……look how they shine for you……….yeah, they were all yellow…..
Yes. Those are Coldplay lyrics.
Yes. I dislike Coldplay.
I mention them merely to point out their inaccuracy because in fact the stars are NOT all yellow. Stars come in lots of different colours, and their colour depends on the temperature of the star, so not only is the song boring, it is also wrong.
But I am not here just to poke holes in Chris Martin lyrics, I mean mostly to talk of stars. And of space in general. Stargazing Live starts on the telly box again this week and I shall be amongst those tuning in. When the first series happened a couple of years back I was still working in the bookshop and we just couldn’t keep up with demand for Planispheres (a sort of star map!) as the nation was gripped with a new found love of astronomy.
My passion pre-dated Brian Cox, much as I enjoy his grammar school boy fringe and charming way of describing the end of time while still grinning. I liked lovely, eccentric and already sorely missed Patrick Moore and his Sky At Night from a young age. And my first attempt of many at reading Stephen Hawking was more than 20 years ago. I say attempt, because I am much too small of brain to be able to follow properly once the major science stuff kicks in. I think that’s why Brian Cox is so popular, his soothing smile makes us feel ok about having lost track of string theory a bit.
I want to understand. But perhaps I am not meant to. The mighty Douglas Adams has a moment in his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series where he describes a form of torture whereby one is placed in the Total Perspective Vortex – a small room in which you are connected to an audio-visual device, and permitted to see just how small and insignificant you are compared to the vastness of time and space- “The Universe, the whole infinite Universe. The infinite suns, the infinite distances between them, and yourself an invisible dot on an invisible dot, infinitely small.”- enough to send most beings completely out of their minds according to the novel. So maybe it is best that I cant get my head around quite everything!
The quest for meaning and understanding is not new, religion held the answers for many over the years, but that is not the case for me, or for lots of us now. Science is my religion, I put my faith in those with giant capacity craniums, for they speak in tongues of things beyond my mortal understanding. Where once we had myths of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, we now have tales of Higgs, Boson and Dark Matter. I need my truths watered down to a level that my daft self can vaguely comprehend with lots of simple and probably inadequately fitting analogies to help me connect the dots.
For all my lack of knowledge and capabilities, I find astrology, quantum physics et al a thoroughly
fascinating subject. I can often be found reading the same page of a book on the subject several times over as I attempt to process the information. Really I need the Ladybird kids version!
It is not just the understanding of how and why we got here that I enjoy, it is the absolute brilliance and beauty of the Universe. Stopping to look at the stars is such a peaceful thing to do, a moment of sheer awe in a busy life. But that in itself is a paradoxical thing- I find it peaceful to watch something that whilst appearing calm is actually moving incredibly fast and burning brightly and furiously. I love the vibrant pictures we get from Hubble and its fellow super telescopes. A visit to an Observatory is high on my bucket list.
Oh, and most intriguingly of all – ALIENS!! There has to be aliens right ?!? In a universe this big it can’t be just us! I don’t know that I will live to see one, and no doubt half the planet would declare war if one turned up anyway, but I reckon they are out there. Am not convinced they are abducting anyone tho, not even convinced they are anymore certain of our existence than we are of theirs, but I absolutely believe that other sentient life is out there somewhere!
From a spiritual perspective, my most romantic sounding beliefs have their grounding in physics. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and therefore my energy will always exist, in one form or another. Ditto for the things that make me. The atoms that form what I see in the mirror are almost as old as time. We are all made of stardust and dinosaurs. Or something like that…..on that verging on poetic note I will stop blithering vaguely on about stuff I know nowhere near enough about and leave you to enjoy the experts this evening- will you be watching?