Right here, right now…

Due to there being a lot of other stuff in the queue, I’m a little late off the blocks on this one. Still, I just want to take at least one post and say without reservation that the James Webb Space Telescope is absolutely amazing. I haven’t even asked how much we spent on it, but regardless of how many billions of dollars it cost, Webb would have been a bargain at twice the price.

Webb has enabled us to peer back through the evolution of the universe, now seeing so deeply into the past to find a point only 300 million years after the beginning. In a 14-billion-year-old universe, it’s a fraction that’s incredibly hard to imagine – almost impossible to fathom set against a human lifetime that may range to 80 years if one happens to be both lucky and healthy.

We’re just now at the very beginning of Webb’s discoveries. It’s this I think of any time someone declares we’re living in “the worst timeline.” The oldest evidence for man’s creation of primitive stone tools is about 2.6 million years old. Human’s first constructive use of fire happened, maybe, 2.3 million years ago. We didn’t get around to inventing shoes until 45,000 years ago. It took 20,000 years after that to domesticate the dog. Fixed settlements, towns, arrived about 11,000 years ago. Wine came 7,500 years after that – and then we were off to the races with the pace of technical and scientific invention cracking along ever faster. 

It took 6,400 years to go from the invention of the wheel to the first modern car. It took 66 years to go from the first flight at Kitty Hawk to landing men safely on the Moon. The pace of discovery and invention isn’t linear. It only seems gradual right up until the moment when it doesn’t. 

Webb has opened up a new era for exploration and discovery. It’s impossible to know what still lays unseen over the horizon, but I’m so very glad to be here for it… rather than waiting for the guy living in the next cave over to figure out how to cook a mammoth steak without burning his face off. There’s really nowhere I’d rather be than right here, right now.

The age of conquest…

Columbus Day is one of those odd holidays that no one enjoys unless you’re Italian, work for a bank, or find yourself in the employ of the federal government. There are plenty of hand-wringers out there who tell us that it’s Indigenous People’s Day or that there should be no celebration at all commemorating the arrival of Europeans in the New World – I also choose not to quibble about things like who got here when or whether it should be Lief Erikson Day. The concept of discovery is more important than the individual act itself. And to those out there wanting to argue that you can’t “discover” a place where people already life, I mostly say “nuts.” Columbus and his crew discovered territory that, to them and to most of Europe at the time, was new and wholly unexpected. Call it a flapjack and it’s still a rose by any other name.

See, Columbus sailed during what use to be called the Age of Conquest. Some nations and civilizations did the conquering and others were vanquished. It’s happened since the dawn of recorded time and was happening long before we bothered writing the stories down. As often happens with the vanquished, we don’t hear much about their history. Now as a student of history myself, I’m all about understanding their story, but I’m not about rewriting the entire age of exploration into an overly simple victim narrative. Likewise, I’m under no illusion that Columbus or those that followed are some kind of demigods. History is a more complex animal than that.

All I’ll say is we’d do well to learn a bit more about the Age of Conquest. I suspect some of the lessons there are shockingly applicable to those of us schlepping around in the modern world.