Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tycho Brahe

There was a man who went to the king and said he wanted to find the meaning of the universe.  He asked the king to provide him with an observatory in which he might watch the sky and seek the meaning of the universe.  The king, who also wanted to know such things, granted his request.

Twenty five years passed and the king, having had no word from the man, sent a delegation to inquire if he had yet found the meaning of the universe.

When the delegation arrived they found the man gazing at the sky.  The asked him what he was doing.

He replied that he was measuring the distance between the stars.

The delegation asked him why he was measuring them.

He replied that he had spent the past twenty five years measuring the distance between the stars and writing them all down.  In fact over these twenty five years he'd accumulated 99 books full of these measurements.

The delegation asked him what he was going to do with all of these measurements.

He replied that he was working on volume 100. 

The delegation asked him why he was doing this.

He replied that he was seeking the meaning of the universe.

The delegation asked him if he'd found it.

He replied, "No, I haven't and I don't expect that I will, but one day some one else will seek the meaning of the universe and I will have saved them 25 years of work."


The story is a folktale of a sort about a man named Tycho Brahe.  While much of the story may be a fabrication, Tycho Brahe did indeed spend years measuring the movement of celestial bodies and the tables of Tycho's measurements are real.  The measurements he took and the precision with which he made them set a new standard for scientific accuracy.  His observations are considered to have played a key role in the scientific revolution to come. 

Tonight I am working on a paper on water resources around the world.  I am reading a lot about water pollution, lack of access to clean drinking water, water shortages, droughts and privatization of water resources. 

When I think of sustainability and the huge task ahead of us in creating a sustainable world I often encounter feelings of hopelessness and the research I am doing is not alleviating this feeling.  Then I came across this little tale and I thought to myself about how even the small steps we each take today can help to bring things a bit closer to being possible for the next generation; doing the work we are still laying the foundation upon with a sustainable world may be built.  We may not ever see the final result of our work, but without someone beginning, the final outcome can never possibly be achieved. 

In this way the story rings very true. 


No comments:

Post a Comment