AS YOU THINK ABOUT THIS POST, DON’T STARE AT THE SUN…

“I won’t believe it unless I can see it now! Things from the past can be remembered wrong and reported wrong.”

That, of course, can be very true.  It’s easy to exaggerate. Or make “copyist errors.” But history, and historical records are far more important than most realize. Technically speaking, even with 20/20 vision we never actually see any thing (notice my underlining and breaking one word into two), but instead we…  

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…see the history of that “thing,” perhaps an exact picture of what it once was.  But not is now. Consider the Sun. We never see the Sun; instead, we see what the Sun was like about 500 seconds (or 8 min. 20 sec.) ago because light, even though it’s very fast, takes time to get from one place to another.  In short, we are observing “history.” What about something closer, say, that beautiful girl or handsome guy sitting across the room? Well, you’re not really seeing her or him either; rather you’re seeing what that person was like the sliver of a split second ago.  You’re looking at history. (And, as you know, people can change over time…)

In many cases, we’re quickly motivated to settle for an approximation of what’s there. Enough of that. Light travels so fast (about 700,000,000 MPH) that sense perception for most everyday science is essentially instantaneous.

So what’s our point?  As we move past the girl across the room, out the window behind her, up into our familiar sky and then out into space, collecting history–reliable history–begins to matter more and more.  Astronomy is a study of “old history,” really old history sent to us in part by way of many light waves that began their journey before the days of Abraham. With apologies to serious historians who may think I’m playing foul in their field, it’s easy to consider astronomy as”big history” and most other branches of science as “ordinary” or “small history.” If you think I’m wandering, check the website on Big History:  www.ibhanet.org.

New trends have arrived at the university. Some colleges have even created single-course overviews that address everything from “The Beginning Until Now.”  One course at one university (name misplaced, and I don’t want to guess) was team-taught by professors from different specialities and was called “From the Big Bang to Obama.” (And yes, there’s also a book by that catchy title, but I’m not recommending it.)

[Note that I deliberately break some grammar rules to capitalize “Sun,” “Moon,” and “Earth.”  I do this also in my novels. Why?  Mars, Jupiter, Vega, Mira, EmryssElphia, and other planets and identified stars get caps.  Hence the big movers at our home base should be so dignified.  The underlined planets I know more about than anyone else. I share this privileged knowledge at the homepage of my other website: www.johnknapp2.com. And…for my look at the arrow of time and what was and what might lie ahead, check the timeline on my homepage there.]