What do these new NASA photos say about us humans?
Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
This week, NASA released images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, an international program in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
So what are we looking at exactly?
This photo is called Webb’s First Deep Field, and we’re looking at a galaxy cluster named SMACS 0723. It’s the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe” ever captured thus far. Think of the highest resolution image of space. You’re looking at it.
According to NASA, the image is about the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. It’s a tiny fraction of the entire universe, which is bursting with thousands of galaxies. Thousands.
In the words of science communicator and internet mogul, Hank Green:
“Everything in this image that doesn’t have spikes coming off of it is a galaxy.
Every. Single. Dot.”
The Milky Way is one galaxy out of thousands.
What if each galaxy had multiple planets like the one we’re in now? What if some of those planets hold life? Or consciousness?
The image captures light that is billions of years old. Now scientists will delve in to see what this photo will reveal about the universe, naturally leading to questions about humanity’s role in it — if we even have a role. (Perhaps we’re here for the fun of it.)
As National Geographic space writer Nadia Drake says, these photos put our reality into question.
What do these photos say about us as humans?
The vastness of the universe reminds me that every worldly thing we value on this Earth is arbitrary.
- Where you went to school
- What kind of job you have
- How much money you make
- How many subscribers, followers, views, and likes you get on social media
SMACS 0723 makes the above look like they matter less than we thought they did. That’s not to say they don’t matter. I wouldn’t want to live in a vacuum. It’s good to have reference points that we as a society can agree upon. It’s just strange and very much made up — invented. Everything’s a meme: something that has meaning because we all agree it does.
Humans are incredible.
We’re also self-absorbed. For example, why are we so concerned with defining who we are or “finding our purpose”? Why do we tie our self-worth upon perceptions created by other people floating on a spinning rock in a random galaxy?
Imagine looking at this sliver of the universe and immediately after, looking at your LinkedIn profile.
Hear me out.
LinkedIn is a place on which to display your career as a way to advance it. It’s where people size you up (look at your qualifications) and try you on for size (interview you to see if you’re a suitable fit).
So, in the end, people value each other based on human-made criteria used to measure and evaluate each other.
It’s all a game! And it’s all made up.
Life is a game.
Humans have created a set of rules by which to play the game of Life. And if you know how to play, you can win. We’re all dealt a different set of cards — it’s not fair or easy. But you have to play with the cards you’re dealt and you can’t sit out of the game.
You’re here now.
So you might as well Play!
Thank you for reading
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