The Demon-Haunted World

Reading nonfiction presents a challenge that I have not completely mastered yet. Most of the nonfiction I read is history, so it’s usually cut and dry, factual, without much opinion. Those I don’t have much trouble with. I either like them or I don’t.

But some nonfiction are written on a bias, or from a perspective I’ve never heard or thought of before, or just written by someone way smarter than I am.

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The Demon-Haunted World is all three of those things. Carl Sagan is one of the great scientists of our age, or at least one of the most famous. So he is definitely smarter than I am. His book is basically about skepticism vs theism/religion/people’s beliefs in what exists in our universe.

I say basically, because the perspective was a little hard for me to grasp at times. This book is probably a little over my education level, and out of my normal realm of interest. I think what he was getting at is that we as a society should strive to be educated as much as possible and base our thoughts and ideas in science and education, rather than blind faith. Which, as a book written by a scientist, makes sense.

It seemed to be a book written in response to the millions of fan letters he has received over the years. Much of it was tongue-in-cheek. He asks at one point for submissions for “Top 10 Questions to Ask an Alien.” He discusses a lot of topics–UFOs, ancient religions, Greek/Roman history, modern education, nuclear war, conspiracy theories.

It was an intriguing read, but again, I didn’t understand everything he said, nor did I agree with everything he said. However, he doesn’t really ask the reader to. All he wants is for you to ask questions, and look for the answers yourself. Don’t just take everything at face value. And that is the most important thing, in my opinion.

Watching History be Made

Today’s “History” themed post was going to be all about my love of British lore, but you guys have heard me wax poetic about that stuff a million times.

And then this morning, something brilliant happened. My twitter feed started exploding with links and hashtags as the European Space Agency got closer to landing the Philae lander on Comet 67P, 317 million miles away from Earth. Once I saw what was happening, I tuned into the live feed. At first, there wasn’t much happening–just a bunch of people standing in a control room, a dull hum of voices as they hovered over computer monitors. William Shatner joked on Twitter about one particular man who looked very serious with his hands on his hips in a gray hoodie.

But then, that dull hum started to get louder. The serious faces started to get more animated, and the hands started pointing at the screens. People started moving around. And then, all at once, HOORAY!!!!!!!!! Images started flowing through Twitter, and after another few moments, they got confirmation that Philae was communicating from the comet.

I’ve been listening now to the follow up speeches, the excitement. This is the first time anyone has ever landed on a comet. There is so much discovery that can happen, so much research to be done.

I have so many feelings about what I just watched. In the aftermath of NASA losing funding, our space program shutting down, it’s so fascinating, so inspiring to see this work being done elsewhere. Even though I do not understand everything that is happening or what can happen, I love watching the brilliance that people are striving for. History was made today. People will talk about today 50 years in the future when they talk about space. I don’t know what will come out of this project, but I know I watched it happen today. And that is thrilling.