Launch Pad: Scale of the Universe

August 13, 2010

The very first lecture on the very first day of Launch Pad started with a discussion of the size of the universe, and yes, the Douglas Adams quote (“Space is big.  You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is.”) may have come up once or twice.

We have invented new units of size and distance to deal with how big it is.  AU’s.  Parsecs.  Light years.  There comes a point where you sort of nod, understanding it on a purely intellectual level.  But it remains abstract because we’re better at dealing with distances we can actually, you know, deal with.  Miles are good because we can walk a discrete number of them in a day.  Start getting much bigger than that and things simply fall into the category of big, bigger, really big, and COSMIC.  Earth is really big.

Wait a minute — no it isn’t.

Prof. Mike Brotherton pointed us to this video, which I really like because it shows that a) we’re really small and b) it uses music from Disney’s The Black Hole.  Remember that one?  Scariest movie I’d ever seen, until The Empire Strikes Back came out.  (Hey, I was 7, give me a break.)

Link to video, which I tried and failed to embed.  I may try again later.

Hey look, I got it!  Also, it should be noted objects in the universe aren’t really floating, most of them are locked in some sort of gravitational arrangement and traveling at very high speed…


7 Responses to “Launch Pad: Scale of the Universe”

  1. Jakk Says:

    Yes. I agree. V.I.N.Cent was scary. 🙂

    I always considered us small. And by us, i meant the Mily Way Galaxy. I am sure there are much larger galaxies around.

  2. Debbie W. Says:

    Silly me. What popped into my mind when you started talking about “how big space is” was the song from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life about everything spinning ’round the universe at a hundred million miles an hour or however the lyrics go. (It was mostly the tune I heard, which is now STUCK in my head!)

  3. Cat Says:

    It’s difficult to wrap your mind around the relative size of the Earth to the rest of the universe for many reasons, but I think one of them is because we don’t really ever want to face up to the all encompassing insignificance of not just the human experience as a single event, but of the whole of life within our solar system. All of our known history, from the time in which we first crawled out of the slime, has encompassed nothing. And if you start thinking about cosmic time scales, in addition to cosmic distances, it can get a bit depressing…

  4. M Says:

    I figure you’d get a kick outta these, My husband found out about them on a pod cast he listens to; and for the most part, they are now stuck in my head:
    It’s called the symphony of science…and there’s probably 6-7 of them.

    Those two are great. Enjoy!

  5. ArcLight Says:

    The Black Hole and Blade Runner. Good music choices.

    Kind of a YouTube version of the Total Perspective Vortex. I’m going to sit in a corner and feel small for awhile….

  6. carriev Says:

    See, I guess I love this stuff so much because feeling small and insignificant doesn’t bother me. Rather, I see stuff like this and think, “Wow, I’m part of this really huge and amazing and spectacular universe and there are so many things to learn and discover, and we are all made of stardust, yay!”

  7. Jackie Says:

    I am not the center of the universe, but I am the the center of my world. As each of us are. So many worlds to explore!

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