Cooooooool, Man!

January 15, 2013

  The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.  ― Isaac Asimov

There are not enough “o”s in Cooooooool to describe the absolutely delicious ten winners of the 2013 Cool Science Image contest sponsored by The Why Files.

Every realm of scientific study is represented in the field of winning photos.  At the macro level, Earth Atmospherea satellite image from October 28, 2012, shows the amount of water vapor in the Earth ’s atmosphere and sea surface temperatures. Brilliant colors of orange and red pass over cooler blues and greens, all of these colors wrapped in a blanket of white cotton fluffs, highlighting the unmistakable brown land of South America in the center field.   [Source: Rick Kohrs, staff, Space Science and Engineering Center]

At the micro level, under the microscope, slime mold becomes decidedly Amoebaemore attractive than its name suggests, revealed as a social group of multicellular organisms rising from the ground in a fluid modern dance of single-celled amoebae. [Source: Sheryl A. Rakowski, staff, Bacteriology]

Monkey BrainAnd in the mysterious interior realm of a living creature, we can only wonder at the images of neural pathways tracing the brain activity that produces the physical and emotional activity of the brain’s owner, a monkey.  [Source: Christopher Coe, faculty, Psychology]

Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from its Why Files headquarters, the goal of the contest is to highlight the aesthetic aspects of Scientific imagery obtained in the search for data that “can yield important and sometimes striking insights into nature and the way things work.”  In its third year, the contest produced 105 submissions and has now gained support from the Madison-based Promega Corp.

Science, seen as a field of analysis quantified in number and calculus is often reduced to the Magellanic Clouddispassionate exploration of the world we see, touch, hear, taste and smell.  What a mistake!  Consider the photos from the Hubble telescope.  Named with dispassion as STScI-PRC2013-17, one can only marvel at the glory of stellar material hurling through space, larger beyond imagination in a photo, yet a speck of the totality of the universe. [Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC and the University of Potsdam, JPL-Caltech, and STScI]

How amazing is this universe that contains humanity!  Yet, the unfortunate result of our accumulation of this large body of scientific information is our creation of an even larger number of people who lack appreciation for the unknown and of the magnitude of human ignorance.

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be. ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

We are so wrapped up in the “pile of data” we have amassed, that we turn our back on the mysterious, the things we may never know.  We continue to map DNA.  But when the map is complete, will we be any closer to understanding the intellect that created DNA?  Sadly, the spheres of knowing and wondering have moved further and further apart.  We are a world of brains that analyze and synthesize separated from the world of the spirit that trembles with humble amazement.

The Knowable and the Unknowable…how vast the distance between the two!  We live in that vastness, our intellect confined as much by hubris as by gray matter.  The advantage we have at hand with our telescopes and electron microscopy is more than matched by the humble openness of a man who scans the skies in wonder.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? [NIV]

Science and spirit are not enemies.  They are both part of the created existence.  Science can reveal both the limits of man and the realities of the absolutely extraordinary universe that is our home.  Without this understanding of the unity of science and spirit, a scientist is merely caught up in enumerating the number of genes in a homo sapien, the measuring the circumferance of the moon, and the illustrating the structure of DNA.

What a marvelous gift we have been handed in the third millennium to be able to spy into creation and share our vision through these beautiful photographs.  Most importantly, may we stand in humble awe of what we see!Bird Flying Sunset

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. ― Albert Einstein


THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.