View Full Version : AWE, or TERROR, or INDIFFERENCE?

2003-Dec-30, 01:43 PM
I see the word "AWE" mentioned a lot in this forum. I am wondering, what are people's fundamental reactions to the Universe? The fact that we are spinning away in orbit around a sustained thermonuclear explosion, gripped in a sawblade-shaped galaxy in an incomprehensibly vast arena of black holes, quasars, neutron stars, pulsars, gamma ray bursts, etc etc... Is there room for terror in this human predicament? Or does such confrontation with cosmic reality cast a spell of optimism...? Or both?

2003-Dec-30, 01:50 PM
ah yes...black holes, quasars, neutron stars, pulsars, gamma ray bursts...the cosmic terrorists.

2003-Dec-30, 01:56 PM
Inspiration comes to mind. All those disasters to avoid! All those problems to solve! So much knowledge to be gained! And yet paranoia is not unfounded.

2003-Dec-30, 05:04 PM
Awe. Inspiration. Humility. Wonder. Those are all good words.

The most amazing part of this huge, complex universe is that it all seems to be understandable to a human brain.

Dan Luna
2003-Dec-30, 05:25 PM
"Awe" is certainly what I feel every time I look at the Moon through a telescope and realise it's not just a light in the sky but another undeniably real world of mountains, plains and valleys actually passing by over my head.

2003-Dec-30, 07:12 PM

That is the only word I can think of...

2003-Dec-30, 11:17 PM
All those words are spot on in their own way. Inspiration - definitely. Awe - most certainly ... also intricate and rapturous!

TheThorn, you mention that while the universe was so complex the human brain still seems to understand that. I don't agree and that is what makes all these words so poignant. The very fact that we can't understand it all. The brain is part of the universe and we certainly don't understand how that works. I read a quote a while ago, "if our brain was simple enough for us to understand it, we would be so stupid we wouldn't be able to understand it after all". Quite the paradox and I think that can be related to the universe too. The search for the truth will get us closer and closer to the true nature of the universe (and therefore us) but it'll always hold some secrets from us.

2003-Dec-30, 11:49 PM
I don't think size of the universe can truly be understood by the human brain. It can be explained using a number system that we have invented, but truly visualised...I don't think so.

2003-Dec-31, 12:31 AM
I think it can also be deeply disturbing...!?

2003-Dec-31, 10:46 AM
How can the ant, in its anthill, conceive the entomologist, and his world, pondering it!?

2004-Jan-02, 12:23 PM
nah, the ant just bites the entomologist

2004-Jan-03, 10:12 PM
How can the ant, in its anthill, conceive the entomologist, and his world, pondering it!?

nah, the ant just bites the entomologist

So can I assume that "indifference" is a viable emotive reaction for some of you??

2004-Jan-04, 02:28 AM
nah, just a practicality! we may be already manipulating ("biting") the entomologist

2004-Jan-04, 11:10 AM
Originally posted by Faulkner@Dec 30 2003, 01:43 PM
Is there room for terror in this human predicament? Or does such confrontation with cosmic reality cast a spell of optimism...? Or both?
is that our-mankind's only choice of responses-terror or optimism?what about curiosity-a need to know and maybe even understand more?

2004-Jan-04, 11:41 AM
maybe even a mixture

2004-Jan-04, 07:31 PM
Quote Faulkner:
"So can I assume that "indifference" is a viable emotive reaction for some of you??"

Indifference was certainly not implied.

I would assert that not a human being, who has ever lived, has not gazed up into a starry night and not been effected by the mystery, and beauty, of it.

What are the little points of light? Why do they twinkle? Are they the same as the moon/sun? Why does the view change throughout the year? Who made it? Where did it all come from?

These days - all is explained, with some exceptions. The Dark matter and energy. We may be still in for some surprises. Other dimensions? What is infinity?

Gee - I'm still coping with trying to visualise space-time :blink:

2004-Jan-05, 12:33 AM
That awareness shall always exceed comprehension is a good thing!!

2004-Jan-05, 12:45 AM
The colors of the night sky..it truly is a wonder

2004-Jan-05, 11:16 AM
well, i learnt to read (as i was developmentally delayed) by reading and seeking the constellations in the night sky, i assure you i was not being 'indifferent'.

2004-Jan-08, 11:24 AM
I think anyone looking at the skies at the right moment, will be awed and some will become fascinated and want to learn more, the rest just go about their busy lives "indifferent" to what it all means. I think science has done a lot to make the Universe visible, but fails to make it understandable. I guess people get turned off by the fact that you need to be a genius to make sense of it (or so it seems). Somehow maybe people feel that science itself at this moment doesn't understand what the Universe is about (Chook, the notion that we know most of what there is to know is definitely wrong), it doesn't "connect" yet.

2004-Jan-12, 01:47 PM
Nearly all people, including the students that I know have at least a passing fascination with astronomy and the universe. However, alot of the numbers, equations etc seem to either go over their heads or bore them to sleep! Most I have found seem to repond to the visual aspects much more readily - even injecting humour seems to work.

2004-Jan-13, 01:19 AM
Well when you begin to apply mathematics to astronomy you lose many people, such big numbers! Visualising a cubic metre or kilometre is easy, but what about a cubic ly? I feel AWE, and maybe a little terror! Just think about it, on a cosmic scale one nuclear bomb is nothing, the stars emit the power of millions of nuclear bombs...every second!

2004-Jan-13, 01:48 AM
As with mundane explanations seem to turn people off - fully interactive and visual stimulus seems to work, example - planetariums, public observatories can really do well if they market their facility to the public rather than just bombard them with facts and figures.

2004-Jan-14, 01:36 AM
When I think of the Universe I can only come up with one descriptor- "interesting."

2004-Jan-15, 04:08 PM
I don't think one word covers it.

There's awe when you look up on a dark clear night and start to see the huge scale of the universe; there's excitement when you finally see an obscure or unusual object in your telescope; inspiration when you imagine humans getting all the way to the moon and back again; curiosity about why things are as they are; then finally, annoyance when you get your gear all set up just as it clouds over. :)

The one thing that's never there is indifference.