Friday, January 14, 2005

The Lament of Astrophysical Insignificance

I used to bemoan my cosmic insignificance.
What effect did I have on the planets, the nebulae,
on the vastness of space, on the nature of being?
What distant gods had even heard my name?
Where was my place in the fate of galaxies?

I felt small.

Somehow, over time,
my lament has become more specific.
I don't wonder at the fate of the stars, or of
moons, or of comets or even of
interplanetary driftrock.

Let alone their fate--I don't even matter to their orbits!
I am astrophysically insignificant.

Insead of small, I now feel massless.
So I worked it out.
I affect the moon's trajectory in its 27th decimal place.
In meters. Well, meters per second.
All day. Every day. As long as I'm around.
So I wrote to the guys at NASA.
They refuse to update their trajectory theories.
Something about significant digits
and the precision of their instruments.
I asked if my math was right, at least.
They laughed. "Does it matter?"
It matters to me.
Though not, I suppose, to the moon.