‘Why Astronomy?’ A letter to my dad.
You were asking why someone would spend billions of dollars on telescopes on earth when you could spend the same amount to put one in space. This video will tell you why. Plus, it’s a REALLY good/interesting documentary. You really should watch it…
Here’s a quick visual description of spectroscopy. (Just glance at the
pictures and you’ll get the idea):
So, why astronomy? I’d say that it’s my love of life and the world in which I live is what really drives my love for astronomy. Think of it this way: imagine an ant who fully understands his place in his world. He works every day, he cleans out the tunnels of his anthill, he raises his children to do the same… life goes on. But he really likes his life. He loves his anthill and where he lives. He knows that there are places called The Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Antarctica, and what they are, but he understands that he’ll never be able to see those places first-hand. But that doesn’t make any of those places any less real. Those places are just as real and interesting as his anthill and he finds plenty of enjoyment as well as knowledge from studying all of these places – including his own anthill. Do these far off places that he’ll never get to see effect his every day life? Well, not directly. He technically could go through life and not even know these places existed and could live a very nice life without that knowledge. But that’s what sets him apart: he DOES know they are real. He knows they exist and are out there. He knows that those places are just as real as his anthill and by studying them can increase his standard of living! That knowledge could lead to discoveries that could directly enhance his immediate surroundings, i.e. his anthill. And it’s practically his duty to share that knowledge with everyone he can. My point is, I love my life and I love the place I live. By knowing where I live and all the different things about it, I can appreciate my world that much more. The stars and planets above our heads are part of that world in which we live and they can teach us plenty about our immediate home and at the same time, introduce us to places we could have never even dreamed of!
That’s why I would like to fill the observatory with things like fossils and mounted insects and rocks and bones and pictures of far off places – basically making it a tiny Natural History Museum built around a telescope – because the goal is to have a place where someone can experience and enjoy nature… ALL of nature. And hopefully people will walk away with a better understanding of their place in the universe.
You mentioned that you’re hoping your monetary investment will eventually lead to a ‘spiritual payout’ for myself and anyone who will use the observatory. Honestly, I won’t argue with that. I believe that’s a perfectly justifiable reason and one that may one day hold true. Because trust me, despite popular belief, I have not totally written off religion. Well, let me take that back… Religion, as an organized, humanized, amalgamized version of millions of peoples idea of spirituality passed down through countless generations – I have written off. It just does not make any sense to me. And this is coming from someone who was raised catholic, who was at one time a very devote and passionate christian even through high school (remember I was a member of FCA – Fellowship of Christian Athletes – with Rick?). It seems that I was so obsessed with it that I learned so much that I learned my way out of it. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc, etc… none of it makes sense to me. Take Islam and Christianity for example; why do they hate each other so much? They literally believe in the same exact God, live by many of the same ‘rules’, they both believe in Jesus and that he was a prophet… but they will kill each other in the name of their religion! They will commit MURDER because they think their version of spirituality is better than the other guys’.
You go to the moon and hold out you arm and you can cover up the entire world with your thumb. You can hide behind your thumb every single continent, every single ocean, every single corporation, every single person, every single animal, every single war that has ever been fought… every single corpse who has died in those wars, all in the name of ideology, religion, whatever… and all you have left is the rest of the universe. All you have left is an entire UNIVERSE, minus one tiny insignificant planet that’s hidden behind your thumb. Religion is too simple. It’s too provincial. It’s not in proportion with the world in which we live. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Please understand that that doesn’t mean I don’t think there could have been a creator who started it all. There may be a god who created me and you and everything we see. In fact, I WISH I could believe that – believe me, I try. But from what I understand of modern religions’ descriptions of that scenario… no way could I ever be a part of that. And I mean NO disrespect in any way. I just am trying to help you understand my current point of view of reality. Please, watch this video. Actually, watch it three times. It’s only a few minutes long. Every word of this video describes everything I was trying to say above in a much more elegant way than I could ever have dreamed of: