Humans like to think that they are special. We look around, and we see all that we have achieved with our technology, and we think that we have mastered the Earth. We like to think that our lives are more than just a blip on a timeline—that we are more than dust drifting in the breeze.
However, when we compare ourselves to some of the other organisms that inhabit our planet, that's exactly what we look like: Small blips of dust drifting aimlessly in amidst the cosmos. Take, for example, Hyperion.
In Greek mythology, "hyperion" means "the tall one." In the myths, he was one of the twelve titan children. In reality, Hyperion is a tree that is nearly 380 feet tall (116 meters). We were able to get a precise measurement of its height thanks to some very technical scientific methods...essentially, a team of scientists climbed the tree and dropped a tape measure down.
Well, not essentially; that's exactly what they did.
The tree was found in August of 2006 by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor in the Redwood Park in California. It is a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). And although the preliminary measurements were made with professional laser measurement equipment based on goniometry, a later measurement was taken in one of the most precise ways we know of: By physically measuring its height.
After Taylor and Atkins announced their discovery, a team of scientists, led by Humboldt State University ecologist Steve Sillett, climbed to the top.
Interestingly, this tree is still just a child, in the grand scheme of things. Many redwoods live to be over 2,000 years old.
Watch: Climbing the World's Tallest Tree
Scientists estimate that the tree is some 700 to 800 years old. But unfortunately, you won't be seeing this ancient beast anytime soon, because no one will say where it is located. People often want souvenirs of the locations that they visit, which means that some (probably many) would carve bist out of the tree (or carve their names into it).
As a result, those who have visited have maintained their silence in the best interest of Hyperion.