Universe part 2: the Gates of Awareness

click on the pic to read the story

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

So begins HP Lovecraft‘s shortstory The Call of Cthulu, published in 1926. He goes on to reveal ancient terrors beyond our awareness, monsters that that still have a great following today. He writes of opening the gates of awareness, but finding incomprehensible horrors beyond.

Lovecraft was a favorite writer of mine in late childhood. I graduated to his terrifying works after devouring Edgar Allen Poe. I was frightened by his writings, delightedly so, going back again and again for the haunted atmosphere, the richly textured history, and the disturbing, yet intriguing, concept that there is much, much more going on that we know. I love the shivery feeling that gives me.

Things We Don’t Know make up more of the universe than Things We Know; but clever humans, we are learning all the time. While we have yet to find an ancient civilization under the Mountains of Madness, we have recently discovered this:

Based on the  data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft it seems that there could be 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in our galaxy.

earthlike planets in the galaxy
From the NYT: A rendering of Kepler 62f and two outer planets, which may lie in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

Take that in: FORTY BILLION. Earth-like planets. In just our one little galaxy, which sails through the cosmos with millions like it. Just look into the night sky, or close your eyes an imagine this unimaginable fact, this spinning multitude of matter and energy we are a part of.

Wouldn’t Johannes Kepler be amazed.

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