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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

What We Don't Know for Sure

Knowledge. It’s a good thing and the human species has a fair bit of it. But in terms of what there IS to know, we possess maybe .00000000001 percent. That’s probably a high estimate.

Look up into the night sky and marvel at the cornucopia of stars. Only about 6,000 of them are visible to the naked eye, and only about 2,000 can be seen from any one spot. With a two-inch telescope the number leaps to 30,000, a using a sixteen-inch telescope one skips from counting stars to galaxies . . . the latter numbering between 50,000 – 100,00, each containing billions of stars. The galaxy astronomers label MACS0647-JD is estimated to be 13 billion light years away. Which means we know nothing about it other than the astronomical possibility that it exists.

There are also things of which we are ignorant that are right at our feet. Thomas’ Racer is a snake that lives in the remote Dhofar mountains of Oman and Yemen. It has been seen barely a dozen times since its discovery in 1932 by Arabian explorer Bertram Thomas. It exists; that’s all we know. (Try finding a picture on Google images. All you get are toys and motorcycles.)

While being thankful for all we do know, humbleness is the appropriate attitude when realizing all that we don’t. Since it is too easy to assume too much, we do well to remember Mark Twain’s famous quote: “What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.”

Bill Bryson’s wonderful book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, is jam-packed with fascinating facts about . . . well, nearly everything. But a consistent theme is the plethora of things we don’t know. Which means: ADVENTURE! There are exiting worlds to explore, from the bottom of the Mariana Trench to distant galaxies. As we gain more and more knowledge, the task then becomes to transform these learnings into wisdom.

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