Dung Beetle and I

Dung beetle, a creature with a brain smaller than a rice grain, uses the Milky Way to navigate. (Image credit: Emily Baird)


But, we have our phones to do that for us. We rely so much on technology, mobile phones, Apps. I remember the time when my brothers(younger) visited me from India and we were driving from San Jose to San Francisco where I used to live. My phone died on the way and I was on the 101. I took the wrong exit and kept driving around being confident I was very close to my home. I lived in Lower Nob Hill close to the Financial district. With every turn I took, I grew confident I was closer to home and after 30 minutes, I saw the beach! Ocean beach, that’s where I was. The exact opposite end of the city. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. But, of course, I didn’t show that to my younger brothers :P I knew it was the western end of the city, so I knew I had to drive the opposite direction. After about an hour, we finally reached home. I made the mistake of asking them if they were angry - definitely not a great way to start their vacation. But, hey, they got a tour of San Francisco. Boy, were my brothers angry. It’s been 4 years and they still don’t forgive me for it.

But...If only I had been paying more attention to the night skies back then. If only I had known to find the North Star. If only I had followed it. I would have reached home in no time. If you can identify the Big Dipper, you draw a straight line from the 2 stars on the outer edge of the Big Dipper and you reach Polaris. Polaris is the North Star. It always points to true North. Once you know where North is, the exact opposite is South. And if you are facing North, to your left is West and East is to your right. If I had known this, I wouldn’t have ended up in Ocean beach.

Credit: wikiHow Creative Commons.  How to Spot the North Star

Credit: wikiHow Creative Commons. How to Spot the North Star

Technology is good, but we rely on it too much. If we have everything spoon fed to us, we lose the ability to think and ask questions. It is very important for kids to ask questions - that is how they learn the world around them. These days, when something goes bad, we toss it out and replace it with a new one. My dad always taught me to learn how things work. These days we don’t even think about fixing something when it goes bad. When we don’t ask these questions, we don’t learn and we definitely don’t innovate.

And that is why preserving the night skies is so important. It inspires us to ask questions and learn about the world we live in. Losing the stars, we lose a sense of connection, a belonging. We confine ourselves to the limits of our home and that is not a great thing for humankind.