Sunday, October 31, 2010

100 Billion Galaxies

According to the Hubble IMax film at the Kennedy Space Center, the wide angle camera on the Hubble Space Telescope has given us imagery that suggests there could be as many as 100 billion galaxies. Each galaxy with billions of stars. Many of those stars with planets. The thought of that is humbling and a little bit frightening.

But it's also inspiring. A lot of science and technology, theory and application created an unbelievably sophisticated telescope. But it isn't just the telescope. The Shuttle that launched and repaired it, and the computers that receive and render the imagery are no small accomplishments in themselves. This is an amazing ecosystem for creating amazing technologies, putting them up, keeping them there, and making them useful. Still fragile and not without problem, but testimony to what we are capable of doing. And we've created that ecosystem in roughly 60 years. That's not long given the few thousand years that people have inhabited this rock.

Of course, our greatest achievements discover just how much more we have yet to learn than we know. And at 100 billion galaxies, the technology we have is woefully inadequate. But it means our greatest achievements that will lead to our greatest discoveries are yet to come. Technology is advancing at an accelerating rate, giving us entirely new ways to explore. There's so much more that we'll do and discover in my daughter's lifetime than in mine.

I hope that she'll want to be part of making those discoveries.