News That Matters

Space. The Final Mindf*Ck

So, they started learning all about the solar system in Montessori there before Christmas. It was brilliant. Random facts about Jupiter and the Sun were just dropped into general conversation, as you do. And questions about what side of the planet we were on, right now. Of course, a sudden and deep interest in space provided a generous theme for Christmas presents and now we’re surrounded by rockets, spacemen, battle rovers, aliens, shuttles, and the actual solar system itself. Seriously, check this out:

The sun is a light stuck to the roof and all the planets are proportionate in size and distance. There’s a little remote control so that you can switch on the sun and then make the planets rotate.

We also got this brilliant book:

At bedtime, we often read The Usborne Big Book of Stars & Planets while the solar system revolves in the background. And then we might just stare at it for a while and discuss deep questions about why planets are certain colours or how do we turn the lights on the planets. It’s fucking loud if I’m honest. You’d like to romantically think you could fall asleep to the sound of the planets ticking around in the background, but you can’t. They’re noisy bastards.

The other thing that would keep you awake – although it doesn’t seem to bother the small boy as much as me – is the fact that space is one big mindfuck. Seriously.

I was always a big fan of space and astronomy when I was a kid. My mother went through a stage of desperately disappointing my friends by giving me copies of the same oversized geographic atlas to give them at birthday parties. And then I’d sit like a weirdo trying to show everyone the cool pictures of space. And volcanoes. And tectonic plates…I think puberty might have beaten it out of me.

I do know a reasonable amount about the subject, when I have to put my mind to it, but you forget the context of these things don’t you? When you’re busy doing boring things like living your life. But the Usborne Big Book of Stars and Planets has successfully sucked me back in and freaked me the fuck out when I think about it too much. Like this picture for instance:

That’s a picture of the Milky Way. I read the text in the middle that says “The middle of the Milky Way looks very bright because there are lots of hot, glowing stars here.” Because I’m an idiot, I went oh, that’s cool, so that’s where we are. But it isn’t, you see. See where we are there, a good bit below the big, bright centre? That’s our solar system marked down the bottom. OUR SOLAR SYSTEM. That tiny dot on the page. THE SUN is in the middle of that dot. The massive, hot, burning sun. Here’s what I’m wondering. WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THE BRIGHT BIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MILKY WAY? What? If the sun is just a pissy little dot on a page?

AND, this is another picture of the Milky Way:

What’s that? You can’t see it? That’s because it’s part of a GROUP of galaxies called The Local Group. See it now? There it is! And that picture is just a bit of space.

I am a dot, on a tiny island, off the coast of a continent, on a tiny planet, orbiting a tiny sun, in a tiny galaxy, in a tiny group of galaxies, in an unquantifiable universe. Now THERE’S perspective for ya. Oh, and that’s me blogging in space in the picture at the top. Drink anyone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.