The last few minutes of Wonders of the Solar System, an excellent five-part BBC documentary hosted by Brian Cox.
Is Everything We Know About the Universe Wrong? is another excellent BBC Horizon documentary.
Cosmology is undergoing a great shift. The traditional Standard Model is unsatisfactory because it does not explain dark matter or dark energy. And the modifications to the Standard Model that do are unsatisfactory because they are inelegant add-ons. Something is missing from our understanding of the universe, and it is either new forms of matter and energy, our understanding of the basic habits (natural laws) of the universe, or a combination of both.
It is another reminder that what we think we know about anything, however elaborate or useful it may seem, is vanishingly small compared to the infinity we do not know. Our experience is always very limited. (*) And our interpretations of this experience is just one of an indefinite number of possible interpretations, some of which would make equally much or more sense to us than the ones we are currently aware of.
Whenever we have a story about something, there will always be something that doesn’t fit. And if this is something that appears significant to us, or if many smaller things that do not fit keep cropping up, it requires us to reorient, to reorganize how we look at ourselves and/or the rest of the world.
It is a continuous process for us at individual and collective levels.
For a good introduction to what sets humans apart from other animals, you can’t do much better than Alan Alda’s three-part series The Human Spark.
It is easy to think that since the lives of humans are so different from the lives of other animals, there must be big differences in how we are put together.
But is that the case? Are humans very different from other animals? No. We share almost everything with at least some, and often many, other species.
It is the small differences – often in degree – that sets us apart. As we know from the butterfly effect, in a complex system, small differences in the initial conditions can lead to big differences in how it all unfolds over time. In this case, small differences in biology leads to big differences in how we live our lives.
It is these small differences that leads to what we see as uniquely human such as relatively advanced culture, technology, and social organization.
Small differences can have big consequences.