Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.
Douglas Adams(1952 – 2001), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Warning: the following images may cause a sensation of insignificance and despair if brain is wrapped around the uncertainty and finiteness of our existance.
LOL. I went through a lot of references to come up with that frase. They’re all a nice read, if you have the time:
- Meaninglessness – An Introduction to Symptoms
- Universe Measured: We’re 156 Billion Light-years Wide!
- The Universe: Still Boggling The Minds of ‘Finite Creatures’
- Quotations Page
On the other hand, there are some interesting videos and animations (or plain slides) that will also make you feel a wee bit insignificant, but that will certainly put things into perspective.
The first one is a video called “The Powers of Ten”. It is:…
The ultimate Eamesian expression of systems and connections, Powers of Ten explores the relative size of things from the microscopic to the cosmic. The 1977 film travels from an aerial view of a man in a Chicago park to the outer limits of the universe directly above him and back down into the microscopic world contained in the man’s hand. Powers of Ten illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery. The film also demonstrates the Eameses’ ability to make science both fascinating and accessible.
It can be viewed in Google Video, but its a bit choppy. A somewhat better version of the same video is also available, although it is interlaced and not that much resizable.
UPDATE #1: The video was removed from Google Video, so here’s a copy from YouTube (If you’d like a bigger version, grab the Powers of Ten.torrent). The official website shows much more detailed images of quarks and other stuff. UPDATE #2: Now, that video was removed from YouTube, and placed in Google Video. Here is the official version that is available at Google Video.
The Powers of Ten was so inspiring that similar projects have spawned across the web. The two most notable are “Secret Worlds: The Universe Within“, which is an interactive Java Applet, and “Quarks to Quasars“, which is a set of images with a more detailed description.
And, because science and humour go hand in hand, here’s a link to the Simpsons’ spinoff of The Powers of ten.
Anyhow, I remember the first concept I had of “Fractal Existence”… I was excited at the thought of it… and I came upon the idea by watching Chuck Jones’ version of Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who!” (the story is available here). Watching ‘The Powers of Ten’ and writing about it reminded me of that cartoon.
Some interesting reads regarding that topic are an e-book called ‘The Structure of Existance‘, and this publication called ‘Fractal Evolution‘. Also, an article on chaos and fractals. I’ve yet to read the first one, but the last two offer an interesting theory of our fractal existence:
Another important implication of fractal biology and evolution is that at long last, we have solid support for the Gaia hypothesis that the planet is one organism. The human being is a fractal of the single cell, the planet is a fractal of the human being. If existence is structured along fractal lines, then it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Earth is a single organism.
If our planet is a single organism, then what is Homo sapiens? What is the role of humans? As suggested earlier, the probable role of humans with regard to the planet is akin to the role of immunity cells in the body–”to serve and protect.” The Biblical idea that humans are meant to be the “stewards” of the planet is an early (and very correct) expression of the understanding that humans are immunity cell equivalents.
Reading existential stuff like that along speculation about the evolution of viruses points to a very interesting idea… <insert whacked out speculation here> that we may indeed be descendants of viruses (or co-evolutioned from them) (link by /.).
OOook…, this post has been sitting in my drafts section for a while. I thought I’d put it out here, hope to get some insightful comments from passers-by and from the ol’ blogger friends… perhaps I’ll update it when I find spare time.