONS. The unlikelyness of us even existing. Of having created the incredible civilisation that we have. It’s like I felt the wonder of that reality coursing through my veins.
But also of how civilisation is on a knife’s edge through our ignorant destruction of nature. I cried (a lot) and wrote down what I could so that I could remember and understand it all the next day…
Anyway, I’ve got two news items about life on Mars for you this week. This kind of news is often thrown around a lot, without explaining why it’s a big deal. Here’s the Discover Earth explanation:
Imagine that you were an anthropologist, and you were trying to answer big questions like “What does it mean to be a human” but all you can do is study one single human family. You might never realise that different hair colours, eye colours, cultures, religions, relationships, foods, activities, etc. are even possible.
Well, it’s quite similar for all of life on Earth. We are all one family, because every species evolved from a single distant ancestor (it looked like this).
If we discover life on Mars, it’ll probably be a whole new family of life, and will be amazingly different in ways we can scarcely imagine. It would revolutionise the field of biology because it could contain alternatives to DNA, cell membranes, and other stuff like that.
But bigger than that, we will know that life-families can emerge and grow on planets different to our own – which is an indication that the stars around us may be saturated with life.
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