The successful launch of IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) came at an auspicious time. It seems that the solar wind flux, the effluence of the Sun that provides a charged bubble around our Solar System to ward off energetic radiation from dramatic, even catastrophic events from deep space that might ravage our small world is at an observed all-time low, though we’ve had just 50 years to measure it…indeed, to be aware of it at all.
What does this mean? What is significant about this fluctuation, if anything? We don’t know. We’re trying to find out.
There are hints that the fact that we’re here at all is due to a confluence of quite possibly transient physical conditions…mere bubbles in the night, areas of dynamic stability above & beyond the background norm of chaos. The Sun’s protection from cosmic radiation is merely the latest of such noted, and its apparent variability is alarming to our present ignorance. The Sun’s output in terms of total radiation, that which lights and heats our world, is far from constant as we learn enough to examine both geological and historical records for correlation. And, so recently, we’ve accepted the fact that objects ranging in size from dust specks to mountain ranges whiz by us daily…sometimes they hit, with world-changing force…one of the reasons we exist at all is at least in part due to the chaos an destruction wrought by a powerful impactor that swept the dinosaurs from the stage.
So many things could happen that could do the same for us. We exist in a bubble, an area of anomalous dynamic stability in a chaotic environment (which perhaps may prove to be the definition of life itself.) Although we would in all likelihood break the bubble and destroy ourselves from stupidity and selfishness, we must acknowledge the fact that the circumstances of our physical surroundings are no less capricious, nor are they indefinitely stable. Things WILL change. Always.
At the dawn of the Third Millennium (in the Western tradition), at the dawn of the true enlightenment of Man- once a grubby plains-ape, now an entity that feels, senses, and remembers- at the dawn of a consciousness that embraces and understands, at the dawn of our destiny, the reason that we made the journey in the first place….we cannot let ourselves be wiped out when a random bubble pops. We know enough by now to know that we must diversify our habitat…we have to go elsewhere, and everywhere. We must be resilient enough to withstand the mere pop of a bubble, a bad throw of the dice…we have that much wisdom collectively to know that this is so.
Burrow into the hide of the Moon, walk the vast rocky plains of Mars. Traverse the canyons of Ganymede, raise visors, and look at the stars. Humanity gives voice to the Universe, gives hope, gives meaning to the unbearable beauty…
….and therefore we must survive.
Resident Columnist (Know more about Nick in the Collaborators section)