Astronomy and the Cosmos

One of the most fundamental needs of the human mind is to understand its environment.

Only if we are familiar with, and understand, our environment (or at least believe to understand) can we feel "at home". It is part of being conscious; conscious of your environment, of the dangers and of the opportunities, of food and comfort. Something that goes back to the most primitive living creatures.

Out of the fear of the unknown grew our mythology, the sagas and the fables in an attempt to create the familiarity needed for everyday living. Things we did not understand were caused by so-called gods who with super-human characteristics interacted with our environment through planned or playful guideance. But as civilisations out-grew the hunter-gatherer mentality and developed agriculture, it was realised that humans have the ability to shape their environment to suit their purpose, for food and for comfort. The unknown was no longer just something to be feared, it became a challenge to confront and to understand. Understanding the cyclic nature of the season, the sowing and the harvesting brought a plentiful reward. And as understanding grew beyond the immediate everyday things, the physical interactions between the changes in the heavens and changes on Earth lead to calendars and to realistic predictions and thus astronomy was born.

Today we like to say we have come a long way since then. We have created theories that can explain the physics of the cosmos. Technology has even opened up our path to the stars. But it only takes a short reflection to realise that, while the scope of our knowledge about the cosmos has increased dramatically, the gaps in this knowledge have also multiplied. Each solution to a problem and each new invention leads to new challenges and vast fields of new unknowns. The following is a collection of articles and reports on these challenges, some of them serious, some lighthearted, facing all of us.

 

Last Updated 17September 2012
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