Thursday, December 2, 2010

Insignificance and Arsenic

I occasionally get moments where I feel insignificant. My moment occured this morning on my daily commute where I happened upon an article suggesting that there are more stars in the universe than previously conceived. The article states that we have an estimated 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars (that's 300 sextillion).

When I was a kid, I use to try and imagine the farthest reaches of our galaxy and as I tried to visualize, a wave of nausea and dizzyness would hit me. It was physically impossible to conceive infinity and my body couldn't take it. But, now when I try to imagine, I get an overwhelming sense that my being really means nothing in the larger scheme.


As my thoughts drift back to the present my mind wanders on to other things, but it's amazing for that single moment that life can feel trivial.

On an unrelated note, a friend forwarded a very interesting article from NASA citing the discovery of a microorganism thriving and reproducing in Mono Lake, a body of water with high levels of arsenic.

"We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team's lead scientist. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet?"

Incredible! I can only imagine the religious/evoluntionary debates that will appear with this article, but I think it's absolutely fantastic!

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