Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Something New

There are lists of celebrity atheists, did you know that? I'm not incensed or anything -- I expect enthusiasts make their lists so that they don't feel so much alone; or for some it might be like cataloging Scandinavian baseball players, just a hobby.

Anyway, the listers often claim Carl Sagan as their own. Yay, he's smart, and billions and billions cool, and he thought like us! Only thing, from what I've read, Sagan was an agnostic. He just didn't know.

Which is why I thought of him when I read about this. Carl Sagan went to heaven never even suspecting this:

Something big is going on at the center of the galaxy, and astronomers are happy to say they don’t know what it is.

A group of scientists working with data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope said Tuesday that they had discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles, they said at a news conference and in a paper to be published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, extend 25,000 light years up and down from each side of the galaxy and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions.

“They’re big,” said Doug Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, leader of the team that discovered them....

“Wow,” said David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton who was not involved in the work.

“And we think we know a lot about our own galaxy,” Dr. Spergel added, noting that the bubbles were almost as big as the galaxy and yet unsuspected until now.

Sagan not getting to know about these bubbles is a little like Geoffrey de Havilland's death trying to break the sound barrier - he was so close and he never got to know it was possible.

But the thing about Sagan was: He didn't know about these huge bubbles, but he knew there were things he couldn't know. Which is why putting him on the atheist list is a little like putting Jose Canseco on the Scandinavian baseball players list.