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Joined: 09/23/03
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Registered User
Joined: 09/23/03
Posts: 1,679
03/02/2004 1:01 am
Just to warn you this is going to be a long post. One of my professors said something today about literary naturalism and human significance that really got me thinking. I did a lot of research this afternoon, and the results aren't too flattering.

Everyone knows that feeling, resting on their back outdoors at night looking at the stars, how it seems there has to be something bigger out there. It's kinda funny looking from the other direction, the stars at us. Look at this i. See that dot on it? Good. Let's pretend that's the sun. Put your finger on it, imagine all of your existence is in that dot. That dot is the single source of your physical light and warmth and life. The sun is a lot bigger than the earth with a diameter of about 110 times its size, if my memory is still working. Try to picture the earth compared to the model sun I just mentioned. A hundredth of the dot on the i. That's kinda small, I don't think anyone here has good enough eyesight they could ever see that. That's the entire extent of humanity. Everything you know, everything you've dreamed of and seen and believed is in that hundredth of a dot. This is the scale I'll keep refering back to throughout this.

Let's keep putting things into perpective. Let's imagine the next closest stars, alpha, beta, and proxima centauri. Alpha is a bit bigger than the sun, beta is a bit smaller, and proxima is considerably smaller. These stars are a bit more than 4.2 light years away from us.

To put that into perspective it's important to realize how big a lightyear is. The speed of light is 299 792 458 m/s. Convert that to yards and multiply it times the number of seconds in a year (figuring 365 days and 6 hours for leap years) that's 5,878,625,373,183 miles. Just for you jocks that's 103,463,806,568,031 football fields back to back.

Now, to keep things in focus, that's one single lightyear. As mentioned before the closest star, proxima centauri (it's not actually alpha) is a bit more than 4.2 lightyears away. I would calculate the number of our earths put together it would take to reach that for you all if my calculator could actually do the math. Trust me, I tried and it can't do it. The distance is around 23.6 trillion miles.

Let's go back to our original scale, shall we? Let's pretend the sun is the dot on this i and we are all on a planet the size of a microbe. I haven't measured the exact size of the dot on that i, but assuming it's smaller than the period with this font and not too far from half a millimeter then the i dot that represents proxima centauri is between 8 and 15 miles away from you right now. The centauri stars are the closest, the second closest star is over twice that distance, about 8.6 light years.

Concentrate really hard right now. That dot of the i is so incredibly big you're not even the size of a subatomic particle compared to it. The second closest star is so far away that if someone looking at that i dot on their computer screen the scale distance away from you exploded a sizable nuclear weapon it's possible you wouldn't even know it happened.

Keep concentrating..that's the first and second closest stars to us in this galaxy and they're pretty damned close. There are around 500 billion stars in this single galaxy, and I doubt all of them are that tightly spaced. Can you imagine 500 billion other i dots scattered around as far away as the edges of our planetary system (rough estimate, I don't think it's possible to know the scale conversion of that)? That's this galaxy.

Now that you get just how small you are in this galaxy, smaller than what you're probably able to visually imagine, keep going out. Looking out at a .04 degree side section (about 1/27,000,000th the directions we could look) we have detected around 3000 visible galaxies. Using things like infared or x-ray telescopes we could find many more galaxies in that rediculously small field of vision. Do you remember how many stars there are in this galaxy? 500 billion. That's a crapload of stars when you multiply it by over 3000 galaxies.

Still keeping things in perspective? Probably not, but some of you might be. Let's for a second imagine that we were looking at more than a 1/27,000,000th of the directions we could be. That would mean about 80 billion galaxies visible from the earth alone, not counting the ones detectable with more advanced technology I already mentioned that is already developed.

Think back a few paragraphs. Do you remember how small the earth is in relationship to our own galaxy? If 80 billion stars are visibly detectable from this piddly little microbe's arse of a planet even with all the interference from things like dust and unpredictable lighting how many galaxies do you think there are total? And how many stars do you think that is multiplying a modest few hundred billion stars per galaxy? I think it's a gross understatement that there might possibly be hundreds of billions of galaxies, each one big enough that compared to our little i dot sun you barely exist compared to they're the size of a solid sphere bigger around than our entire solar system. All several hundred billion of them.

Do you feel little yet? Because I sure do.

Which finally brings me to the point of all this. Do you believe there is any significance or meaning of humanity? Do we really mean anything? It would be a nice thing, but when you compare us to how big this physical reality is that's quite the stretch of the imagination.

I've never really though about the human place in reality before. When I think about reality I usually think about other people. The proverbial 10 yard environment. Like space isn't the absense of matter it just doesn't exist. None of that really makes any sense anymore.

I've never really believed anything had a purpose, but after learning all that I don't know what to think. What do you all think? Do we have some purpose and meaning or is it blatant conceit and arrogance to think that? It's kind of hard balancing all this when you compare it with the human miracles like music and compassion and sex and ethics. There has to be something big influencing and developing our existance, but what? Is it just the result of the death of weaker society that causes the evolution of civilization or do you think it's something more?

I'm probably too tired to be thinking this much. Oops. Hopefully nobody minds, I just needed to get that off my chest.
"If one has realized a truth, that truth is valueless so long as there is lacking the indomitable will to turn this realization into action!"