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I, J.S. Pailly, stand accused of being a boring person. Or at least that’s what a few well-meaning friends and acquaintences seem to think. You see, all I ever do is write and read and do research. Then I do more research, which is followed up with more writing.
Most people are willing to concede that all the art I do might be fun. But otherwise my life is soooo boring. Boring, boring, boring. I need to get out more, travel, go to loud parties, eat at popular restaurants… or other stuff like that, I guess.
Anyway, I’ve been accused of being boring. So in my defense, I’m going to talk about something that I find really interesting: space. And perhaps the story I’m about to tell will serve as a nice little allegory about what it means to be boring or interesting.
In 1986, the Voyager 2 spacecraft became the first—and thus far the only—spacecraft to visit the planet Uranus. As I’m sure you’re already aware (you may already be giggling), Uranus is a much-maligned planet, because of its name. Voyager 2’s visit gave us yet another reason to malign our poor seventh planet.
Uranus turned out to be a featureless cyan-blue orb. There was nothing like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot or Saturn’s polar hexagon. There were no atmospheric zones or belts. There was nothing interesting to look at at all! What a boring planet, scientists said.
But of course, this was only true from our limited human perspective. Our eyes can only see a range of approximately 400 to 700 nanometers on the electromagnetic spectrum (which we perceive as the colors violet to red).
If you observe Uranus only in this 400 to 700 nm range, there’s not much to see. Switch to ultraviolet, however, and you’ll find a complex and dynamic atmosphere that’s every bit as interesting as Jupiter or Saturn’s.
Whether we’re talking about planets or people, what is boring versus what is interesting is all a matter of perspective. Will this little anecdote change anybody’s mind? I’m not sure. I suspect if you already think I’m a boring person, me talking about sciency stuff only reinforces that belief. But I hope the rest of you get what I’m trying to say.
P.S.: Fun fact! If you’ve ever wondered why Uranus got stuck with its giggle-inducing name, it’s because the guy who picked the name was German, and he probably didn’t realize what it would sound like in English.