Searching for an inspirational role model/hero for your child, one who’s not a dim bulb jock, crazed rock star, or prima donna movie actor? Allow me to offer the story of one Edwin Hubble. Yes, that Hubble, the man for whom the orbiting telescope is named. With him, you’ve got nothing less than the tale of The Man Who Changed The Universe.
One hundred years ago, we didn’t know if there were other galaxies. We knew our Milky Way was vast, but we really did not know if there was anything beyond it. Hubble was a new astronomer with a hungry eye, and he began observing some of the mysterious nebulae of the universe. Using the gigantic new observatory atop Mt. Wilson near Pasadena, Hubble began to accumulate scads of impressive new data. This young man, today known as one of the greatest observational astronomers ever, worked alone, night after night, day after day, grinding away with this fabulous new toy. Finally, he came up with incontrovertible proof that what had been known as the Andromeda Nebula is actually the Andromeda Galaxy, 800,000 light years beyond the Milky Way.
With that one discovery, made in October 1923, Cosmic Reality is blown up. Think on that for a second. One guy, one puny little human, through his diligence and hard work, opens The Door that will require mankind to expand its perception of the Reality of the Universe! No denial is possible. And now, 87 years later, we know the truth of our universe is far more mind-boggling than that which even the most absinthe-soaked science fiction writer could have dared imagine. Because now we know that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe, and each one of those contains at least 100 billion stars. Uh. Wow? It’s too much. It’s just completely too much! That means there are around 10 quintillion stars out there. You know how many that is? A star for every grain of sand on the beaches and deserts of our planet! (This is, admittedly, a rough estimate.)
Incredibly, Hubble doesn’t stop with just one Astrophysical Mind Melt. Six years after his galactic blockbuster, after studying the spectrographic “fingerprints” of newly found galaxies, Hubble lays a new one on humanity. Guess what? he says. All that stuff out there is speeding away from us. The universe is expanding. Space itself is expanding! This discovery, too, is unexpected and epic. And once again, Hubble doesn’t say “take my word on this.” He proves it. Makes it undeniable. From this point, we’ll soon get into some real trouble. As in the Big Bang. The Ultimate Brainblower. The one that had Einstein himself shaking his head.
So yeah, Ed Hubble, The Man Who Changed The Universe. That’s gotta be at least as cool as The Man Who Sank The Game-Winning Free Throw.