The Universe is fairly large, and a bit frightening. Even the
Moon is pretty
far away, and it's our closest neighbor.
Going at five miles a
second, it takes the astronauts the better part of two
days to get there,
and it's only a quarter of a million miles away. Our Sun is
million miles away, and big enough for the Moon to orbit the Earth
of it with a quarter of a million miles left to spare outside the Moon's orbit.
And our Sun is not a big star.
The number of stars in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is about equal to
the number of grains of wheat three feet deep over an eight acre farm, and it
takes a hundred thousand years for light to go across the galaxy from edge to
edge. And our galaxy is not a very big galaxy.
The number of galaxies we know about is not as many as the number of
stars in our own galaxy, but it's pushing. And the edge of the observable
Universe is nearly fifteen billion light years away. Light goes seven and a half
times around the Earth in one second, and it comes to us from the border of the
observable Universe in about fifteen billion years. It's a pretty long way out there.
It's a little scary to
be left alone to swim in such a large puddle. And it's a
puddle. The density of our puddle is only twenty drops of water in a
cubic miles. That's all the Universe there is. How lonely can it get?
In nineteen hundred and five Einstein noticed that the Universe is made of
energy. It's not made of forces or momentum or angular momentum or electrical
charge. Their totals stand at zero. And in Einstein's nineteen hundred and five
geometry even space and time show up as a pair of opposites, so they too can
go to zero. Space shows up in Pythagoras' equation squared with a plus sign,
and time shows up squared with a minus sign, so that if a light beam can get
across from one event to another, their total separation is zero. And that puts the
separation between you and every event that you have ever seen in your entire
life at zero.
Now there's no excuse for the Universe to be set up in this outlandish
fashion unless the Vedantins, the Advaitins, are right, unless what exists is
changeless, infinite and undivided, and not in time and space, and unless seeing
It in time and space is a mistake, and unless energy is that Underlying Existence
showing through in that mistake, and unless it's possible to undo the mistake.
John L. Dobson, February
25, 2006, Hollywood, California