The bathtub astronomer

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, a professor of cosmology lays down in a warm bathtub while contemplating the structure of the Horsehead Nebula 1,375 light years away.

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As she is lost in her reverie, a drop of water mixed with shampoo lands in her right eyeball, which registers a shooting pain. She scrambles to the showerhead and carefully drips fresh water into her eye to wash away the film of soap on her cornea. Her consciousness that had expanded to the farthest realms of the universe had now collapsed to the confines of a ball of jelly attached to her face. In the next 10 minutes, exploding supernovae mattered less to her than to be rid of the throbbing pain in her eye.

The human mind is wonderfully elastic. When the mind can contemplate the vastness of the universe, how significant can one’s own shortcomings be? But in a heartbeat, the mind can contract to render our contributions as meaningful as creation itself.

But the human mind is also perverse for it is prone to do precisely the opposite.

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