#73 - Bigness and Smallness

My pops sent me this series of digital representations of the relative sizes of celestial bodies. So, if you've ever wondered how big the Earth is compared to the sun, or how big the sun is compared to Betelgeuse--the 12th brightest star in the sky, a red giant that forms Orion's shoulder--here's a study guide. I found looking at this almost gave me a sense of vertigo. Not so much because I suddenly understood how tiny and insignificant we all are, but rather because I thought we were pretty smart as a species and now I realize we're drastically underperforming. I mean, when you look at Earth next to Neptune, it looks like a grape next to a grapefruit. So why the hell does it still take 20 hours to fly to Africa? Why have we never captured a giant squid or even filmed one in its natural environment? Why don't I eat more fruit? Damn you Pollux! Damn you Arcturus! We're doing the best we can, but it's hard when you keep staring like that!

Antares is the 15th (!) brighest star in our sky. It is more than 1000 light years away. The next image is a Hubble Telescope ultra deep-field infrared view of countless "entire" galaxies billions of light years away.

And this is a close up of one of the darkest regions of the photo above.

My first question, upon seeing this was, "Do I still have to shovel my driveway?" So I emailed my father, who lives near Princeton University. He replied as follows, "Our neighbor one house removed is Jerry Ostricker. He is the foremost physicist on dark energy, served as provost of Princeton, held Newton's chair at Oxford and is at the Institute for Advanced Studies. He's known for his theories on the universe including consilience, which refers to the ebb and flow of existence--in other words, you're here today and gone tomorrow. He was shoveling his driveway yesterday and I asked him why he felt the need to do it given his theories. He didn't answer."

So... yes?


Anonymous said...

So, the only thing that keeps us going: EGO. How big would it be in comparison to some sort of celestial body?

Lad said...

Waving a stick in it's face is certainly not 'natural environment', but if you love giant squid like I do, I wanted to make sure you had seen these pictures: