This is a guest article by Bogdan Teodorescu from Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
"Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another." - Plato
My name is Bogdan Teodorescu, and this is my first article for The Secrets of the Universe. I
have been following The Secrets of the Universe almost since the beginning of it, and I have
a great amount of appreciation for these people, who put a lot of work in it. All this work had a result: the page has now more than 300 000 followers, and their content makes it one of the best pages on astronomy on the internet.
The Status of Astronomy In World
As a guest author for The Secrets of the Universe, I chose to write about the importance of
astronomy, how it shaped our view of the world and changed us as humans, its ultimate goal,
and why we should pursue it and dream for it. The truth is, I met a great amount of people ranging across all ages, who did not understand the importance of astronomy and astrophysics. Besides the science that people encounter everyday, they think science is not something worth pursuing as it has no real application in their daily activities. That is also why funds for research are harder and harder to find everyday in fields that are farther from fields that give applicable results. You can have a clear vision of what the majority of people think about science if you check where funds mainly go in research.
Nobody denies the importance of the light bulb, or solar energy, because it has real applications in our everyday life. But what about cosmology? What about studying the Universe, understanding how stars work, finding out what happened in the inflation period of the Big Bang? Why in the world do we need to understand what dark matter is? Indeed, it makes 85% of the Universe's matter, but does it really matter for us? Didn't life go great until now? My great grandmother had a great life, and made sure that her children's lives will be good. Same did my grandmother. Same goes with my own parents. But what about the future? The real future, the future of our great-great-great-grandchildren? We have to think about it, and when nobody thinks about it, researchers should.
Importance Of Astronomy?
Let's face it: the future of humanity is not on Earth. Too few people think about
this. Why do we need to understand the Universe's past? Because by knowing the past, you
can predict the future. Because science tells us how things change in time, and we can prepare for them. Leaving earth is as real as it can be. So when these people say that astronomy has no real application, they are wrong. It may not have an application in their daily life, but it does in humanity's life.
Second, what if it's not all about applications in our life? What if it's something else, something bigger? Science tells us who we are. By pursuing science, we embark on the quest of discovering our story. Of understanding why we are here, why we exist at all or where we are going to be. It is a quest of discovering the world, and understanding the Universe itself. The greatest story ever told. Our story. And that makes science the most rewarding and beautiful adventure we can embark on. Also, it is in our nature. Curiosity is part of what makes us humans. We also wanted to understand more , to go where we've never been before. Humans looked for explanations since forever. They wanted to understand why the sun goes down and why does it come up at a certain time the next day.
Why I Do 'Astronomy'?
People ask me all the time why I do astronomy. I always bring up a real-life situation, that
expresses in a fairly good way why I do this and what it means to me. Think about being a
child playing everyday in the garden in front of your house. Say one day you find a cave
there, and you want to explore it, because you are a child and your curiosity is not dead yet
(because of society and school). You feel an excitement. For me, the garden is Earth. It's the
place our everyday life happens, the place you've seen for your entire life. The truth is,
whenever someone asks me what my favorite planet is, I say Earth, with no hesitation. That is because by far, Earth is the most beautiful planet, and most of all, it is our home. That is why whenever you come back to the garden, you feel good. It's the place you grew up in.
But then the cave is the Universe, it is what the sky means to me. Unknown brings excitement and a sense of freedom. So whenever I think about the problems of the Universe, about black holes and dark matter, I feel free. Free to explore the world, and I feel an excitement, the kind of excitement that everything grand gives you. And it keeps me young.
Scientist vs Inventor
There is a big difference between being a scientist and being an inventor. An inventor does his work by knowing what he wants to get, and the scientist works for the beauty of it. Do you think Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg or the others discoverers of the quantum theory thought any seconds about quantum computers? They didn't. Each of them made their discoveries driven by the will to understand how something works. Scientists are as much engineers as they are dreamers.
How Science Changed Our World?
Now take some time and think how science changed the way we see the world. At first, the obvious thing to say was that Earth is flat. Then came Erathostene. Erathostene lived in Alexandria, and he was an astronomer, historian, poet, mathematician, and so on. Also, he was the director of the Library of Alexandria. One day, reading that the shadows of a stick are not the same in different places on the world, he came with one possible answer: the Earth curved. And that's how the way we see the world changed for the first time. That is also the method by which the circumference of Earth was determined for the first time.
Later, it was Ptolemy's system of the world which said that the Earth is the center of the Universe, which seemed logical for that time, only if you looked at how the sky moved. One of the greatest revolutions in science came when Galileo, the first to look through a telescope, said that the heliocentric system is the right one, and that the Earth was revolving around the Sun, not the other way. People were outraged, and the most offended institution had been the Church. Thankfully, they are fine with the fact now. And so the way humans understood the world changed. We leveled up.
Now, Einstein gave us the theory of relativity. We know what happens with objects moving at
the speed of light. Quantum physics developed, thanks to a lot of figures like Bohr or
Schrodinger. We now know that black holes exist. And we keep learning and changing our
views and ideas.
What We Get From Astronomy?
There is also another thing you get by pursuing astronomy. You get to realize, with all you
heart, something very important, which most people don't. That is how beautiful and special
Earth is. How privileged we are and how much we should appreciate this place of ours. It
makes you happy about every single leap you see. It is our place, in a sea of hundreds
thousands of other places. This leads to a somehow depressing thought. That our problems
are insignificant in the perspective of the cosmos. The world doesn't revolve around us. We
are nothing compared to the vastness of the Universe. Yet look how much we did.
“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries."