An absolutely amazing image captured by NASA’s orbiting ‘Chandra’ X-Ray observatory which appears to show a cosmic hand reaching towards a fiery cloud. What it really shows is the image of a nebula surrounding a young pulsar star.
The hype this image caused is reminiscent of the hype surrounding the picture of the Helix Nebula compiled from images from the Hubble telescope in 2004 and popularly dubbed as ‘the eye of God’.
It seems with these two images that scientists are thus beginning to build up a picasso-esque image of what God may look like, though admittedly at the minute what the picture resembles most closely is a blue-handed cyclops with no discernable face.
Setting aside such an awesome deity for a minute, it is interesting to consider (or at least I find it interesting), that some people will chose to interpret these images as evidence for divine activity in the cosmos. This might seem to some like a natural conclusion but to me that would just be the cosmic version of seeing the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. Rather than a divine hand tinkering with the universe what this image illustrates to me most clearly is that our brain’s have an extraordinary propensity to seek out the familiar even in an entirely unfamiliar and breathtaking sight.
The natural beauty and mystery of the cosmos should be the most amazing aspect of this incredible image but instead my limited ape brain is at this very moment, just like everyone else’s, more intent on focusing on the image it’s hard-wired to recognise as belonging to something human-like. Maybe it’s a good thing that robots will rule the world one day as presumably they won’t much care if a swirling nebula looks a bit like a hand and can get on with the business of discovering the mysteries of the universe. Maybe not though… maybe they will be too busy discussing the latest image of a cosmic pentium chip.