15.7.15

Pluto over the moon


Pluto and Earth


Sometimes, the process of scientific discoveries takes on such a spiritual dimension. It raises metaphysical questions about one’s own being.

When NASA’s New Horizons whooshed past Pluto, it was not only about finding something new, but how the findings would answer queries about Earth, and the solar system; about evolution and destruction.

Being a non-science person, what struck me was the sheer difference in size. If earth is a watermelon, then Pluto is a tiny blueberry; if earth is the ocean, then Pluto is a pond; if earth is a tree, Pluto is but a flower or a leaf; if earth is a refrigerator, then Pluto is a piece of ice. These are mere analogies for the reality is straightforward: Pluto is a mere 2,302 kilometers in diameter and is about 1/6th the size of Earth.

Does size matter? Traditionally, it is the big fish that eats the small fry, and the big countries that colonise the smaller nations. Would earth conquer the "dwarf planet" Pluto or play Big Brother? Unlikely. And this is what makes the discovery of the planets different from the discovery of the apes. There is no emotional and psychological motive to use as precedent to display pugnacity. We don’t see any hierarchy and therefore cannot use that as a yardstick.

What Earth is doing now is almost fanboy mode of discovering, say, a new genre of music, or writing. It is comforting to know that there are places in the universe where the ills of society are alien. Does NASA even care whether Pluto has politicians, water shortage, ozone layer, the greenhouse effect? I do not see it as indifference, but a sign that we assume the innocence of those not touched by the wily ways of earthlings.

Each time, a new planet is found or a new aspect of it revealed, it should make us think about how we are not the world and never can be.

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