Resonant worlds

Cultivating proximal encounters in planetary science

by Lisa Messeri

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Planetary scientists are adept at producing knowledge about objects that are far removed from their lived experience of place and time. Sometimes, they overcome this distance by positioning Earth as a planet that can stand for other worlds. Encountering Earth becomes an encounter with another planet. When scientists experience the Earthly as otherworldly, they sometimes feel an excitement here described as “resonance.” Fully felt resonance is rare, but scientists devote much time and effort to preparing for it so as not to miss its fleeting instances. Just as resonance affords scientists the possibility of experiencing the distant, it also describes moments when the anthropologist is in harmony with what had previously been strange. Thus, resonance is a mode of cognitive and affective reasoning that collapses distance and transforms the similar into the same.

Dressed in simulated spacesuits, Stoker, Julia, and Devon return home to the Mars Desert Research Station after testing soil samples in the San Rafael Swell in Utah.
Dressed in simulated spacesuits, Stoker, Julia, and Devon return home to the Mars Desert Research Station after testing soil samples in the San Rafael Swell in Utah. (Lisa Messeri)