December 2, 2010

If It's Just Us, Then It's an Awful Waste of Space

Once upon a time, I wanted to be an astronomer. Well, when I first read Carl Sagan's novel Contact and then saw the movie starring Jodie Foster. The story's content is both fascinating and humbling - the idea that there is a whole universe out there so much greater than our minuscule Earth and yet, at the same time, how "rare and precious" we all are here on Earth.

At 12 years old, I had my little telescope (three years later, I received a much bigger one that, regrettably, I never quite figured out how to use) and would perch on our porch most summer nights trying to find signs of life beyond our own. It was the greatest thrill of my age - to wonder at the vastness and possibility of the night sky.

So it was exciting to read about astronomers' findings that there may be sextillions and sextillions of stars in the universe as well as galaxies that have similar properties to the Milky Way, meaning there is a much higher chance of other planets like Earth.

It's mind boggling and it makes me think of my favorite line that Ellie's dad tells her as a little girl in Contact:

"If it's just us, it's an awful waste of space."

Below, a clip that is an incredible tribute to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and life here on Earth (you might need to turn the volume up to hear effectively).

Image found here.

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