Call me crazy, but whenever the size of the universe comes up in conversation, I always hear a variation of the same statement: it just makes me feel so, you know, small. And I say “really”? Yes, I understand that the earth is a fraction of an atom in the great design of the universe. I get it. But my predominant reaction is “well, that’s makes me part of an astronomically (obviously) large thing. I am part of THAT!” So in a kooky way, it makes me feel really good. As Carl Sagan said, human brains literally can not comprehend/compute/fathom the size and scope of the universe and what’s in it. That’s not our job. I suppose when we try to measure that, it’s a bit like trying to make flowing water into a box we can hold and grab and toss. What’s the point? Perhaps the real question is “how are we a part of it all?” Here are two cool videos referencing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D.
And here is George Smoot at the TED conference discussing the actual design of the universe. I am so fascinated with how matter-0f-factly Smoot basically describes so effortlessly and definitively what we know about the universe. Certainly, we only have what he calls a “droplet” of information to go on, but oh the places we will go (that’s Dr. Suess, not me.)
My son is two years and four months old and he can name each planet in the solar system… in order… repeatedly. This makes me think that 1) I need to crack some books and 2) the kid is smart. He’s always been very verbal, but it occurs to me now– when I hear his sweet, chirpy toddler voice point out the difference between Neptune and Uranus (without laughing)– that I am in for the ride of my life.
Ben can also tell you who Galileo was, that the planets revolve around the sun, that the moon is very big, heavy, gray, beautiful and far away and several names of moons around other planets that I can’t remember. We’ve decided that Ben has quickly graduated from Baby Einstein to Cosmos within the space of four months. He asks questions, we answer them, and that is the heart of his learning process. This makes me uneasy about introducing school to him and we’ve been looking into a variety of options.
For now, when we learn about the universe and the world, I’m happy to say that Ben has the benefit of a scientific Dad and a poetic Mom. Yesterday, we clipped incredible pink cabbage roses, red knock-out roses and some other beautiful flora from our garden to give to our neighbors. When he asked, “why flowers, Mama?” my husband chimed in and said “plants and flowers clean the air and provide oxygen so we can breathe.” Then I said “flowers remind us that beauty is the fuel of life, and sharing it is one of life’s great pleasures.” Obviously, we don’t talk don’t down to Ben, and I think he “gets” more than we give him credit for.
I’ve been proud of Ben since the day he was born, and I know now that he has inherited mine and my husband’s deep love of learning, nature, play and words. But he can keep the trains. Yes, he definitely keep the trains.