Too complex?

It’s a complex world. So naturally it must be a super complex universe. Even the most gifted among us have a subject or two they struggle with. Solving a complex problem can be quite rewarding. I have to suppose the rocket scientists, physicists and others who planned and executed New Horizons’ recent flyby of Pluto are pretty pumped about the data and images coming back from the ex-planet and its moon Charon. We might sometimes get spoiled by former successes such as sending men to the moon and bringing them back safely. So naturally it might seem just so much ‘the next thing’ to fling a little craft out to the edge of our solar system to snap a picture of a couple rocks. A complex problem indeed.                                            New_Horizons_Transparent

In the nine years the New Horizons craft has been in space there have been plenty of ugly things going on here at home. Some might argue the money spent on the mission could have been better spent here at home helping to alleviate suffering and searching for answers to more nearby complexities. And it very well might have been. I can readily imagine how loudly such cries might have been if by some misfortune the craft had failed or had been destroyed by some unseen galactic debris. It is much easier for me in my comfortable station to wax about the values of space exploration than for a refugee family suffering the indignities of our failures to solve the complexities which confront them. It’s complicated.

It is so complicated. But with every little step we take to understand the world around us, to fathom the wider universe and measure it, to explore and appreciate our own little third rock from the sun, to work with each other to understand how we might alleviate suffering and live together in harmony… with every little step we chip away at the complexity.

Pluto was unknown to Isaac Newton. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, they had no clue. But in their gifted brilliance they put together ideas and explanations of our physical world that allowed Clyde Tombaugh to find Pluto in 1930. And now a mere 85 years downstream from Clyde’s discovery we have some fairly nice photos and a nifty pile of data to go with. Our scrapbook gets ever larger and our abilities to explore and chip away at all sorts of complexities get ever sharper. It is indeed a complex place we inhabit. But we are indeed complex creatures. With the grit and determination we’ve inherited from many generations of wonderers, explorers, and complex puzzle solvers we can continue to chip away at the complications in our path.  Perhaps we’ll learn to listen to the better angels of our nature.  I might even suggest it will be tough on our descendants someday if we ever do solve ALL the complexities before us. What then?



  1. Very cool mission. But I doubt we will ever learn to listen to our better angels. And, that’s me the optimist.


    1. Some will listen, others may not. Perhaps I should sprinkle my grit and determination with a healthy measure of hope – if for no other reason than it might push despair from the middle of the plate.


  2. An interesting tidbit passed this way after publication last night… I’ve just learned that Clyde Tombaugh was born and raised in Streator, IL. I have family in the Streator area. And one might imagine the Streator folk are duly proud of their star gazing son. From a piece published on the Streator webpage I learned that some of Clyde’s ashes are on board the New Horizons craft. Apparently someone listens to our better angles.


  3. […] Here’s a different aspect – is globalization just a spot on a continuum? First Homo sapiens settled parts of Africa.  Not satisfied with one continent, they migrate out to others.  Over thousands of years these vagabonds peek and poke into many different terrains.  Vast expanse of water is no roadblock.  Even the air, once province of only winged creatures, is now no longer off limits to our migratory ambitions.  Migration itself is no longer the central goal for our moving hither and yon upon this planet.  Moving resources from place to place is also a significant objective.   Information, data, cultural content… these too are dispersed from one location to another faster than the speed of sound.  So we have at our fingertips ready access to a planet’s worth of treasure (or mere ‘stuff’).  Now we access even more than just a planet’s worth.  We’ve launched several chunks of metal off into the solar system and beyond to explore distant places our ancestors merely glimpsed on the darkest of nights.  Over the summer I wrote a piece highlighting our probe that shot close-ups of Pluto here. […]


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