The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars

October 31, 2020
The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars

An historically unprecedented disconnect between humanity andthe heavens has opened. Jo Marchant's book can begin to healit.For at least 20,000 years, we have led not just an earthlyexistence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect ofour daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped whowe are--our art, religious beliefs, social status, scientificadvances, and even our biology. But over the last few centuries wehave separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. It'sa disconnect with a dire cost.Our relationship to the stars and planets has moved from one ofawe, wonder and superstition to one where technology is king--thecosmos is now explored through data on our screens, not by thenaked eye observing the natural world. Indeed, in most countriesmodern light pollution obscures much of the night sky from view. JoMarchant's spellbinding parade of the ways different culturescelebrated the majesty and mysteries of the night sky is a journeyto the most awe inspiring view you can ever see--looking up on aclear dark night. That experience and the thoughts it hasengendered have radically shaped human civilization acrossmillennia. The cosmos is the source of our greatest creativity inart, in science, in life.To show us how, Jo Marchant takes us to the Hall of the Bulls inthe caves at Lascaux in France, and to the summer solstice at a5,000-year-old tomb at New Grange in Ireland. We discover Chumashcosmology and visit medieval monks grappling with the nature oftime and Tahitian sailors navigating by the stars. We discover howlight reveals the chemical composition of the sun, and we are withEinstein as he works out that space and time are one and the same.A four-billion-year-old meteor inspires a search forextraterrestrial life. The cosmically liberating, summaryrevelation is that star-gazing made us human.