What do you think?
Rate this book
400 pages, Hardcover
Published September 1, 2020
Looking back over the history of our relationship with the cosmos shows how we’ve banished gods, debunked myths and written our own, evidence-based, creation story. Stripping out subjective meaning and focusing on quantifiable observations has given us an epic power to understand and shape the world that dwarfs anything that has gone before. But unchecked, it has the potential to be a cold, narcissistic, destructive force. This is a book about how we closed our eyes to the stars. The challenge now is to open them again.
When scientists first split light with the spectroscope — turning its colors into numbers — they took one more step away from a subjective, qualitative view of the cosmos toward an objective, mathematical one: from an internal universe that we experience, to an external one that we calculate. And with the development of electronic detectors, our sense of vision — how the cosmos looks to us — was finally erased from the picture altogether. In this sense, modern astronomy is radically different from any kind of cosmological inquiry or understanding that has gone before. It no longer requires us to turn our faces to the sky. Our dominant source of knowledge about the universe — what it is, how it was made, how it relates to our life, and to us — is now our instruments, and not our eyes.
Doctors are realizing that most medical conditions display daily fluctuations in their occurrence or symptoms, including heart attacks, asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, strokes, fever, pain, seizures and suicide, to name just a few. The time of day can determine how we’ll respond to an infection or drug, or whether eating exactly the same meal will cause us to gain or lose weight. And even seasonal changes are important: the month in which babies are born affects their later risk of diseases such as dementia, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia ( with opposite patterns in the northern and southern hemispheres). Scientists don’t understand exactly why (theories include early-life infection risk, nutrition, and vitamin D levels) but it’s clear that the position of the Earth relative to the Sun at the time you are born has health consequences that last for life.