April 11, 2006


How much of the universe is right before us of which we are unaware?  When cavemen froze to death while sitting next to flint and wood, it was from ignorance of the meaning of their surroundings.  There was a time when coal had no value and uranium was just another rock in the earth.  I often wonder what else in our environment would be of great value to us if we only knew how to use it.  It’s like if a person from the future came back in time and said:  “You live near Lake Erie?  It’s one of the greatest resources on the planet!”

Or take all the pictures of Mars, Europa, Titan and the other bodies in our solar system.  There may be obvious clues in these pictures of life happening that we simply don’t understand.  If we knew what to look for, answers would be obvious.  If we could better extrapolate what is going on in the universe, we could pick up the pace of discovery.  People have speculated that extremophile bacteria could live in the clouds of Venus or even Jupiter.  We just don’t know what to look for.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

The idea applies in practically every branch of science.  What is basic to us now would have been miraculous 100 years ago.  A century from now, we will know so much more about the universe than we do now, our current knowledge will seem childlike.  Part of the problem is our limited five senses.  We can only perceive so much and it takes us time to make connections among the things we observe.

How much knowledge does it take to change human behavior or make the human condition a bit better?  Figuring out fire kept a bunch of people warmer and made food taste a little better.  The whole uranium thing certainly had its effects too.  The truth is before us if we are not too dumb to see it.  We are probably staring at the next big thing with the same spaced-out, open-mouthed, slack-jawed look that the first guy who saw oil bubbling from the ground had.  Eventually, though, we got it right with oil and someone else pushed the slack jawed guy out of the way and put a rig over the well.  Give us time and we’ll get it, eventually.


One Response to “Extrapolation.”

  1. Mark Base Says:

    Very cool blog entry. Makes you think about how limited we are in our perception and knowledge.
    Great work!

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