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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Planets

Posted by on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 8:10 AM


Discoveries of new planets just keep coming and coming. Take, for instance, the 18 recently found by a team of astronomers led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
"It's the largest single announcement of planets in orbit around stars more massive than the sun, aside from the discoveries made by the Kepler mission," says John Johnson, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech and the first author on the team's paper, which was published in the December issue of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.
Some now suspect that there might be more planets than stars in the universe. What was once rare (rare earth, rare moon, rare mars) is fast becoming common stuff. But what is truly amazing to me is a point E.O. Wilson makes in On Human Nature: the brain was not made to open the secrets of the universe. And the universe was not made to be examined. "The essence of the universe, closed though it is for itself, has no barrier to defend itself against the courage to know it," wrote Hegel in 1813. I love the way he worded this strange and even troubling situation: the universe was supposed to be closed. We humans entered the scene like one who accidently walks into the room of a sleeping person.
  • NASA


Comments (10) RSS

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Sweeney Agonistes 1
Posted by Sweeney Agonistes on December 5, 2011 at 8:24 AM · Report this
Vince 2
Maybe the universe wants to be known. The way a babe knows it's mother.
Posted by Vince on December 5, 2011 at 8:38 AM · Report this
lark 3
Another cool photo courtesy of NASA. Wow, the universe is gorgeous.
Posted by lark on December 5, 2011 at 8:40 AM · Report this
"The brain was not made to open the secrets of the universe."

Unwarranted assumption that the brain was "made." While humans may not be able to understand everything that is out there, there is no reason to believe that are not "meant" (whatever that is supposed to mean) to make such an effort.
Posted by TechBear on December 5, 2011 at 9:31 AM · Report this
We are of the universe. We are how the universe understands itself.
Posted by Placibo Domingo on December 5, 2011 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Knat 6
From "The essence of the universe... has no barrier to defend itself against the courage to know it," you conclude that it's not "meant" (as TechBear said, whatever that means) to be understood? Just how drunk are you this morning, Charles?
Posted by Knat on December 5, 2011 at 10:30 AM · Report this
treacle 7
I'm going to go with Rilke on this one, not EOWilson.
Posted by treacle on December 5, 2011 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Simac 8
So that quote is actually from 1818, from his inaugural address to the University of Berlin. That translation is poetic but rather truncated. The original reads:

Das verschlossene Wesen des Universums hat keine Kraft in sich, welche dem Mute des Erkennens Widerstand leisten k├Ânnte; es muss sich vor ihm auftun und seinen Reichtum une seine Tiefen ihm vor Augen legen und zum Genusse bringen.

Another way (among hundreds of possibilities) of translating might be this:

The taciturn essence of the universe has no power per se that might offer resistance to the courage of knowing; it must start talking, laying open its richness and depths for enjoyment.
Posted by Simac on December 5, 2011 at 1:41 PM · Report this
Sandiai 9
It may well be true that our brains are *inadequate* for understanding the universe. Especially the quantum universe, I would think. That's not the same as "the universe was not made to be examined" or that we shouldn't at least TRY to know things. If you're advocating willful ignorance, for some reason (and what on earth would that reason be?), I'd be pretty upset with you, but I can't really tell if that's what you're trying to convey. You know your conclusion sounds sort of like the opposite of that Hegel quote, right?
Posted by Sandiai on December 5, 2011 at 3:00 PM · Report this
dlauri 10
"Some now suspect that there might be more planets than stars in the universe."

Really? People used to think there were a whole lot of stars that, unlike our sun, did not have planets orbiting them? I don't believe that.

It's just that we're getting better at detecting planets orbiting around other stars, isn't it?
Posted by dlauri on December 5, 2011 at 4:05 PM · Report this

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