Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting a Handle on Your Place in the Universe

You are on this very tiny dot w-a-y, w-a-y over here...

The size and numbers are truly mind boggling. From Wikipedia:
The universe is immensely large and possibly infinite in volume. The region visible from Earth (the observable universe) is a sphere with a radius of about 46 billion light years, based on where the expansion of space has taken the most distant objects observed. For comparison, the diameter of a typical galaxy is only 30,000 light-years, and the typical distance between two neighboring galaxies is only 3 million light-years. As an example, our Milky Way Galaxy is roughly 100,000 light years in diameter, and our nearest sister galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, is located roughly 2.5 million light years away. There are probably more than 100 billion (1011) galaxies in the observable universe. Typical galaxies range from dwarfs with as few as ten million (107) stars up to giants with one trillion (1012) stars, all orbiting the galaxy's center of mass. Thus, a very rough estimate from these numbers would suggest there are around one sextillion (1021) stars in the observable universe; though a 2010 study by astronomers resulted in a figure of 300 sextillion (3×1023).
What I find flabbergasting is that roughly a third the people on earth think that there is a "personal" God who sent his "son" to this one planet of the one-out-of-300-sextillion suns in the universe. Oh, and that this God personally transcribed the true history of the universe and put it into one thousand page book between 2 and 3 thousand years ago and that those trusty human copyists dutifully preserved the true words without error for over two thousand years (despite the historical fact that there are literally thousands of variant texts all claiming to be the "one true" transcription of God's word, and not counting later upstarts like Muhammad, Bahá'u'lláh, Joe Smith, David Koresh, etc. who claimed "additional" revelations). And that this God has contrived to make the universe which was "created" in 7 days look like it is 13.73 billion year old and that he bothered to place fossils in the earth and create geological formations that would deceive humans into seeing the earth as 4.54 billion years old when it is only 6,015 years old according to the very careful calculations of Bishop Ussher. Funny.

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