Human beings are amazing!

Our drive to curiosity and adventure is so inspiring at times.

Example #1: Amateur astronomers have discovered a planet with four suns!

NASA’s website calls the phenomenon a circumbinary planet, or a planet that orbits two suns.

Rare enough on its own — only six other circumbinary planets are known to exist — this planet is orbited by two more distant stars, making it the first known quadruple sun system.


In this case, the Planet Hunters group made data from NASA’s $600 million Kepler telescope available to the public through its website and coordinates their findings with Yale astronomers.

In combing through the data, “Citizen scientists” Robert Gagliano and Kian Jek spied anomalies that confirmed the existence of the special planet, now known as PH1 — short for Planet Hunters 1 — the first heavenly body found by the online citizen science project.

The planet is a little bigger than Neptune, with a radius about six times greater than Earth.

“I celebrate this discovery for the wow-factor of a planet in a four-star system,” said Natalie Batalha, a Kepler scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.

“Most importantly, I celebrate this discovery as the fruit of exemplary human cooperation — cooperation between scientists and citizens who give of themselves for the love of stars, knowledge, and exploration.”

We also dropped a human being from space!

Perhaps the best quote was from Felix Baumgartner, the jumper, as he stood perched on the edge of his balloon before the jump.

“Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

With new knowledge and new experiences often comes humility.  The universe was not made for us.  We are a tiny morsel in an infinite array which, if we apply our collective intellect to its fullest, will reward us with discovery after wondrous discovery for the sum of our stay in the cosmos.  When the first humans looked to the stars, some decided that they already knew how the stars came to be, and they named their ignorance “god”.  The others decided they needed to know about the stars and yearned to touch them.  Thousands of years later, with no help beyond our flawed, but spectacular minds, we are realizing that dream.

Humans are capable of such glory…and such horrors.  While science was busy dropping a man from space and finding new worlds, religion was busy praying for change and shooting a 14 year-old girl in the head for wanting equality.

Here’s to a humanity that recognizes the best of us.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • invivoMark

    Bleh! I’m sorry, I just can’t get excited about a guy doing a stunt as an advertisement for an energy drink company. There’s far too much hero worship about this guy already. All he did was do the jump, and of course, nobody gives the smallest thought for the group of engineers and science specialists who designed the balloon, his suit, or planned the whole thing out. Nor do they care about all the scientists and engineers who weren’t involved, but were instead using their time to make the world a better place. You know, instead of letting one overpaid bro do whatever crazy thing it is he wants to do this week.


    • JT Eberhard

      Well said.
      Still, it’s pretty badass that the engineers and what not managed this. The point about human intellect is still pretty rad, and even the bro’s sense of adventure is admirable.

      • invivoMark

        True. And I suppose the overall thrust of your post still stands, and is even supported by Felix’s jump: humans are particularly badass when we work together.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    I like that amatuer astronomers are doing so much and being supported for their efforts. A couple weeks ago, Dan Peterson, an amatuer astronomer from Racine, WI, noticed a major impact on Jupiter that most people missed and caught it on film. That is amazing that a guy in the middle of farm country can do that!

    Side note, “Dan Peterson” sounds exactly like the name of an amatuer astronomer from Racine, WI.

  • RuQu

    While the jump was certainly cool, it saddens me that our coolest space feats are being funded by Red Bull. Our Navy is as large as the next 11 combined, 9 of whom are in NATO with us or close allies, yet we have a presidential candidate talking openly of giving the military vastly more funding they didn’t ask for, and no talk of increasing NASA funding. Newt Gingrich was laughed at for suggesting a moon colony, and not for all the perfectly reasonable reasons to laugh at him.

    Sad days.

  • RuQu

    Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet on the jump:

    “The “Edge of Space” jump: A corresponding fall to a schoolroom globe begins 1 millimeter above its surface. I’m just saying.”

    • Drakk

      But how many hydrogen atoms fit into a millimetre?