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Alan McDougall

The unimaginable vastness of the universe.

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Greetings forum,

I am sure most of you have some concept of how truly huge our beautiful universe is, For the others who perhaps do not have a good perspective about this, I post this thread for them .I do not think it will generate much dialogue and my purpose for posting this topic was just for general interest and information.

However comments will be appreciated!

The unimaginable vastness of the universe

Author Alan McDougall

The distances in space are unimaginably vast beyond human comprehension. If I try, tell an uninformed that it is so many kilometers to the Sun or moon, will these people be able to comprehend these vast unbelievable distances. The moon and sun are a mere two light seconds and eight light minutes respectively from the earth.

Light travels at 300 000 kilometers a second or seven times around the earth in the same time. The moon is a mere 400 00 kilometers and the sun about 156 million kilometers from the earth respectively, next-door neighbors in fact. Even this is near distance on cosmological scale is almost impossible for anyone to truly comprehend.

What about our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri only 4.2 light years away and the next nearest star to the sun. Just around the corner on the vast cosmological scale.

It helps if one understands that the fastest object ever made by man “(spacecraft voyager at 100 000 kilometers per hour)” would take 80,000 years to get there. Then if you understand how amazingly fast that object actually goes one might begin to gleaning some understanding of how far away Alpha Centauri is. Moreover, Centauri is our next-door neighbor!

Then we can move further. Let us say, Epsilon Eridani, 10 light years away. That is over twice as far - Voyager would take close to 200,000 years to get there. All evidence of human civilization would be pretty much gone in a few thousand years, given an average society lifespan of about 1000 years or less, We're talking 200 societies coming and going before Voyager makes it to Epsilon Eridani. Moreover, Epsilon Eridani is right next door.

The Andromeda galaxy, The galaxy nearest to our own milky way galaxy is mere two million light years away.. Voyager would take forty thousand billion years (40,000,000,000,000) to get there. That is over 3300 times longer than the current postulated age of the universe, and that's our nearest galactic neighbor.

There are galaxies that are estimated to be 12 billion light years from earth and the strange objects called quasars even further at 14 billion light years. To reach far galaxies like these unimaginable remote objects, with a Voyager like spacecraft, would take almost an eternity and it is obvious that this cannot be the ultimate method of crossing the universe. I foresee instant teleportation or some type of mind contact means as the method used by advanced humanity communicating across the vastness of the universe in the very distant future. To explore the universe by means of a metal space craft at present seems a science fiction impossibility. But in time present perceived impossibilities might become a possibility!

"The universe could be a sphere of infinite radius"

By Alan McDougall 15/9/2007

© Copyright Alan McDougall 2014

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Beyond imagination, or conception, really. Thanks for the article.

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...The moon and sun are a mere two light seconds and eight light minutes respectively from the earth...

...Light travels at 300 000 kilometers a second or seven times around the earth in the same time...

The distance to the moon from Earth is about 1.282 light seconds away... Considerably less than 2 light seconds away.

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The Andromeda galaxy, The galaxy nearest to our own milky way galaxy is mere two million light years away.. Voyager would take forty thousand billion years (40,000,000,000,000) to get there. That is over 3300 times longer than the current postulated age of the universe, and that's our nearest galactic neighbor.

Nope, a lot less!

Andromeda and our Milky Way galaxy are on a collision course and will start merging in about 4 billion years. :D

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andromeda%E2%80%93Milky_Way_collision

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I agree the universe is vast space don't end it jus keeps going and going and we live on a rock that's out in this space...

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I've always wondered if atoms, neutrons and electrons were micro suns and planets in a micro universe. :lol:

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A point I would add to that is the almost unimaginable emptiness of the universe, at least when it comes to matter. Here is an example"

http://www.physics.o...etail.asp?id=41

This is because matter is incredibly, mind-bogglingly empty. An atom is like a miniature Solar System, with a tight nucleus playing the role of a Sun orbited by electrons like planets. But the nucleus is incredibly tiny compared with the orbits of the electrons. Tom Stoppard, the playwright, had the best image. He said, if the nucleus is like the altar of St Paul's cathedral, an electron is like a moth in the cathedral, one moment by the altar, the next by the dome. Imagine squeezing all the space out of an atom. Well, if you did that to all the atoms in all the people in the world, you could indeed fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube."

So too is space almost mind-boggling empty. If I were the sun here in Vietnam the nearest other stars (the Centaurii system) would be maybe somewhere in Britain

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Posted (edited)

That's truly awesome too. At the risk of going off topic, another thing I think is fascinating about the universe, is that time itself is relative. Theoretically, if you could ride a photon to Alpha Centauri and back, you would not have aged a day and the trip would be instantaneous (at the speed of light), but the earth would be however many light years older that the trip took. I know light year is a measure of distance, but I think you know what I am saying.

Eta: going back and reading the OP, the earth would be 8.4 years older when you return.

Edited by Gummug

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As I recall if light could be in orbit, it would orbit the earth seven times in one second. The closest star system other than the sun is at that speed over four years of travel away.

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Nope, a lot less!

Andromeda and our Milky Way galaxy are on a collision course and will start merging in about 4 billion years. :D

http://en.wikipedia....y_Way_collision

It should be clear what I meant by the incomprehensible duration of time that would be needed for a voyager type spaceship to reach the Andromeda Galaxy, if that galaxy did not move towards or recede from the spaceship.

I am fully aware of the fact that our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy are approaching each other and will ultimate collide in the distant future. These two galaxies are approaching each other at a colossal speed, far quicker than the snail pace voyager spacecraft. Thus, I took this fact out of the equation, to get over to those not familiar with astronomy, the true vastness of the universe.

You can work it out yourself, if you doubt my calculations of how long it would take voyager to reach the Andromeda galaxy at it present speed!

I know what I am speaking about as far as astronomy is concerned, having been for many years a keen amateur astronomer, with my own German, equatorial mount 10 inch reflector telescope . Sadly I now live in a city, namely Johannesburg of which its light and smog pollution, makes almost impossible to get a clear view of the night sky.

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Perhaps the Universe isn't so big as it seems if we could describe the wave function of the universe.

The wave function describes the quantum state of a system of one or more particles and contains all the information of the system...The Schrodinger equation determines how the wave function evolves over time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavefunction

Since the universal validity of the state function (wave function) description is asserted, one can regard the state functions themselves as the fundamental entities, and one can even consider the state function of the entire universe. In this sense this theory can be called the theory of the "universal wave function," since all of physics is presumed to follow from this function alone.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_wavefunction

So maybe the universe or mega-verse is really a mathematical entity, or a complex wave function, however that may be conceptualized. In this sense, the universe may not have any 'size' at all. It might be a sort of illusion, a consequence or corollary of the universal wave function, just information and the evolution of that information.

It's late and my mind is wandering.

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The universe only has size in our dimensions. In other dimensions it doesn't exist.

This is what kinda gets me when people talk about a "nearby" dimension. Such a thing would at least include our own dimensions. Separate dimensions have nothing to do with each other and are neither near nor far from each other and might as well not exist as far as the other dimensions are concerned.

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The universe only has size in our dimensions. In other dimensions it doesn't exist.

This is what kinda gets me when people talk about a "nearby" dimension. Such a thing would at least include our own dimensions. Separate dimensions have nothing to do with each other and are neither near nor far from each other and might as well not exist as far as the other dimensions are concerned.

Of course size is a relative thing or idea, after all the tiny singularity of the big band which is said to have been smaller than the nucleus of an atom, was in fact, the biggest and largest object in the universe at that moment in time.

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Of course size is a relative thing or idea, after all the tiny singularity of the big band which is said to have been smaller than the nucleus of an atom, was in fact, the biggest and largest object in the universe at that moment in time.

It wasn't just an object IN the universe, it WAS the universe.

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It wasn't just an object IN the universe, it WAS the universe.

Is my point so hard to understand size is a relative thing, thus the big bang singularity which was the biggest object in existence at that time?. The singularity was not the universe. it was loosely speaking the seed from which the universe grew, in a sense In a sense the tiny seed is not the huge tree it grows into over time.

Only after the big bang and the creation of of particles of matter, did the universe become the universe and one could begin to compare the sizes of object to that of other objects.

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Posted (edited)

Is my point so hard to understand size is a relative thing, thus the big bang singularity which was the biggest object in existence at that time?.

No, I understood it totally.

The singularity was not the universe. it was loosely speaking the seed from which the universe grew, in a sense In a sense the tiny seed is not the huge tree it grows into over time.

Whilst it could argued that the singularity was NOT the universe as the universe did not come into existence until after the big bang, however this still nullifies your argument that the singularity was the largest object IN the universe since the universe did not yet exist.

Only after the big bang and the creation of of particles of matter, did the universe become the universe and one could begin to compare the sizes of object to that of other objects.

Exactly, which means that this:

Of course size is a relative thing or idea, after all the tiny singularity of the big band which is said to have been smaller than the nucleus of an atom, was in fact, the biggest and largest object in the universe at that moment in time.

can not possibly be true, since by your own argument the universe did not yet exist.

You can argue that this singularity was the entire universe as I have or you can argue that the universe did not yet exist. What makes no logical sense at all is to argue that something is the biggest object in something that doesn't exist as you have.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
typos.
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Waspie_Dwarf

you quoted

You can argue that this singularity was the entire universe as I have or you can argue that the universe did not yet exist. What makes no logical sense at all is to argue that something is the biggest object in something that doesn't exist as you have.

You know exactly what I mean about that size is relative. For example to an ant you and I are huge, to a blue whale we are tiny, is it that hard to understand? If the ant was the only thing in existence , then it must be the biggest thing in existence, is that logic so hard to follow?

You are nit-picking are you trying to prove how smart you are and how stupid I am!?

Of course size is a relative thing or idea, after all the tiny singularity of the big bang which is said to have been smaller than the nucleus of an atom, was in fact, the singularity was the biggest and largest object in the universe "Thing" at that moment in time.

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Posted (edited)

That's truly awesome too. At the risk of going off topic, another thing I think is fascinating about the universe, is that time itself is relative. Theoretically, if you could ride a photon to Alpha Centauri and back, you would not have aged a day and the trip would be instantaneous (at the speed of light), but the earth would be however many light years older that the trip took. I know light year is a measure of distance, but I think you know what I am saying.

Eta: going back and reading the OP, the earth would be 8.4 years older when you return.

Of course this is impossible, but an interesting post showing you are a deep thinker! :yes:

Edited by Alan McDougall
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I've always wondered if atoms, neutrons and electrons were micro suns and planets in a micro universe. :lol:

funny you should mention it. If you take our solar system, it looks eerily similar to an atom only magnified.

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My apologies for briefly taking this thread off topic to adress a frequently held miconception.

funny you should mention it. If you take our solar system, it looks eerily similar to an atom only magnified.

No it doesn't. It really REALLY doesn't.

The way that electrons are depicted as orbiting the nucleus like planets around a star is a very highly simplified version for school level chemistry. The reality is that they orbit in much more complicated 3 dimensional shells... and even then these orbits are only the most probable location of the electrons.

If you want to know the actual shape of atomic orbitals take a look at the images on THIS PAGE.

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Posted (edited)

We know that the sun and the solar system are held together via gravity. We also know that the atom is held together by the weak and strong nucleur forces. I'm curious. I know the latter forces are much stronger than the former force. We do not know why gravity is much weaker than the other 3 forces and one speculation why is that gravity seeps into another universe, therefore, losing its potentcy. I just want to pose this hypothesis: gravity holds large things together and weak/strong forces hold small things together. If we dig deeper into the protons neutrons and electrons, is there any possibility that there is another force we do not know of holding those together?

I mean, I am talking incredibly small. If you were to blow the atom up to the size of the solar system, the size i am thinking about would still be the size of a human hair. At the smallest point possible, is there another force at work we do not know about?

The smallest point would obviously be a singularity. Is that the reason black holes are so strange to us? We do not know all the forces at play yet? Idk just idle speculation.

Edited by Thelaw1
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Posted (edited)

My apologies for briefly taking this thread off topic to adress a frequently held miconception.

No it doesn't. It really REALLY doesn't.

The way that electrons are depicted as orbiting the nucleus like planets around a star is a very highly simplified version for school level chemistry. The reality is that they orbit in much more complicated 3 dimensional shells... and even then these orbits are only the most probable location of the electrons.

If you want to know the actual shape of atomic orbitals take a look at the images on THIS PAGE.

You do realize that the solar system is not ring shaped either. The solar system's planets do not float along a ring with each outer ring bigger than the next.

But I get what you are saying.

Edited by Thelaw1

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You do realize that the solar system is not ring shaped either. The solar system's planets do not float along a ring with each outer ring bigger than the next.

Where did I say that they did? I didn't actually mention the shape of planetary orbits at all. I really dislike strawman arguments.

They do however orbit more or less in the same plane and in almost circular orbits... electrons do not.

But I get what you are saying.

Then what was the point of the rest of your post?

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funny you should mention it. If you take our solar system, it looks eerily similar to an atom only magnified.

If and that's a Big IF that atoms, neutrons and electrons are micro universes that were billons of them make a living organism.

Can you imagine if our solar system with the collective of billions of other solar systems make up the same.

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Of course this is impossible, but an interesting post showing you are a deep thinker! :yes:

Thanks, I wish I could take credit, but I got it from a science book I read (I love reading the for-laymen science books. like Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time", etc.) Thanks, anyway!

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