Monday, 15 June 2009

The Total Perspective Vortex

How arrogant and conceited do you have to be to believe that the entire universe, our small bluey-green planet, and all its complex ecological systems of diverse flora and fauna, where created for the sole benefit of one random species?

Religions have frequently started off with a geocentric view of the universe, with a special place in creation for humanity. However, as reality dawns, our position in the universe must be revaluated. Science is continually humbling us as we begin to realise that our short existence is merely a brief fart of cosmic time in an unimaginably large galaxy spinning gently for aeons hence in a universe larger than the English language can accurately describe.

Failure to accept this reality in favour of an indefensible and deluded religious view of ones own importance in the cosmic scheme of things is a fairly loathsome trait.

I believe that this was the inspiration for Douglas Adams’ “Total Perspective Vortex” that was invented primarily to annoy his wife, much like my incentive for blogging.

Here’s a description in Douglas’ own words:

The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. Since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation; every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula, for that was his name, was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. She would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex, just to show her. Into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot have is a sense of proportion.

I can easily relate to Trin, but I have no desire to annihilate the religious meme infected brains of the faithful. It would however be nice to give them a little perspective of how humanity really fits in with the rest of the galaxy. Of course I realise that this is a futile attempt as if your arguments are not restricted by reality, than an answer to any criticism can be simply plucked from the arsehole of your chosen authority.

Regardless, I have harvested this short YouTube video from Phil Plait’s excellent Bad Astronomy blog that is the closest thing I have seen yet to the Total Perspective Vortex.

I don’t intend to promote a meaningless and futile existence, which is how the atheistic viewpoint is frequently misinterpreted by the religious, merely help appreciate and make the most of the briefest spark of consciousness that we are so incredibly lucky to savour.
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