Virtual reality, from Hubble pictures to movies, is spoiling us. We start to expect a world full of amazing creatures and dramatic colors. Then, we look around and see only a boring shade of what we get at the theater. Are there any wonders in the real world?
A dark sky in a clean night far from city is beautiful. There is an awesome amount of stars and the view of the Milk Way is quite impressive.
However, in comparison to Hubble pictures and current Sci Fi standards, the sky that we see is pretty boring: a black background with loads of tiny white spots. Where are the breathtaking multicolored galaxies, nebulae, pulsars, quasars, supernovae, black holes, wormholes, planets?
There are two things here causing this dissonance between real and virtual.
First, business. NASA wants to convince Americans to keep funding it; Hollywood wants to convince the world to keep going to movies. They have all reasons to produce the most appealing virtual reality they can. And I sincerely hope they keep up with the good job.
Second, our eyes. We have quite bad pair of them. They are relatively well adapted to see within a ridiculously tiny domain of electromagnetic spectrum and only if it is bright enough!
NASA is not cheating, although they take quite a lot of artistic freedom. That wonderful space stuff they spread in the news everyday are really up there, but they are mostly invisible to us either because they are out of our spectral range or they are too dim (usually, both).
Take for instance, Andromeda. All that we see at naked eyes is a tiny white dot on a small gray patch, hardly different from a common star.
It is not that Andromeda is too small in the sky and we would need a telescope to make it bigger. No, its visual size is like in the picture aside. It is in fact much bigger than the Moon. The spot that we see is the bright core. All the rest is too faint for our eyes.
I love Sci Fi and fantasy movies, but I must recognize they are always cheating with their magnificent explosions in space (even without an oxygen source) and dramatic laser battles (laser beams should be invisible and, for most purposes, hit the target instantaneously).
And there is nothing like time travel or time travellers (you can go to future, but you won’t come back). If you are exposed to radiation, you don’t get superpowers, but cancer.
There are no looking glasses to go through and people will always find that the world is bigger out of than within the closet. No one ever exchanged bodies, read other’s people thoughts, moved objects using mind powers, or had a premonition.
When you travel to the dream land, you are only dreaming. And when you die, you stop existing.
There are no gods playing with our fate. Neither there are haunting ghosts, angels, demons, or fable creatures under water, above the clouds or in the North pole. Ancient people never had mystical wisdom that could be used to wipe out the world. Animals aren’t funny-shaped humans that can speak among them. There was never a time when dragons existed. Magic tricks are great, but they are – you know – tricks.
And the last hope for illusion was killed by the multitude of cameras spread everywhere: hundreds of people recorded the Chelyabinsk meteor in the morning of 15 February 2013, but where are the 8-megapixel videos and photos of extraterrestrials and their flying sauces?
Don’t give up yet. If you still want to be amazed and filled with wonder, there is a last spot that is for real:
l i f e.
Vibrant, complex, fantastic. Spread everywhere and constantly reshaping our planet. Expressed in every color, shape, size. Uncountable organisms uninterruptedly evolving for 4 billion years and sharing a single common ancestor.
Life is so abundant and present that we run the risk of taking it for granted and trivial. But if you want to let it lift your spirit in amazement, just remember that inside you right now, thousands of absolutely magnificent molecular machines are assembling proteins out of your DNA information, to keep running a mind evolved to a point that it can start to understand how this process works.
That’s just wonderful in an otherwise very boring world.
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- The two pictures illustrating this text are from Yes, That Picture of the Moon and the Andromeda Galaxy Is About Right (slate.com).
- It is a bit sad, but to make things even more boring, we may be alone in the universe.
- Funny enough, the best views in sublunar space are those from Earth. If you missed Gravity, go for it in a big screen.