Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Swimming on the Milky Way Dream

The swath of dusty light from our own galaxy in the sky over Devils Tower (source unknown)

Sometime during the last week of October, 2015, someone out there in the realm of the interwebs was led to A Cosmobiologist's Dream after searching on Google for "swimming on the Milky Way dream". Googling that led them to my blog post, The Shark in the Milky Way, where I briefly described an old Hawaiian legend describing the formation of the Milky Way. 

According to that version of the story, during a quest to save his brother, a demigod named Ka-ulu takes the Chief of Sharks and throws him into the sky. The body of Chief of Sharks breaks into many pieces upon the sky and forms the Milky Way. This stems from the tradition of many Polynesian peoples of associating the Milky Way with sharks (many tales have sharks swimming through this band of white in the sky).

I love the search text that was used to find this post. "Swimming on the Milky Way Dream". That just sounds awesome. It reminds me of one of the titles I would have used for one of my poems that I wrote in my adolescence (back during a time when my writing was far more inspired by my heavy drug use). I wonder what led that person to do a search using that phrase. 

Were they thinking of a Polynesian myth that involved sharks swimming in the Milky Way? If so, then I hope A Cosmobiologist's Dream served that purpose. If not, then I at least hope they enjoyed my writing. But what else, then, could they have been searching for?

Had they been trying to find a story where someone or something is swimming through the Milky Way in our night's sky? Maybe they wanted to learn more about Cygnus the Swan, one of the Ptolemaic constellations, who's wings are spread wide and could be thought of as skimming along the band of the Milky Way:

Cygnus the Swan, skirting along the Milky Way in our night's sky (by Bob Moler)

Or maybe this reader had been searching for cases of pareidolia (when we see patterns or figures that don't really exist in an image) where we might imagine swimming animals in our night's sky. For instance, Yurii Pidopryhora shared an image a few years ago of a hydrogen cloud which looks rather like a dolphin. Though it was "swimming" in the galactic halo and not in the band of the Milky Way, Phil Plait wrote a blog post about it called "Swimming Up the Milky Way".

Do you see a dolphin in this image? (source: Yurii Pidopryhora, ASTRON Daily Image)

However, I'd like to think that the reader had been searching for something related to a dream. Maybe they woke in the middle of the night from a dream of their own where they had been swimming through the Milky Way in the sky. Or maybe the dream had involved their body, in gigantic proportions, swimming across the entire disk of the galaxy, as though it were one humongous swimming pool of stars. Maybe they wondered why they had dreamt of swimming through the galaxy. Would such a dream mean that they had aspirations of traveling to new realms? Or maybe it would just be their mind's wanderings at what could be possible outside our realm of what is probable. 

I like thinking about "swimming on the Milk Way dream" in this way. The heavens above have long made us wonder and dream. The stars and the Milky Way in our sky inspire us to wonder what more is possible, for our own lives and for the cosmos. What would you think if you'd had a dream of swimming on the Milky Way?


  1. amazing article and thank you for share with us like this post

    1. You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by A Cosmobiologist's Dream!