Comments: "What is a man in the infinite? Who can comprehend it?"
Oh Lord, our God:
When I see the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars, that You set in place;
I ask what are we that You are mindful of us? what are mortal men, that You care for them?
You made them but little lower than the angels, and you crowned them with honor and glory.
You gave them dominion over Your handiwork, and You set it under them:
The sheep, the oxen, the wild beasts, the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, and all the sea creatures.
Blessed are You, our Lord, our master, Your name in is glorious throughout the world!
Ps 8 3:9
Posted by Fat Man at December 16, 2012 3:04 PM
It's only within the last century (actually, rather less than that - perhaps the last 90 years) that the true scale of the Universe has become apparent. And no human can come even close to actually comprehending it; we have to work with analogies. Such as the comparison of the length of Earth's existence with the height of an average man, and then realise that using that analogy one could wipe away all of history since the foundation of Ur with one swipe of a nail file.
Lovecraft wrote about this, much better than I can; but consider this, and how special it makes this particular dust mote on which we live. Imagine being transported to a completely random place in the Universe (hopefully wearing a pressure suit!). The probability is overwhelmingly great that you would be in a place of utter blackness, and it is likely that the nearest galaxy would be no more than a speck of light at the limit of observation by the naked eye. For the most likely place to be would be one of the "bubble" voids between galactic clusters.
Posted by Fletcher Christian at December 16, 2012 4:19 PM
Fletcher, You can't do a post on how unimaginably vast the universe is and "how special it makes this particular dust mote on which we live".
We don't know if it's special, unusual or commonplace.
Posted by Bill Jones at December 16, 2012 8:02 PM
Mr. Jones - Even if (currently unlikely) every one of the stars in the night sky hosts another one or two dust motes just like this one - even then, any one of them is a very special place indeed. 99.99(how many more nines?)% of the universe is dark, cold and empty. Even the entirety of the life zones of stars is tiny, compared to the interstellar gulfs to say nothing of the intergalactic.
Posted by Fletcher Christian at December 16, 2012 10:54 PM
Is it really cold empty nothingness. When we "Gaze steadfastly at stars which though distant are yet present to the mind" do we bring the star to the mind or realize the star where it is as already in "our" mind? I've lost my note on who first made this observation though Parmenides made a similar statement. Another interesting notion in this regard is from quantum physics, ‘reality’ results from the conscious gaze. I'd suggest James Lileks has it right when he says "That’s why we’re here: the passing of time has no meaning unless experienced by conscious beings." Replace "time" with space, or for that matter beauty, truth, love, God, or, The Whole Universe, and we might realize we confer individuality on much more than just this body in which we find ourselves. The Universe might consist mostly of the void but its an interesting void.
Posted by John Hinds at December 17, 2012 5:27 AM