Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Big Ideas

Some facts/ideas are transcendent. They can change how we understand ourselves and our place in the universe. The age of the earth (4.6 billion years) and size of the universe (47 billion light years in radius) are such ideas. The human tailbone is, I think, another transcendent reality. The Hubble Space Telescope has given us a glimpse of the awesome scale of the universe, as explored in the attached video (with the added bonus of a Pink Floyd soundtrack).

Extinction is another such idea. It is estimated that 99.9% of all species that ever lived on the planet are now extinct. The extinct species include all manner of tiny and enormous, incredible and bizarre things. Those forgotten species have much to say about the history of earth and mankind. We will occasionally chronicle an extinct species on this blog, everything from the Trex to the Dodo to smallpox, and remember their story and contemplate their meanings.

Update: It's been pointed out that smallpox is a virus, viruses are technically not alive, and it's therefore not extinct. It's been further pointed out that smallpox continues to exist, and is therefore really not extinct. My reply is that Elon is very well educated.