The scale of the universe

Of all the secrets and mysteries of science, I find myself most fascinated by the universe. It’s birth and evolution,  its future and unexplored depths–these stories keep me coming back for more. Perhaps the most exciting part is that there is so much we do not know. We sit on our lonely planet, pondering how everything came to be and where it is going. If one phrase can describe the history of cosmology, it is the proverbial “the more we learn the less we know.”

Rosette Nebula Nursery Picture Star Formation Colors Scale of Universe Weekly Show

The Rosette nebula, a stellar nursery approximately 5,000 light years away. How can we possibly understand scales that leave everything we know incomprehensibly large or small?

This is not to diminish our achievements. The scope of math and science has broadened exponentially in the past century, revealing marvels we can hardly imagine. One of these is the scope of the universe. In the early 1900s astronomers believed our galaxy was the extent of the cosmos, and physicists had barely brushed the tip of the quantum world. Today we think on larger scales, ones that stretch from the tiniest waves to the furthest regions of the universe and beyond. Physicists have calculated exactly the theoretically smallest possible length (called the Plank length), and cosmologists estimate that the observable universe spans over 46 billion light years. As for the size of what we can’t see? Maybe it’s infinite. Maybe it’s bounded by a multiverse. The universe has not been around long enough for us to know.

I’ve spent time thinking about the best way to convey the scale of the universe. As wonderful as numbers are, the human mind cannot truly comprehend these scales. The mere idea of them defies our intuition of space and time. (I also worry that if I start using negative exponents I’ll lose half my viewership!) .

Fortunately, I’ve found something perfect: this is the coolest interactive thing I’ve ever seen. Called The Scale of the Universe 2, it allows you to “zoom from the edge of the universe to the quantum foam of spacetime and learn about everything in between.” I’ve literally spent hours with this, and it continues to both mesmerize me and blow my mind. I’ve included a short video preview above, but you really need to check out the interactive page itself. Trust me. Your life will not be complete without it.

Click here for The Scale of the Universe 2 (do it!)

I hope you get as much inspiration and enjoyment out of it as I do. That’s all for this week, as I need to get back to studying for all my theoretical math finals as I wrap up my semester abroad. As finals are next week, I am sad to say next week there will be no post. I will be back on December 25 with a post I think all of you will find very interesting…it’s about time this blog got controversial. In the meantime, check out any posts you have missed and let me know what you think! As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. That small click really helps me out! Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE!

Other related articles:

10 Mind-Blowing Secrets of Outer Space

What is Dark Matter?

3 Amazing Facts About the Quantum World

In the news:

Simulations Back Up Theory that Universe is a Hologram (Nature)

The Dark Universe is a “Puzzle With Missing Pieces” (BBC)

Life Possible in the Early Univers (Nature)

Comment question of the week

What do you think of the scale of the universe? How can we possibly comprehend such tiny and immense scales?


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