08 December, 2008


How's this for the beauty and grandeur of science, eh?

Like a whirl of shiny flakes sparkling in a snow globe, Hubble catches an instantaneous glimpse of many hundreds of thousands of stars moving about in the globular cluster M13, one of the brightest and best-known globular clusters in the northern sky. This glittering metropolis of stars is easily found in the winter sky in the constellation Hercules and can even be glimpsed with the unaided eye under dark skies.

M13 is home to over 100,000 stars and located at a distance of 25,000 light-years. These stars are packed so close together in a ball approximately 150 light-years across that they will spend their entire lives whirling around in the cluster.

Near the core of this cluster, the density of stars is about a hundred times greater than the density in the neighborhood of our sun. These stars are so crowded that they can, at times, slam into each other and even form a new star, called a “blue straggler.”

The brightest reddish stars in the cluster are ancient red giants. These aging stars have expanded to many times their original diameters and cooled. The blue-white stars are the hottest in the cluster.

Globular clusters can be found spread largely in a vast halo around our galaxy. M13 is one of nearly 150 known globular clusters surrounding our Milky Way galaxy.

Globular clusters have some of the oldest stars in the universe. They likely formed before the disk of our Milky Way, so they are older than nearly all other stars in our galaxy. Studying globular clusters therefore tells us about the history of our galaxy.
Stuff like this makes it really hard for me to understand folks who think science isn't inspirational.

Here's what that stupid atheist display could have hammered at: this is the awesome magnitude of the natural world. "All there is"? That's a gargantuan "all," my darlings. No religion I've ever encountered, even some of the more interesting Eastern ones, have ever come up with anything even 1/10th as awe-inspiring as the natural world revealed by science. This stuff is mind-boggling. It's fantastically beautiful. And the fact that we are capable of understanding even a fraction of it just blows me away.

But this is probably why the fundies can't stand science: it shows their mythology up for the petty, inferior, unimaginative crap that it really is. Young Earth creationism just can't compete. Gods, angels, and all that supernatural claptrap aren't needed when you've got the majesty of the universe to draw on for your sense of wonder.

I think the Freedom From Religion folks should go with NP's nativity scene idea next year. She and Cujo359 can design it. Can you imagine a display of the birth of reason? Something shockingly beautiful, reminding people that rational thought isn't dull or boring, but astonishing, and ultimately freeing.

Not to mention a fuck of a lot more interesting than some IDiot's impoverished understanding of reality.

1 comment:

george.w said...

After 25+ years as a Christian, this is precisely what convinced me to say; "no more" - that we are so obviously NOT at the center of it all.