My best friend did a BSc in Sociology and Philosophy at Uni whilst I studied Medicine. She would come home and tell me what they had discussed in Philosophy and we would have debates about the issues they raised. I cannot remember what exactly we were talking about that day but we got to talking about gravity and the world being a sphere. We ended up making our brains work overtime and we had to stop imagining after a while because our heads literally hurt at the concept we were trying to grasp.
First we imagined being a giant, as in being bigger than the planet Earth. So we looked at it from his perspective (this giant is male for some reason). We imagined if he came across the Earth which would be like a large alien ball to him, what would he see and feel if he examined it closely? Maybe examined it under a giant microscope? First of all, there is the atmosphere which we think is nothing concrete so we thought maybe the 1st thing he would see/feel would be the clouds, wispy inconsequential bits of fluff to Giant. Maybe the clouds would feel like a wet wipe, cool and moist.
Next, would he feel the highest mountain peaks as hard sharp jagged spikes? Looking at them, maybe they would be the size of massive zits. The highest building and towers may feel bendier than the mountains and maybe look like black heads in comparison to the mountains. How about the oceans? Would they be like squishy jelly to him because we imagined he would stick his fingers in the Arctic ocean and think ‘cold jelly’ then into the Indian Ocean and think warmer. Looking at the oceans must be like looking at an abstract painting with the shifting blues, greens, indigoes and even corals of the oceans and seas. Active volcanoes would give Giant an impression of hot spots and to look at little cones discharging puffs of grey smoke with hot red goo in their centres. Forests would feel soft with bristle underneath and look like broccoli and herb gardens to Giant. Deserts would feel like grit and look like fine brown powder. Huge waterfalls like Niagara and Iguaçu falls would look like steaming water dripping off the sides of the heads of broccoli onto the stalk.
Then it got harder for our brains to imagine. Would anything else really be significant to Giant? Would houses and roads and lakes be large enough to make an impression on him? We certainly didn’t think humans would attract much notice. Elephants and blue whales he would probably be able to appreciate under the microscope but humans would be like tiny ants and would only make a mark if there were thousands gathered in a demonstration or large arena concerts. Large birds would be like butterflies or even flies. Anything smaller would be a mere irritation to feel and he certainly wouldn’t see them.
We had to stop imagining there because the scaling down was scrambling our brains. The other things we thought is, although many of the structures/features of the world we have imagined above are either mobile or fluid, because of the effect of gravity, it is all held to the surface of the ball that is the Earth. This must mean that if Giant were to hold up Earth with Africa on the top, Britain would be on its side and it would look like Ben Nevis was horizontal and not vertical as we know it is. Also if he were able to see humans, still holding the Earth in this position, we would all like little particles, all stuck onto the surface of the Earth.
So now I have re-imagined all of this, I wonder about the microscopic world. When I look at lichen that looks like it is stuck to the ground, is it really stuck to the ground? Or is it just so lightweight that the gravitational pull to the center of the Earth is too strong to allow a mere mortal like me to see that it is actually mobile? I mean, it must be mobile at least to begin with because when the pavement was put in place, there was no lichen and years later, there is lichen that has come from somewhere else. As are the ringworms/warts that must be living in baths so that you unsuspectingly step on them and ‘catch’ ringworm or warts which you only find out about weeks later when you get the rash of ringworm or feel the pain of a verruca. There is so much we do not know about because we cannot see or feel them but all the same it doesn’t mean that they are not there. That is why I say, we never know what else is out there (aliens etcetera) because how could we when we don’t fully know what is living right here on Earth with us. Maybe right under your feet, right now as you sit and read this. Boggles my little brain!!!