Choose the heliocentric view, and despair

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Solarsystemscope is an online… planetarium? which is much more user friendly than the downloadable Celestia. (And if you go with Celestia, check out the add ons.)

It’s fun to play with, and kids will instantly understand how days and nights, seasons, eclipses, and prophecies are produced.  “Oh, so that’s how you Revelations 6:12 it!”

But for real vertigo, nausea, set the scale to “True” and zoom out, out, out. For an instant (or longer depending on what you’re drinking/smoking/popping), it shakes your narcissism.

The famous video about The Size Of The Universe isn’t as good, in my opinion, at producing this vertigo, because it is narrated by a human– now matter how far out we go, it still puts us at the “center.”  That perspective balances the proportions, and, as the Guide says, if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.

Note that in  the comments of that video, the conversation turns immediately to religion– not to interstellar travel, or the possibility of alien life, or even to the impossibility of receiving information past certain distances– God.  We want out of this conversation and “us” back to the center, which is what invoking God does.  I’m not saying religion is “wrong,” just noting how quickly we abandon “science” in favor or “philosophy” when the questions and the distances and the time get too big.  I hope that programs like this, shown to kids early enough, will extend that limit before their brain reflexively pulls a Spinoza; and maybe that perspective keeps them interested in creating things bigger than themselves.


And this:

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

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23 Responses to Choose the heliocentric view, and despair

  1. Dan Dravot says:

    We want out of this conversation and “us” back to the center, which is what invoking God does.

    What, youtube comments? Huh? Sure, some people hijack the discussion and yell about religion; you’ll get the same thing in a video about adultery. In a video about carbon dioxide or marine mammals, you’ll get greenies pulling the same stunt. There is a commonly-recognized Internet Failure Mode where groups of obsessives extend expeditionary pseudopods from their echo chambers, and try to assimilate other people’s discussions online. It’s not limited to astronomy.

    There’s surely a sense of vertigo when you try to contemplate how relatively tiny we are, but the people who reflexively see God in that vertigo are the same people who are prone to see God in grilled cheese sandwiches.

    • Comus says:

      I read TLP’s post as emphasizing the evoking of a god as a quick narcissistic fix. Which in theological viewpoint is quite remarkable. Not just seeing god, but using god as instrumental to regain and up your own self-worth. It doesn’t even have to be religious, there are plenty of other grand schemes and missions to pick from.

      Oh, and it much easier to see God on a grilled cheese sandwhich than it is to see Jesus or the virgin Mary. But then again, pareidolia is awesome, especially when it carries a message directed at you. You were chosen to see this sandwhich. You are Neo.

      • Dan Dravot says:

        I read TLP’s post as emphasizing the evoking of a god as a quick narcissistic fix.

        I think you’re exactly right, and it’s arguable that God does serve that purpose believers. But his “we” sounded like he meant everybody, when he actually didn’t mean himself, or probably any of his readers at all. Heck, I even know actual religious people who wouldn’t go all Goddy about that thing. Of course, they’re not the intensely religious type.

        You were chosen to see this sandwhich. You are Neo.


    • cauchies_br says:

      Invonking GOD as a simple definition of something really big and with relation with us is indeed putting us back into the center, but that is not what any of the big religions teach; they wnat you to be a saint and the core of it means stop being narcissist and star to care about other people…

      • foxfire says:

        Unfortunately, there is a fairly big gap between what is a lot of religions teach vs how most believers of those religions act.

      • snufkin says:

        For many people unversed in the language of science, they often have no other words with which to describe immensity. They resort to myth and poetry because that’s the closest they can come to invoking awe and wonder.

        Any “real” experience of divinity is easy to spot: those that have had it, far from being grandiose, have a genuine sense of humility and wonder at the world.

  2. Robin says:

    “It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.”

    Accepting infinite space and infinite worlds and that not all are inhabited, it does not follow that there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. The flawed reasoning makes this less enjoyable.

    • Frozen says:

      Agreed. It’s like saying there’s an infinite amount of whole numbers, but because not all of them are even, then there’s only a finite amount of even numbers.

    • ThomasR says:

      I noticed that as well. In an attempted thought-provoking syllogism, a failure of logic that big kind of ruins the point.

      • Sorry, sometimes I assume everyone in the world has memorized every word of all of the Hitchhikers’s trilogy (which is where that passage comes from. It’s a joke.)

        I should also note that the other quote above (“sense of proportion”) comes from the part about The Total Perspective Vortex, a machine which lets you see yourself in relationship to the entire universe. It destroys anyone who experiences it. Zaphod Beeblebrox went in, and had a different experience: “yeah, it just told me what I knew all along– I’m a really amazing guy!”

  3. Anna says:

    My ex-boss, the man who game me my first job after grad school and with whom I worked off and on for almost 4 years, was an ambitious man. He excelled at managing and making money, and he eventually started an internet-related company. His goal was to create something that would rival facebook, but go beyond it. Having seen some of how he planned to do so, I was pretty awed if skeptical, because the company was always badly managed.

    Unfortunately for him, his ambition, his desire to do whatever it would take for him to reach his goal, got into the way of ethics and now the SEC is after him. He will probably have to do time and even if not, he will loose everything. He has disappointed his clients whose money he was entrusted, his employees who are out of work, the clients of the tech company who were relying on services being provided to them, and not to mention his family and friends.

    Would his life really had been worse if he had focused “simply” on providing a good work environment for his employees and a good product and service for his clients? On making sure that he was there for his children when they were growing up, instead of chasing money and using the excuse that by doing so he’s “providing the best for them”?

    Did my ex-boss not want to create something bigger than himself? Indubitably, he did. But to whose glory?

    • 79zombies says:

      Your point being that because your boss screwed up no human should ever try to create something bigger than themselves?

      • Anna says:

        My little story didn’t really have moral, just lots of questions, so I’m sure you can interpret it however you want.

        TLP writes frequently about Americans wanting to be taken care of instead of looking after themselves. He writes that Americans are unable to love each other. But I don’t think that productive achievement is man’s ulterior purpose. You can still be a narcissist and be creative.

        What I’m trying to get it is, I’m not seeing how being a creative, productive individual solves the problem of Americans not knowing how to love. I think that giving yourself to something bigger and working to see it succeed is part of the answer, just not all of it.

        • Dan Dravot says:

          Without productive achievement, we’d be roasting each other over open fires for protein. What price love, in conditions like that?

          Love is necessary for happiness. Productive achievement is also necessary for happiness. Not just because we need the output, but because being useless makes us petty and miserable.

          What makes you so sure this guy was trying to be successful in order to teach Americans how to love? I’ve known a few entrepreneurs (and like yours, they do sometimes play a bit fast and loose when The Dream is in danger of bankruptcy), and that wasn’t on their short list of key objectives.

  4. narigone says:

    One of the things that gave me the “I’m so tiny” feeling was, in Celestia, when I selected a spacecraft, like the ISS, zoomed in and then went for a gas giant, like Saturn. The size of planet in scale, compared to something that is much bigger than me really did it for me.

    Also, travelling to a nearby star and not being able to find the sun unless using the home function did it too.

  5. Jerboa says:

    I’ve never understood how people derive a sense of awe from things like this, or Sagan’s <a href="–Qvo"Pale Blue Dot. Yeah, the universe is big. That’s cool, but why would that make me any less important? You don’t use measurements of size to judge the worth of two individuals (if one had achondroplasia, he wouldn’t be worth half as much). Would you really feel more important if turned out tomorrow that the planet was flat and that’s all there was?

    • Jerboa says:

      Damn it. I screwed up the html tag. See that makes me feel more stupid and unimportant than the fact that the universe is big.

  6. Luke says:

    This video will also induce nausea:

  7. SNAFU says:

    With all due respect I’m going to have to disagree with the LP here. I looked at the comments section from that youtube video, and yes, there are comments about God. Oddly, the pro-religion comments are heavily outweighed by comments filled with rage that someone would invoke God.

    Watching that video makes you feel small, even puny. People who believe in the Christian God may have been trained to think of God as a force that makes them feel small. I don’t know. But simply bringing it back to narcissism as a way to make the whole universe about them is simplistic. Many other factors could be at work. Still, I can’t say that any of that discounts narcissism making the whole universe about them.

    Most of my knowledge about narcissism comes from the LP’s blog. I guess that should say something about my limited knowledge base. Still, one of the major points that was impressed on the reader in the LP’s blog was that unexplained rage often goes hand-in-hand with narcissism. I’m reading these youtube comments and the angriest people are the ones that are riled by God being brought up.

    The more interesting question is, why do people get furious when someone says, “God made the universe” on a youtube comment section. It’s like feeding time in the shark tank over there. It’s almost fashionable to tell the people who believe in God that they are morons. That makes it safe to take out all your fury on the person with whom you disagree, especially when it’s anonymous. Where is all that rage coming from? What was the perceived offense?

  8. flailingjunk says:

    The quote at the end fails at math. Infinity minus a finite number is infinity. A fraction of infinity is infinity. You can fit an infinity of infinite sets in infinity.