“You don’t use science to show that you’re right, you use science to become right.” -Randall of xkcd
The same planet, the same heavens, the same laws of nature and the same Universe are something that we all have in common. And all of us, no matter how intrinsically smart, talented, or brilliant our instincts are, come into this world knowing absolutely nothing about it.
But that’s the beginning. In our own, individual ways, even though each one of us takes a unique path, we all embark upon the same journey.
It’s the journey to understand the world around us. Individually, our passions may differ as to what aspects of the world we find most interesting. We all have our own preferences for what we want to learn most, what skills we want to develop, and what we want to accomplish.
But understanding what this world is, how it works, how we got here, and how we make sense of it all? That is something for all of us.
So, how do we figure it out? We look at what we already know (or what we think we know), we look at whatever thing it is that we’d like to know, and we come up with ways to test it. Sometimes that means getting your hands dirty and doing a number of different experiments, sometimes it means gathering a whole bunch of data and observations from previous or natural tests, sometimes it means creating incredibly complex models and simulations, and it often means questioning and challenging your initial assumptions.
Practically all of the time, there are mistakes, difficulties, re-tests, and do-overs that need to happen before we figure it out. The “how” of how this all works involves an incredible amount of hard, careful, and often tedious work.
But then, you get to the payoff.
The payoff is that knowledge, that understanding, that leap forward you take when you’ve suddenly made better sense of the world than you did before. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. As Carl Sagan once said,
When you make the finding yourself – even if you’re the last person on Earth to see the light – you’ll never forget it.
That’s the power of science; that’s the passion that I’ve devoted my professional life to.
Not just the understanding of it, mind you. Yes, I’m a theoretical astrophysicist — a cosmologist, in particular — with an extensive background in nuclear, particle, computational, gravitational, and astrophysics; there’s no mistaking that. But this Universe, and how it works, it isn’t a story that’s only for me; this story belongs to all of us.
And that’s what this blog is about.
We are just one species, inhabiting one lonely planet, in orbit around one solitary star, spinning around our one, isolated galaxy, hurtling through space in our vast, possibly infinite Universe, and yet we can understand it. How we got here, what makes it all up, what we know and how we know it: it’s all part of what we’re after. My goal, each time I write for you, is to take you on a journey into a place where you’ll wind up having gained something from spending a little time with me.
How do I try to get us there?
I do my best to start out in a place that’s comfortable and familiar to you, where you have some experience and understanding already. One small step at a time, we move farther and farther into new, more challenging territory, whether that takes us down to subatomic particles, up to the edge of a black hole, or out into the richest clusters of galaxies in the Universe.
By the end of each post that I write, I hope I’ve given you some insight into something new, and helped to increase your awareness and appreciation for the Universe around us and within us. I hope you feel good about the time you’ve spent here, and that you feel it was time and energy well-spent.
Well over a thousand articles and 20,000 comments have come and gone, and there always continues to be more and more to understand. From those of you who’ve been on this journey with me since the very beginning to those of you just hopping on board now and everyone in between, it’s my great hope that it’s been a great journey for you so far, and that you’ll continue to join me on it well into the future.
We never stop learning, and we never stop uncovering more things to figure out. The great joy I get out of this comes simply from sharing the small part I know of this story with you.
That’s what this blog is all about. For me, it’s wonderful, and I hope it both is and continues to be for you, too. Here’s to all of us as we continue on our journey.