Stretching Metaphors


In ancient times, people took their understanding of the universe (gods and demons) and stretched them to cover what was beyond their perception: the horizon. The world was flat and at the edge of it, the pillars of Hercules and dragons awaited. When the New World was discovered, it turned out it was much like the Old, except now we have tomatoes and turkeys. It turned out that the monsters and gods on the horizon were only artifacts of ancient beliefs being asked to paint a picture of what was beyond the horizon.

Reading about neutron stars today, I felt that same sense of wonder I used to feel when imagining dragons. What, impossibly, would it be like to stand on a neutron star or glimpse inside a black hole. Catching that feeling, I wonder how much different we are than our ancestors and how much of our perception of the universe is us asking our beliefs to paint the horizon.

Perhaps we’ll get to stand on the surface of a neutron star and laugh at the all-consuming-gravity demons we once believe in.