Friday, November 2, 2007

The Sense of Wonder

When I retired from the profession of science education, one of my most respected colleagues presented me with a book entitled "The Sense of Wonder." It was my hope that I had instilled the same "sense of wonder" in my students I had always felt while studying the world of nature. Whether it was the macro-cosmos visible through telescopes, the micro-cosmos seen through microscopes, or the vast array of wonders to be observed by our naked eye, I wanted my students to experience the wonder. In this post, let's share a few wonders together.

Have we considered the sharp color images our eyes, like an expensive camera, take of our surroundings each waking moment? Each image really consists of billions of "data points," all transmitted to our brains via electrical impulses through the optic nerve. Our brains then make sense of the billions of messages, integrating them into one meaningful image. How "wonder"-ful is that? Digital camera technology has nothing on the human body!

What about the hundreds of different electromagnetic wavelengths passing silently and harmlessly through our bodies at this very moment? We need receivers such as cell phones, TV sets, and wireless modems to detect and convert them to sounds and images, but billions of these waves are ever present in our environment. The human mind, of course, is the final interpreter of the messages transmitted.

Finally, the night sky, pinwheeling around Polaris (the North Star) each 24 hours, is a sort of reverse picture of the earth observer's 24-hour ride on rotating spaceship Earth. That ride is exceedingly quiet and smooth. It wasn't easy for folks prior to Copernicus in the 16th century to figure out what was really moving! Even now people must understand the effects of moving frames of reference whether riding in an automobile or on planet Earth. We'll save other wonders for a future post.

Let's close with "The Message" Bible translation of Romans 1:19-20: But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of His divine being.