A brief astronomically-based political affiliation test

Below is one of the most beautiful and famous images in astronomy. It was taken by the Hubble Telescope. It depicts the region called Messier 16 in the contellation Serpens, one spiral arm over from us in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s an open, luminous cluster of hot young stars. Those huge spires of interstellar gas and dust are sometimes called the Pillars of Creation; new stars are still being formed in this area, the most active birthplace of stars that we know. It is 144 light years in diameter and 7,000 light years away. That means this image began moving in our direction a thousand years before the beginning of recorded human history.

Bearing all that in mind, if you would, please click the picture below to open the full-sized, full-color image in a new window. Stare at it a couple minutes and then come back. I’ll wait here.


There. Did you do it? Seriously? Okay. Now answer the following question. Thinking about that picture made me feel:

A) Small. Insignificant. One average animal among trillions on one average planet revolving around an average star in a cosmic backwater on the edge of our galaxy. There are maybe a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, maybe several hundred billion galaxies in the universe. You’d have to be mad to think there’s anything special about us. A little (okay a lot) of humility is in order here.


B) Huge. Electric. Being a part of something so unknowably vast and beautiful is innervating. Exhilarating. I’m blown away. Filled to the teeth with joy and wonder. I feel elevated, awed, enlarged. Just…damn!

If you answered A), you are a lefty. If you answered B), you are a righty.

Whichever way you answered, you think anyone who answered the other way is sad, delusional and a bit dangerous.

Am I right?

Oh. Yeah. And if you answered, “that one on the left looks kind of like a caterpiller, when you poke it and it kind of rears up and waves its little legs in the air,” you probably were the deciding vote in the last election. Thanks a lot for that. Really.


  1. Dave in Texas
    Posted December 4, 2006 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen that formation in the spa.

    I’d rather not elaborate.

  2. geoff
    Posted December 4, 2006 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Well, I felt the whole insignificance thing back in college, where my Bachelor’s thesis was on some supernova remnant that was “close” to us, but was still something like 24,000 parsecs away. Trying to grasp that enormity was very humbling.

    But I needed that.

  3. Posted December 5, 2006 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    I thought, “Darn! Can’t God use color already? How primitive.”

    I was totally the second answer.

  4. wtf
    Posted December 5, 2006 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Hot young stars?

    Oh, man; I’m there!

    I just gotta program the coordinates into my Magellan…

  5. Posted December 5, 2006 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    There’s not enough positive adjectives
    to describe what I experience in looking
    at ongoing creation.
    To know we’re a part of this is awesome,
    exhilerating and humbling. We are small,
    but so is an unborn star.
    /…and every hair upon our heads is

  6. Posted December 5, 2006 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I choose option “C”, what is in those 3 squares in the upper right-hand corner? This is a cover-up of the highest order from the vast NASA cabal.

    I consider myself conservative, but the picture made me feel inadequately educated, unable to grasp the concept of what the Hubble is showing us. Since I must destroy what I don’t understand, I’ll need a bigger scope on my deer rifle.

  7. Posted December 15, 2006 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Was I right?


    I answered B, and I’m a lefty.

  8. Posted December 15, 2006 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Oh, well. Can’t win ’em all.

    Ran across Creative Destruction today and spent a happy hour browsing. I was particularly interested when I read you are Asperger’s. I’ve run across several of such on the web lately. It’s interesting to read someone and note where (and how) the Asperger’s shows and where (and how) it doesn’t.

  9. Posted December 15, 2006 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    You’re welcome. Thanks for visiting and for blogrolling us. I can’t reciprocate at CD because we only get three links each.

    But I’ve blogrolled you from my personal blog. (I did that, before I saw you’d blogrolled us.) Like you, I use it as a personal reading list.

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