You are here.
The first step in navigation is orienting yourself to the outside world. Which way is which? What are these surroundings and what do they mean? Where am I?
In English, ‘navigation’ has come to mean, generally, finding your way along a route or within an environment. You can navigate though websites, or navigate the streets of a new town, or more conventionally use artificial satellites that provide you with position data for moving over the surface of the globe. But in French, the word retains some of its original connotation of ‘seamanship’. Not just finding your way, but the mechanics and discipline of the process of getting there.
That’s the second step in navigation. Learning how to comport yourself along the journey. And as the sailor at sea or a bird in the air, waking up and finding yourself in the universe implies a need to learn how to live in and move through it — even if you mostly stay near where you were born. Living is shorthand for entry-level cosmonautics.
Navigating the world you find yourself in — learning the craft of living — starts with those two basic steps. Now that you’ve noticed you’re here, figure out what ‘here’ and ‘you’ are like. And from that, do your best to learn how to act and react, to live and function, given the nature of those two essential things.
Since I’m of the conviction that those two steps only work well in that order, let’s start things off with my ‘here’. The environment, vice the system.
Home. A house like any other, a pocket of modern life on the frontier…
But it doesn’t take any more than looking up and around you to notice that both of these worlds sit within a grander system.
Home. A planet like any other, on the frontier. The world of man and nature among the worlds of the unexplored wilderness.
The Earth system: a rocky, watery planet and its moon. This image was taken by the Japanese space probe Nozomi on its way to Mars, from a point about 160,000 km from the Earth (and 500,000 km from its moon).
The Earth’s sun, photographed by telescope from the ground. Filtered for the emission line called hydrogen-alpha, it shows the texture and hints at the structure of the life-sustaining, gravity-powered nuclear furnace that holds our planet in place and is the source of virtually all its energy.
The bright one in the middle is Rho Ophiuchi, but it’s not far from what our own sun might look like if you pulled back beyond the heliopause. One among countless others all about you in the void.
Step back from the interstellar neighborhood to see the whole city.
This is the spiral galaxy listed as number 88 in the old Messier catalog, but our own galaxy might look very similar to an observer outside it.
Then turn around and behold the world that forms your home.
Nearly every single point of light in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field represents an entire galaxy of stars — about ten thousand can be counted, if you take the time. This image, taken from just a few hundred kilometres above the earth’s surface, represents an area of the sky less than a tenth of a degree wide.
Welcome to wolfstu.ca. Our journey through the universe begins with understanding the context of our lives; having understood our selves and our surroundings — the system and the environment — we can then begin to discuss how to use them.
This is where I am.