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Sunday, July 6, 2014

ARE WE INSIGNIFICANT?

Yes, we're almost surely insignificant...BUT.  Let me explain.  (Incidentally, you'll need to click on that graphic on the left to see anything, but these graphs provide perspective.)

You know how fast light travels?  Been around the world?  I have, perhaps a dozen times.  They all took me more than a month.  In one second light travels the equivalent distance of 7.4 times the circumference of Planet Earth.  

For example, our Milky Way.  It would take light 100,000 years to travel from one end of our galaxy to the other.  But here is the part that is mind-boggling.  If some alien civilization located on the other side of the Milky Way, say 50,000 light years away, has invented a telescope that can see our planet, they would not view man-made lights.  

Light would have taken 50,000 years to reach them, and they would just now be seeing the original version of us  humans:


The Drake Equation calculates how many planets harbor intelligent life:


If you ran through this calculation, you would get 11,000 planets with intelligent life, just in our galaxy.

Our closest galaxy is Andromeda, and it is 2.43 million light years away.  We are both on the order of 100,000 light years across, so to scale, the following shows how far we are from each other:

O                                                                         O

Don't hold your breath, but in 4 billion years our galaxies will collide into each other.  That is not a long period of time, for our solar system is older that 4 billion years.


Further yet, say there is an advanced civilization 65 million light years away:


There are only 200 galaxies within 100 million light years of us.  Or, 200 trillion stars. Or, if each solar system is sort of like ours, 2 quadrillion planets.  

A lot, but nothing compared to the entirety of the Universe, for there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe (this means nothing, but for the record, reaching 47 billion light years away from us).  But that is only because that was the best the Hubble Telescope could see.  This number will at least double when better instruments are developed.  This means maybe up to an octillion stars, or 1, followed by 24 zeroes.  But again, there will be many more out there.  Planets?  Make that 10 octillion, at least.  Intelligent life?.......

I don't quite understand how astrophysicists don't know how large our Universe is when they are definitive about the Universe being 13.8 billion years old and this all started with a Big Bang.  To further challenge your curiosity, click on Cosmic Questions to learn that:

  • The Big Bang was NOT the origin of the Universe.
  • The shape of our Universe is NOT the surface of an expanding sphere.
  • Galaxies are found throughout all of space.
  • We don't really know how many stars and planets are out there because we can't see the entire Universe and don't know how vast it is.
  • It appears, though, that our Universe is expanding.
SO NOW THE PUNCHLINE.  Why the BUT  at the top?  It is entirely possible that there is no God, and life on Planet Earth was the only miraculous evolution in the entire Universe.  We could well be that precious beginning from which will come wonderful things throughout the Universe over the next few billion years.  Life was no doubt a miracle and we almost screwed it up during the Cold War.  We might, perhaps, not be so insignificant after all.  Sadly, there could be an actual end, as when our planet crashes into a cold Sun, predicted to occur in around a quadrillion years.

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Something definitely significant, Super Typhoon Neoguri is now at 150 MPH and will slam into Naha, Okinawa tomorrow as a Category 5.  Frighteningly, Neoguri will roll over Kyushu as a Category 3 and still be a typhoon later in the week when the storm reaches Hokkaido.


Neoguri is so potentially a monumental natural disaster, that I show another graphic:


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