Saturday, April 2, 2016

What's out there?

The way to consider the eternal strangeness of outer space is through a question: What do we not yet know'? We learn more all the time via telescopes, probes, investigations and good old intuitive thinking. Everything we learn changes everything we thought we knew yesterday. We build, slowly, a pile of intelligence - things that we know for sure. Yet then we gaze into deep space and realize: We have but a small hill of certainty, and the universe is an Everest. More after the jump.

From Life Magazine Special - Strange But True: 100 of the World's Weirdest Wonders
Purchase here!  

Within a century Pluto is discovered, becomes a planet, then is not a planet again. Consider what "modern man" has thought true (or false) about our own nearby and seemingly knowable satellite, the moon. In 1835, the astronomer John Herschel built a large telescope in South Africa to take advantage of the clear air there. Seizing upon this, pranksters wrote. a series of articles in the New York Sun that recounted Hershel's discoveries as set forth in the Edinburgh Journal of Science (which was, in fact, defunct). Herschel's super telescope revealed lunar rivers and animals - a beaver with no tail, a bison with skin eye-flaps to protect its vision from sunlight. The series's climax detailed furred, flying humans. When told of the worldwide clamor the hoax had caused, Herschel was at first mild: "It is too bad my real discoveries here won't be that exciting." But when folks wouldn't let go, he finally railed, "I have been pestered from all quarters with that ridiculous hoax about the Moon - in English, French, Italian and German!"

In our own day, there are many who persist in believing that Man has never set foot on the moon, and that it was all a NASA orchestrated studio drama. Nothing supports mystery and conjecture quite like outer space, a place most of us cannot visit, cannot quite touch.

Quasars, black holes, wormholes, dark energy, dark matter (over 90 percent of the universe is invisible!): Are we any. more certain today what's happening out there than we were when Jules Verne was sketching deep space for us?

Well, sure we are: Of course we are.  But are we positive?

Well, certainly not.

The Big Bang is being constantly reevaluated. The speed at which matter is rushing away from the center is not what we recently theorized it should be. What does that mean?

What, finally, is the fate of the universe?

No one knows.

No one knows what's out there for us.

From Life Magazine Special - Strange But True: 100 of the World's Weirdest Wonders. Purchase here

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