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I turn 54 today and the Universe is trying to kill me. Let me explain.
As I celebrate another trip around the sun, the sun commemorated the occasion by unleashing a major solar storm aimed directly at our planet. While I’ll try not to take this personally, it does get me thinking.
The solar flare carries the energy of billions of nuclear bombs. We might have some internet and GPS interruptions, but Earth will shrug it off. Life will go on. You see, our little planet has an a magnetic field that punches way above its weight class. The sun’s highly charged onslaught will go right around our planet. That incredible magnetic field will even protect the astronauts on the International Space Station.
If our planet orbited just a little closer to the sun, we’d be fried. If we didn’t have such an exceedingly powerful (and unusual) magnetic field, we’d be fried. If we orbited only a little farther away, we’d be frozen. Scientist call this place Earth occupies “The Goldilocks Zone” because its not too hot and not too cold. In fact, it’s just right. It’s impossibly right.
Our planet dances on the edge of impossibility.
Go up about fifty miles and the atmosphere is too thin to support life. Beyond that, there is nothing but emptiness. Dig down about 18 miles and you enter a searing hot ocean of molten rock. To put it in perspective, our solar system is approximately 93 billion miles in diameter. Of that, a band less than 70 miles supports life. 70 miles out of 93 billion miles! Oh, it gets better. If our planet didn’t have a molten iron core, we wouldn’t be here. If our planet wasn’t blessed with an unusual amount of water, we wouldn’t be here. If an astroid hadn’t knocked off all those pesky dinosaurs, we wouldn’t be here.
Our telescopes have discovered worlds circling other stars as far away as 13,000 light years. In all that searching they’ve discovered no signs of life, intelligent or otherwise. It doesn’t mean there isn’t life, its just that we haven’t found it. The Universe is about 98 billion light years across and overwhelmingly inhospitable, (mostly due its nature of being a bunch of nothing). Life needs stuff to survive. In the places where the Universe actually has stuff, that stuff hates life. A sliver of biosphere 70 miles thick supports the only life for at least 13,000 light years.
Despite overwhelming odds, Earth teems with life, (some of it might even be intelligent.) This planet is about 4 billion years old, and, amazingly enough, has hosted life for most of that time. The Universe has tried to knock us off again and again. Yet, here we are. This brings me to today.
I turned 54 today. Mathematically, I shouldn’t be here and neither should you. In the known universe, there isn’t anything like us, and like Earth. We are living, breathing miracles, little slivers of self-aware time-space. Our little planet dances on the edge of impossibility, therefore so do we. Statistically, we punch way above our weight.
That thought fills me with gratitude and awe.
I’m thankful God permitted me a brief time here to witness and participate in Creation. I hope to participate some more before the Universe finally knocks me off.
I guess it’s time for a glass of wine, and prepare for another lap around the sun.
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