THIS Sunday, head to a local hill, set up your smartphones at 3:47 p.m. M., And then you wait about 45 minutes. With a bit of luck (and a cloudless sky), the moon will rise to view, 14 percent larger, 30 percent brighter and 16,139 miles closer than average.
We have begun to call this, after the American use, the "supermoon". Or I could follow the words of the novelist Marcel Proust: "The ancient and unalterable splendor of a moon, cruel and mysteriously serene." Either way, there it will be, disturbingly large in its skies, skimming the same heights of electric pylons.
I'll see it, somewhat consoled. As democracy and power seem to be falling into a knot of confusion, I often take the cosmic perspective to calm my mind.
(Although as a hard core materialist, it is more the vastness of space than the closeness of God that makes our current tribulations a perspective for me).
But I'm just somewhat consoled. I have never been so impressed with the moon as my daily reminder of the materiality of the universe.
The other day, I came across a high definition image of NASA, and it looked like the face of an old battered boxer, marked by scars, cracks, craters, spots.
In fact, the moon scares me a little. There, in all your damn ruin, is what happens to you when you have no protection against badaults, debris and radiation, from deep space.
That means there are not 50 to 60 miles of the biosphere that can burn the smallest fragments. There is no biosphere, too, to sustain human civilization, one that could deploy its ingenuity and technology against the largest asteroids, whose next dangerous appointment with humanity (for example, some scientists) long ago.
Although, of course, at that point of crisis, we could have unraveled the entire ecosystem and drowned or suffocated in the disability anyway. For me, the moon is a daily warning: a marker of sterility and lack of life, a sepulchral stone ready for us / when we spoil it. Contemplate your potential destination, the space ship Earth!
There is, of course, a totally more joyful way of considering the moon, which is an indicator of how connected we are to this universe and how much we are at home in it.
From our first moment of self-consciousness, humans have timed their days, and if necessary they have carried out their affairs, by the rhythms and rays of the light of the moon. The daily tides and sometimes twice a day on our shores – the waters of the earth pulled by the gravitational forces of the moon – had to be predicted and recorded by the maritime civilizations, so that fishing, trade and war were will execute properly. (Julius Caesar's ignorance of the tides of the Cbad meant that his ships were stranded in the Roman invasion of Britain).
In fact, the NASA moon website tells me that "the moon makes the Earth a more habitable planet, by moderating the oscillation of our home planet on its axis, which leads to a relatively stable". The Indo-European root of the moon is mehnot, which means "measure". The regular cycles of the moon, the shadows that cross and reliably shape its surface, have been a tool of precision, even a clock, throughout recorded human history.
So maybe I should give the moon – that interplanetary sandbag – something of a rest. However, while Proust's moon was "cruelly and mysteriously serene", ours is getting closer and closer to becoming benign and bbad in our next garden.
The march of science would always do so. The creator of science fiction, Jules Verne, was of the generation before Proust. But in retrospect, Verne had anticipated many of the scientific challenges of the lunar journey. In his 1870 novel From Earth to the Moon, Verne's projectile even took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean, similar to the eventual Apollo missions.
So as modern science and technology advanced, the mystery of this rough satellite was already fading. I was a child stuck to my television from the late sixties to the mid-seventies, anguished on every American lunar mission, amazed at the blurry images. But even towards the end, you started wondering how many stunts an astronaut could make on the surface of the moon. Hitting golf balls? Jumping exuberantly?
Young rockers not only expected jetpack when we grew up, but we also wanted bases for visible and working moles. The cheesy television series Gerry Anderson Space: 1999 not only provided a functional model, but an exact calendar year to complete it.
However, once the old Moon was pointed and traversed, the general interest diminished. This showed how bound the whole company was to the public mood and the media spectacle, in particular, the American idealism of the program's initiator, President JF Kennedy.
In the 1995 film Apollo 13 – dramatizing that almost disastrous lunar mission in 1970 – an astronaut complains during his preparations: "The networks abandoned us." One of them said that going to the moon is as exciting as going to Pittsburgh. "
Nowadays, when you search the communication channels for the news of the moon, the "unalterably splendid" orb is marked either by recreation or exploitation. I found a particularly manic example in Moon Express, a company based in Silicon Valley that ultimately wants to be a mining of robots where niobium, yttrium and dysprosium are found. These elements are "scarce on Earth," reports the LA Times, but "they are used in everything from a Toyota Prius car battery to guidance systems on cruise missiles." Charming.
But ultimately, says his smiling maniacal chairman Naveen Jain on CNBC, "we want people to be able to say: 'Hi darling, we're going to the moon', what more could you ask for?" In 15 years, when Moon Express claims that its "lunar colony" will be up and running, Jain hopes that "the first baby will be born there, pointing to the earth … It is better to be a Moony before a Martian much later".
The hype and zingers of the current space boom are mostly fun. Although as with businessman Elon Musk and his Martian ambitions, the technological giants show little political awareness. Using metaphors as "colony" sounds like a very old story that begins anew.
In 1979, the UN established a "Lunar Agreement", which identified it as the "common heritage of humanity", and suggested that a new international organization should govern the use of its resources "since exploitation is about to become viable. " It seems that the establishment of this body is becoming urgent.
So I'm a bit tormented by Luna, lost since it will soon be the relentless bombing of the robot miners, the extraction of helium-3 for futuristic fusion reactors. But maybe I'm thinking about the wrong moons in this solar system.
Instead of the old piece of gray, I should focus my attention on Titan, Enceladus or Europa, circling Saturn and Jupiter. The dense, watery climates of these moons, and their size comparable to Earth, are the most likely places in our immediate planetary neighborhood where we could find alien life.
And however small and similar to a microbe, however fragile and vacillating, the discovery of such a way of life would really be a cosmic comfort. We would know that we are not just an anomaly or an accident, but we are facing a vast and indifferent universe. Maybe this knowledge would gather enough wisdom to help us not to become extinct at this particular time.
Our science fiction dreams of exploration, discovery and encounter could become reality, dozens of generations later. If we can keep the show going, that's it.
Now there are some big moons to get excited about. But enjoy the show tomorrow. At least, compared to talking suits and red-hot shots, it hints at the real big picture.