Monday, July 2, 2012

If Man Should Invade Space!

Thanks to reddit, I ran across the above, a great illustration/inforgraphic from a children's encyclopeida ('Our Wonder World') in 1918.  Just click the image for a larger view.

'A race for sun, moon, and planets at the terrific speed of two miles a minute!'

My Favorite blurb: 'Mercury: 54 years.  News of Lincoln's Death due there soon.'

These kinds of pics are great fun, but I think they also serve two important purposes:

1) It reminds us that what may seem impossible today may not seem so insurmountable in the future.   In 1918, any mechanical vehicle traveling at two miles a minute (120 mph) that wasn't plummeting out of the sky would seem utterly astounding and just barely in the realm of the possible.  Yet today, almost any mundane road vehicle can achieve that speed.

We reached the Moon in 3 days, not 83.  The Voyager 2 probe reached Neptune in 12 years, not 2,571.

Millions of years to the stars?  By our best estimates using realistic technology we now have that down to merely a few tens of thousands of years.  Ninety four years from now, the time between that encyclopedia and us, who knows what it will be?  Perhaps they will look back on what we write today,a nd chuckle at how limited our thinking could be at times.

2) It reminds us just how awesome the world we live in can be.

We take a lot of things for granted.  We get so caught up in our every day struggles and work and problems that we forget to take in the wonders of the world around us.  Space travel and probes to other planets and computers and intercontinental jets and so on seems pretty mundane to us nowadays.

But I can imagine taking a ten year old boy who may have read that old encyclopedia in 1918 and showing him all the things we take so for granted to day.  He would be utterly astonished and overcome with wonder.  Real pictures of other worlds!  Airplanes that can fly faster than sound! Thinking machines!  Wireless telegraphs that can talk around the world!

We would complain that men haven't walked on the Moon in 40 years.  He would be have trouble just getting his head around the fact that men walked on the moon at all.  We may be inconvenienced by technical difficulties with our computerized communication networks; he would be amazed that we even had such a thing to be inconvenienced by it in the first place.

We live in a world full of wonders that would utterly astonish almost every generation that came before us.  I think sometimes we just need to step back, take a deep breath, and realize just how awesome that is.