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I have been very grateful for these pictures this week. Can't stop thinking about them...

Music: Ansia Orchestra - Through the Space
Music provided by: MFY - No Copyright

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Good morning John.

We just got the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and a lot of people are feeling small right now, maybe humble, maybe insignificant - but here's something weird. I'm actually not sure if I feel very small right now, or very big.

So when you look at a structure  like the cosmic cliffs with  seven light year tall peaks  Or a deep field images that you cannot put your pinky finger on without  covering several galaxies, it makes sense to think, ok,  so why do we think that anything that happens here on earth matters here at all?  And there are really good human answers to that question. Answers like, we give our universe meaning. We matter to each other.  But there are also some like maybe kind of objective answers.

When we understand that an area in the sky the size of a grain of sand contains  thousands of galaxies  that each contain billions of stars and we say I feel insignificant now. That is not a way of saying nothing matters. It’s an instinct that something matters,  but that mattering is spread throughout what appears to be a basically infinite  universe and so, we don’t matter, something matters, just not us,  because we are too small to matter. But I wonder, is size the right measure?  I’ve got a kind of ok understanding of how the universe works,  like not great, but maybe a bit better than average and one thing  that seems to be basically the case is that there are a bunch of practically infinite fields that cause particles to exist and interact in a number of ways.

And as evidenced by the presence of oxygen and hydrogen spectra  in galaxies billions of lightyears away, the rules appear to be consistent  throughout the whole universe. Now this is all very complicated,  but it’s also not.  It's just physics doing physics things. But while the universe is astoundingly big.

Indeed very possibly infinite in size,  it’s not that big in time. Now you might say, Hank,  actually 13.7 billion years seems like a very long time. Like practically infinite.

But no, the universe is young compared to both infiniti,  and compared to it’s eventual life-span. Life on earth is one eventual continual chemical system that dates back 3.7 billion years. Which means this wild frolic that includes everything from  Brachiosaurus to BTS has existed for 27% of the lifetime of the universe.  We do not take up that much space, but we have taken up a lot of time.

So that’s one way we are bigger than we might think, but here’s another. The vast majority of the particles in the universe do not know they exist. They have never wanted something.

They’ve never looked at something  and found it beautiful. They have never built a space telescope. And when I say, like vast majority.  I mean that the vast majority I mean that the number of particles  that are part of any system with wants and sensations is so small that they  may as well be ignored.

But, we can agree, they should not be ignored. Because they are very strange.  And very beautiful. And they know things about themselves  and each other.

In your head you have around the same  number of neurons as there are stars in the milky way galaxy.  And those neurons are much smaller than stars, but they are in fact more ordered,  and you could argue that each one is more complex. If you think galaxies are amazing, just wait until you find out about you.  Now are we the only chemical system to have built a space telescope.  No. The way I understand the universe, that is an impossibility.

But it also does not seem very common for the universe to find paths toward waking up.  And to be a part of that. It feels very big. John, I’ll see you on Tuesday.