Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A taste of wonder

One thing that I miss from my childhood is having a regular experience with wonder.  Being filled with awe and marvelling at something is not as common place as it once was.  It does happen from time to time however and over the weekend I experienced it again.

My dad is on the verge of retiring and so together with my siblings, we purchased an iPad for him.  Not having used an iPad, it was new for me, and the device was fascinating.  Fascinating, but not wonder inducing.

That changed a few hours later when my brother-in-law installed an astronomy app and we went outside to use it.  Placing the iPad above our heads, the app displayed and identified all the celestial objects that we could see.  Moving the iPad around caused the display to change to reflect the portion of the sky immediately behind the device.  It seemed almost magical.

To locate an object in the sky that was displayed on the iPad, all you had to do was move the iPad around the sky until the object was positioned at the center of the iPad.  Then low and behold if you then moved the iPad out of the way without moving your eyes, you were looking directly at it. 

Wow, I marvelled, how cool was that! 

I thought back to elementary school when I received a telescope one Christmas, and thought to myself that if the iPad had been available then, I might have pursued a different career.  Those frustrating few time that I actually tried to find anything in the sky back then would never have diminished my enjoyment of star gazing.

Being an engineer, it didn’t take too long for me to figure out how the app worked, and wouldn’t you know it, once I figured it out the wonder diminished.  It wasn’t magical after all.