Perspectives have surprised me at many corners, and it frequently demonstrates to me that our minds are simply not well wired for the things we discover via outer-mind processes such as maths, science and history. The problem that arises, is that we assign the problem of the unknown to the things we can know; fear and paranoia. To me, it’s apparent that this is exactly where religion and conspiracy thrives. But that’s for another post.
We cannot possibly know with our brain alone what happened 1,000 years ago. We cannot possibly see the stars behind the sheet we see in the sky, nor can we know what those dots we do see actually are, without science. We cannot fathom almost anything of the modern era without maths propping us up.
It’s really fascinating, and perspectives have given me a new fascination in history.
I was recently discussing and being corrected on some ideas of Russian/Ukranian history including Normans, Vikings, Germans and Mongolians, and to me it was fascinating that the area of Crimea has been interwoven by so many different battles of culture over the centuries, ones you don’t even remotely relate to that area.
When you see the spread of the Mongol empire, for example, you just have to sit there in awe. You know that massive land called China? Mongol Empire. You know all of those countries ending in -stan that dominate the Middle East? Mongols. You know the entire southern half of Russia, and Eastern Europe? Mongol Empire.
Talking of perspective, the Roman Empire, an empire we consider one of the greatest due to its duration, at its largest covered a mere 6.5 million square kilometers, or 4.3% of the earth’s land. The Mongols in comparison total a monstrous 22.29% of the world’s land, second only slightly to the British empire at 22.43%, or 33 million square kilometers.
Over 1/5th of the world, dominated by Mongols at a point in time, and I wasn’t even aware of any mongol empire until some self study occurred a few years ago. It’s surprising something like this just wasn’t mentioned in school (perhaps in later, choice courses of history, prepping for university, who knows).
Here are some more unreal perspectives:
- The British Empire was at its Greatest when my granddad was alive and walking around, accounting for 20% of the entire world’s population.
- To the Romans, Egypt was as Ancient as we consider the Romans ancient to us. We are taught that the Romans came into Egypt and changed things around, and so we (or at least I) get this kind of overlapping feeling that the two ages were at least in the same general area of history, but realistically the Egyptians were just… Before. Before everything. By a long shot.
- Except dinosaurs. However, the Stegosaurus was even more ancient to the T-rex than the T-rex is to humans, The T-rex being 65 million years before us, and the Stegosaurus being over 80 million years before the T-rex. Again, school and education from media has shown us that these two walked around hand in hand, had their fair share of rival battles of attack and defense and died together somewhat romantically in a burst of fire. We clearly had no idea.
- We all know there are perhaps 100 billion galaxies, but what people don’t realise is the sheer size difference in these galaxies. The IC 1101 galaxy is up to 5–6 million light-years across, compared to the milky way, at around 100,000 light years across. That’s 50 times the disc size of our entire galaxy.
- A Great Basin bristle-cone pine in North America is a 5,000 year old tree. This single tree, sitting on its roots, unmoved, undisturbed, has watched all the aforementioned empires come and go, rise and fall. It was there to see the Egyptians build their pyramids and it remains today. In fact, its leaves are almost twice my age, at over 4 decades a piece.
- There are 10 times more bacteria in you than there are actual cells. That means you, as a person, are a fraction of what you think you are. 90-odd percent of you is foreign species, living rent free off your already 70% water existence. In fact, over 4,000 species of bacteria were found in a few swabs of belly buttons. Over 1,000 of which were likely new, undiscovered species.
- If the world’s population was equally distributed with a density of New York, the whole 7.1 billion of us could fit into Texas, leaving the rest of the world to vegetate.
- Voyager 1 has taken 40 years to leave our solar system at 62,000 kilometers/hour, faster than anything we can even imagine on earth. It will still take another 300 years to reach the Oort cloud – the very outer edge of our solar system, and a further 30,000 years to actually get through it. In 40,000 years, it will reach a mere 1.6 light years from the next star, Gliese 445. If you want to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, it will take a mere 73,000 years at this speed. Unfortunately it’s going the wrong way, so we’re gonna be waiting, probably longer than the material of the satellite can exist without decaying, before reaching anything other than blackness.
- The famous Black Death Pandemic was minuscule, if you find the right comparison. Influenza, in a year of The Great War killed more people – up to 40 million – than in five years of the black death – around 25 million.
- This image is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, created in 2012. An enhanced and 20% further zoomed update (using 10 years of previous images) of the Ultra-deep field photo, it shows over 15,000 galaxies across an area of the sky barely 10% the area of a full moon.
I’m not going to make this become a listical or infographic, I think that’s enough to get my point across. To be honest, The last few months I’ve come across such perspectives magnitudes more ridiculous than any of these may come across as. You can find them all the time if you spend some time listening, watching various documentaries/articles/podcasts.
We sit here so sure of ourselves all the time. Those slightly more bored than others realise that we are tiny and insignificant when watching Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ scene, but really, we have no clue. We sit here acknowledging our hopelessness but somehow, even that just fails to grasp the comparative ineptitude of our minds. It’s not just about size we can’t comprehend, it’s age, variation, numbers, diversity, cause and effect, practically every corner of our life is inconceivable, and we just do our best to live in the little cracks in the walls, away from the light, concerned it will fry us to a crisp of utter confusion.