By this time, you have assumed, correctly, that I am not a scientist. To go even further, I am not an astronomer, a man of the cloth, or a philosopher. It kind of keeps me out of certain conversations. However, there is one thing that I think about pretty often and that is the size and complexity of the universe. I guess if I really wanted to get a hang of that subject, I would travel to England and visit with Stephen Hawking or to New York to hear Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I am but a layman whose pre sleep faux dreams were to fly across the universe and explore the galaxies. I am sure that my early reading of science fiction had that effect on me. Now I am fascinated by the concept that there are probably billions of galaxies and maybe even many dimensions. I will not talk about the latter because it tends to make me nauseous. I do like the stories and films about alternate dimensions. There is a real weird one called Synchronicity, which I did not understand at all.
Now back to the galaxies. I am not sure what kind of mind it takes to understand the vastness of our universe. It defies any kind of rational explanation. It is close to the concept of infinity. When I was a kid and learned that it was a word. The first thing out of my mouth, and I have heard it from lots of kids, can you have infinity plus one. No you can’t. Infinity is the end of the discussion. Is it really? Can we expand our understanding of the universe by using such a word, or must we invent new words to express of what we can’t conceive?
Recent updates to the Hubble telescope have shown thousands of galaxies in a deep field look at certain portions of the sky. Using some estimation, it is likely that there are over 200 billion galaxies up there. Yes 200 billion. As our instruments are refined, as they have been with Hubble, which is above the atmosphere, we will probably find new galaxies. The mind is boggled by these numbers.
Somehow, scientists are questioning whether the expanding universe will continue to expand, or will we someday feel a contraction (maybe in a couple of billion years). We will never be able to get to almost all of these far flung places. We will not even get there with hyper-drive (a sci-fi concoction), or bend the universe by sliding into a wormhole. All of this seems to be part of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
We probably should not even use the word big. There is no human expression to describe the universe. The light that emanates from the furthest galaxy that we have viewed is calculated to be about 13 billion years in its travels. That comes close to the 14 billion years scientists think that the big bang happened. There are also some current theories that our universe is located in a ball that is contained in another, larger universe. If this doesn’t get you feeling overwhelmed then you must be an astronomer or Albert Einstein.