Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Loony Editorial

The Times has gone a little moonstruck.

In an editorial today called "The Moon View," The Times waxes eloquent on the recently restored photo from NASA that shows a view of the Earth taken from Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. After explaining a bit about the restoration of the photo -- which added new dimensions to the moon's surface, and shifted the cloud patterns -- the writer goes on to riff on the changed physical appearance of Earth.

Yes, that's right. In the last 42 years, Earth has aged. Or maybe the writer of the editorial is projecting a little?

What is most evocative is the awareness that this is our planet in 1966, which feels like a very long time ago. A train of thought immediately presents itself. If scientists can recover extensive new information from old electronic data, shouldn’t there be some way to peer beneath those clouds, back in time, and see how this planet looked when it had only half its current population?

It is probably not possible to say that one Earth is ever more innocent than another. And yet there is a feeling of innocence hanging over that beclouded planet, which was just about to get the first glimpse of itself from the Moon.

Who knows, maybe the Times is right, and Earth looks a little less innocent, more world weary after the abuses of the last four decades.

But from where we sit, even with nearly seven billion inhabitants, the Earth still seems in pretty good shape. It may be 4.5 billion years old, but really, it doesn't look a day over 4.4 billion.

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