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The living nautilus actually lives only in the outermost,
largest chamber of its shell. As it grows, it continually builds larger and
larger chambers, leaving the smaller ones behind.

  

In his poem “The Chambered Nautilus,” Oliver
Wendell Holmes Sr. imagines the growth and death of a nautilus found on the
seashore as a call to spiritual growth. “As the spiral grew,” he
says, “he left the past year’s dwelling for the new …Build thee more
stately mansions, O my soul, / As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low-vaulted
past! / Let each new temple, nobler than the last, / Shut thee from heaven with
a dome more vast”

  

This got us thinking. Science, too, builds then rebuilds as
new evidence is accumulated. Theories are constructed, then subsumed, or even
abandoned. Our animation shows the progression of our understanding of the
skies, from Ptolemy to Einstein, shutting us from heaven with a dome ever more
vast.

  

We hope you like it.

 

  

 

“The Chambered Nautilus”
By Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

This
is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign, 
Sails
the unshadowed main,— 
The
venturous bark that flings 
On
the sweet summer wind its purpled wings

In
gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings, 
And
coral reefs lie bare, 
Where
the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.    

Its
webs of living gauze no more unfurl;    
Wrecked
is the ship of pearl!

And
every chambered cell, 
Where
its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell, 
As
the frail tenant shaped his growing shell, 
Before
thee lies revealed,— 
Its
irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!    
 

Year
after year beheld the silent toil    

That
spread his lustrous coil;
Still,
as the spiral grew,
He
left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole
with soft step its shining archway through,
Built
up its idle door,
Stretched
in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks
for the heavenly message brought by thee,

Child
of the wandering sea,
Cast
from her lap, forlorn!
From
thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than
ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While
on mine ear it rings,
Through
the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—   

Build
thee more stately mansions, O my soul,   

As
the swift seasons roll!
Leave
thy low-vaulted past!
Let
each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut
thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till
thou at length art free,
Leaving
thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!