Friday, August 27, 2010

Bigger Than Us

"The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space."

I laid out under the stars again tonight. This is quickly becoming my new favorite hobby. I sprawl out on a poolside chair with a pillow, an old blanket, and a wondering mind. After taking note of how many more stars were visible tonight and imagining my own constellations my mind took perch on the above quote. I love to think about other life and am fascinated by the thought of expanding our horizons as a species. I feel as the great Carl Sagan did- We humans are capable of greatness. Remembering our incredibly humble beginnings as a species, our short reign here on earth has been marvelous. Just over a hundred years ago flight was scoffed at, and in a blink of an eye we have launched ourselves into space. It's magnificent.

 To think of the ways life has evolved in other atmospheres and conditions is mind boggling. Natural selection on another planet would most certainly select things bizarre and amazing to us. Billions of possibilities. And the chances of them being within 5000 technological years of us is roughly 0! It's a bit unnerving to think that if we are visited by unfriendly beings, human annihilation is inevitable. But it is understandable. Our natural resources are dwindling and we too will eventually have to leave, in a search for a new home. I almost wish I were alive during a later generation where these events unfold. Oh, what I'd do to see, smell, feel, and hear another planet.

Here is one of my favorite graphics of all time:

I teased a friend in high school for wanting to study astronomy. Admittedly, it was very immature. Sorry, Ben. :p I don't fully blame myself, though. I was never in an environment conducive to scientific speculation. Imagine being told from the day of your birth that we are alone in this universe - that dreaming about the cosmos was pointless because "I believe we will be raptured before you graduate!" Thanks, unnamed teacher. You're delusional. This universe is so much bigger than us! There is so much to be learned and science is the gateway to discovery! How depressing it is to look back at how many great minds were wasted and how many kids could have been enlightened by science if given proper stimulation. Science ignites passion in people no other subject can. Nothing is more exciting, driving, and respectable than discovery and understanding.

Going into my second year at university, I feel like I am still playing catch-up in science classes. All my engineering friends took AP bio, AP Chem, AP Calc, AP Stats, etc. in high school. I was not even given the opportunity to learn Darwin's theory of biological evolution. In fact, I was told Darwin was merely satan's pawn. How ridiculous. Being a little over halfway through 'On The Origin Of Species' I find such statements incredibly offensive. It doesn't take long for one to realize how special Darwin was with his attention to detail and fluidity of thought. He was a truly remarkable man driven by the search for truth and understanding. There is a reason his work changed the scientific community forever... I take my first legitimate biology class this upcoming quarter and 'excited' doesn't do my anticipation justice.

 I thank god (insert sarcasm) for my skeptical mindset and the willingness to learn. I mean, how can you truly appreciate the complexity of a cell and its environmental interactions if you believe it just poofed into existence? The struggle for life is beautiful and it is unsettling to think a fraction of our young minds are being polluted with ideas akin to an 8000 year old universe and "billions of dead things buried in rock layers all over the face of the earth". What I would do to go back and have the opportunity to study biology in high school. I'd like to think the passion I feel now would have been sparked back then, but perhaps I wouldn't have fully appreciated the subject without being deprived of it my whole life and having to discover it myself. 

Maybe that is the case. Maybe it was the deprivation of science that made me want to teach myself evolutionary biology and other sciences alike.  For me, the discovery of these sciences was spectacular. If my mind were fireworks it would have put WEBN to shame. So many dots connected and unrequited questions answered. Life is much more fulfilling and meaningful. I feel fortunate to have come out of the intellectual wilderness of blind acceptance and bigotry. So fortunate, in fact, I plan to devote a great deal of time to educating those who are in need. I know I would never have made it through the de-conversion sane without caring people asking thought-provoking questions - leaving a bread-crumb trail for me to follow.

 I know I have barely touched on my experience and much of this may be brand new information to many of you who know me. I may have to devote a blog entirely to my de-conversion experience. I may have to devote a few. But know that I am not at all the same person I was in high school. I am wildly obsessed with science and not afraid to say it. I am a nerd to the core. Maybe I always was a nerd, but at least now I am a nerd with ambition and direction. 

I hope this blog was better than the last and I hope they continue to be more fluid and thought-provoking. I am finding, only on my second blog, that I enjoy writing and it helps clear my mind. So, thanks again for reading.


RIP Carl Sagan. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Introduction

Well, hello. If you are reading this you have arrived at my first blog. My name is Jake...or Jacob. That all depends on how you know me. That is, if you do in fact know me. Either way, here is a bit of an intro as to who I am and why I am blogging. Like I said, my name is Jake and I am a biomedical engineering student at the wonderful University of Cincinnati. I'll be a second year student in a little less than a month and I am very excited to get back to school.  As per why I am blogging...I have no solid explanation. I guess the reason every other blogger does this- to put my thoughts on record in an attempt to relate to others. I hope it relieves some mental stress by systematically sifting through my thoughts, possibly allowing my brain to entertain sleep.

I guess this is where I share my thoughts...
This whole blogging idea came to me as I was laying outside tonight stargazing. Stargazing is new to me really. I have lived in a dorm in Cincinnati for the last nine months and stars are quite dimmed by the city lights. Not to mention my fascination with the universe has become much more serious lately. Nevertheless, since I have been home it has proven incredibly relaxing, even inspiring. Not inspiring as in writing a song or poem; or taking a new direction with my life. But inspiring as in refreshing- an anonymous reminder to stay positive. Seeing the specs of light come through the vast blackness of night brings the idea of insignificance to my mind. To think something as massive and extraordinary as a star can everyday go completely unnoticed by most -even me, until recently- is mind boggling. And as bright and massive as each star is, insignificant specs are how we perceive them. The specs in no way affect how we live or what we do daily. Totally insignificant. But when you take intrest in that spec, when it become significant, it can affect the way we live. It has the power to shape thoughts and ideas, it may even inspire you to write a blog. It made me ask myself what insignificance is, if it even exists.

On with the incoherent babbling...
I have been going through some situations recently, ultimately leading to changes in my daily life. Most relatively insignificant, but real and significant to me at this point in time. I know what you're thinking- granted a single soul is even reading this- another kid using a blog as a bitch session, great. I hope to stay as far away from that as possible. But back on track...These changes have made me take a real look at what I value in life. What I should value, and what I do value. Friendship has been on my mind a great deal lately. I have found that friendship's frailty is what makes it so powerful. A friendship with true integrity, honesty, and selflessness is such an anomaly today that I question its existence. It's an illusion I grab at the wind for right now. It's a battle between the desire for a friendship or for a true friend. The latter of which seems so difficult to come by. 

Well, this has been somewhat relieving, but more tiresome. My mind may not be clear but I sure as hell won't be able to stay awake. So I quite possibly have met my original goal of entertaining sleep. Thanks for reading. I hope it was mildly thought-provoking or comically entertaining at the least.