Published On: Thu, Mar 26th, 2020

Between the cosmic and the viral void

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THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu

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In cosmic ‘space and time’, even the 9-planetary ‘Solar System’ (in which our puny, less than base-ball-sized ‘earth’ microscopically clings to a virtual inconspicuous existence) is itself a teeny, less than corona-virus-sized affair compared to the terrifying vastness of the un-ending yet ever-expanding cosmic realm, -the universe. In fact a space-bound rocket would not be too far traveled on its way, even say, to the Earth’s nearest satellite, namely the moon, before the entire ‘Earth’ itself, for all its oceanic and geophysical vastness, recedes and vanishes into unobtrusive nothingness.
From the earliest view of the most insignificant haze of the cosmos, the Earth soon pales into a terrifying nothingness. And the rancorous Babel of humanity in it, is now muted into such cosmic quietude you’d agree that ‘deafening silence’, after all is the universal constant and not ‘boisterous noise’. In fact at the point of its ephemeral vanishing, even the least powerful laboratory microscope may sooner grasp the dimensions of a ‘corona virus’ (20 nanometer in size or twenty-billionth-part of a meter), than the most sophisticated space telescope may, the glimpse of a vanished Earth in which proud, arrogant and power-mongering mortal man holds a laughable sway. Yet this is not the most graphic in revealing how infinitesimally insignificant the ‘Earth’ –in spite of it’s uniquely life sustaining capacity- can be, especially in relation to the ever-expanding cosmic supper web.
If humans on this measly Earth together will scream all at once for help, at the highest possible decibel (units of loudness), which experts say is about 130dB, it may only constitute a faintly discernable piece of whimper even within the first and most immediate of Earth’s five gaseous atmospheric layers –in this case the Troposphere- which is just a 12-miles-high layer that the Earth is oxygenated by. And this is just how potentially futile even a united Save-Our-Soul (SOS) Call by a distressed humanity can be, especially if the efficacy of that Call will depend on it’s being audibly heard by a cosmic power, the like of Whom possibly a tearful Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte allegedly pointed to as Italy’s –nay humanity’s- last hope for salvation against an invincibly invisible enemy, the Corona virus.
By the way, even after the first 12-miles-high Troposphere, any cosmic SOS Call of humanity in distress, will still require also to traverse the Earth’s remaining four atmospheric layers, namely a 31-miles-high Stratosphere, a 58-miles-high Mesosphere, a 300-miles-high Thermosphere and a 6,000-miles-high Exosphere, before it can hope to amplify and possibly be heard within the nine planets of the very Solar System that we have said the entire ‘Earth’ itself is merely a third most minuscler member of. If divine help truly comes from on-high as most of humanity believes, and if, humans too, just like beasts, must practically moo –rather than spiritually woo- to send distress calls to heaven, then our cry –from the elusive behavior I see of this virus- has many cosmic heavens to scale.
The solar system alone consists of a weak-burning ‘star’ called the ‘Sun’, with its eight orbiting planets, their various moons, asteroids, comets, and meteoroids of varying sizes. The distances between and among these Solar objects can only be described as awesomely mind-numbing. In fact beyond the Solar System they say, the nearest star, namely ‘Proxima Centauri’, is more than 30 trillion kilometers from the earth and will require not less than 40 years to be reached even by the most sophisticated unmanned craft. Meaning that if, perchance, humanity’s distress Call survives the Earth’s five atmospheric layers –among and between which there is a total of about 6,500 miles- and if, perchance the ‘Call’ still remains audible enough to be heard all around our multi-planetary Solar System; and if, perchance again it retains the stamina to climb further up 30 trillion kilometers to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, you bet, our distress Call will still be like the proverbial traveler of a journey of one thousand steps, who has not moved as yet, a single step.
Because merely reaching ‘Proxima Centauri’, some 30 trillion kilometers from the earth our distress Call cannot be said to have sufficiently explored even one-millionth-part of the first Galaxy and inside of which –you can say- even our 9-planet-Solar System is now an infinitesimally inconspicuous microscopic speck of rummage-reject, -the like of which, if you will, the most powerful telescope may strain in vain to grasp. Not only are there hundreds of billions of stars and other cosmic bodies in a single Galaxy, there are in fact hundreds of billions of Galaxies too, and each of which also has hundreds of billions of stars and other cosmic bodies. Plus there is also the ‘Milky Way’ Galaxy located some 30,000 light years away or approximately at 6 million miles per each light year, creating what scientists call the Cosmic web, and at the realm of which Galaxies are now the infinitesimal corona-virus-sized objects that must swim tail-tucked, meek and humble.
Besides, science has not ruled out the possibility of the existence also, of hundreds of billions of cosmic webs hopefully from several billions of Milky Way Galaxies too, so that, who knows, someday, if we live tell, may be even Milky Way Galaxies can be miniaturized into insignificant ‘nothings’ by stronger and more powerful telescopes, -making our poor, puny little ‘Earth’ even far lesser than a ‘Corona virus’ (at the size of a twenty-billionth-part of a meter), in relation to its humongously nanometered place in the cosmic realm.
And so the question is asked: ’just how much does proud and arrogant man know even about his physiologically fragile, mortal self first, let alone how much he should know about his most immediate earthly environment with all the zoological, botanical, chemical and geo-physical mysteries that it presents? And if a pathogen as microscopically teeny as the corona virus, will bring ‘technological’ man, soon, to his arrogant knees even before he finds the proverbial elixir –as a cure-all, what then will happen to the more ludicrously ambitious project of freeing man from the albatross of ‘death’? Or how much by the way, does man know merely in relation to how much he is mentally equipped to know? Next to nothing, now we can say.
And so now that proud man has been humbled, at last, what then, if we ever get out of this, henceforth, should humanity keenly take cover from, -for self-preservation? Is it to prepare always, to dodge from some possibly mis-orbited, smoldering, loose asteroid a hundred times the size of the Earth, from a cosmic distance some light years away, and traveling at the speed of light threatening to knock us out of existence, or is it to take cover from the creepy, morbidly pathological grip of an invincibly invisible viral enemy threatening to wipe us all? Between the threat from a continuously expanding cosmos and that from the ‘smallest indivisible particle’, humanity, it seems, has no hiding place.

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