Saturday, 14 January 2012

Sixty Seven Thousand Miles Per Hour

Let's think for a moment about some of the things that may have worried you today. Work is probably high on the list; deadlines, how many hours you have, your pay, even whether you will still have work at the end of the year. Perhaps something on the news has ticked your worry nerves; quite how a £372m luxury liner managed to hit a sandbar? Your worries may have even been more down to earth; whether your football team will win today, or what to wear for your big Saturday night out?

Well, if you'll permit me, I hope to assist in making some of these daily worries fade to the background a little with some facts that may make things feel a little more.......insignificant. A healthy dose of wonder, if you prefer. So sit for a moment, perhaps with the following music as a backdrop, and see if the following information helps you to put your worries in perspective.

You are sitting on a ball of rock that weighs 6.6 sextillion tonnes (that's 6.6 and twenty 0's) and you're whipping around a giant nuclear reactor at a healthy 67,000 miles per hour. But don't worry, no seatbelts are required, as the mass of this rock has warped spacetime to such an extent that you are clamped to it's surface, along with the air you breathe and everything else you can see. Should you ever wish to feel strong, simply lift up your mobile phone and be secure in the knowledge that you are so buff, in such galactically good shape, that you can overcome the gravitational pull of an entire planet. I think it's safe to say you can forget the gym for the weekend.

And, boy, are you old. No no, wait, I apologise. I don't mean this insultingly - in fact we're all old. Far older than you perhaps realise. You see the elements in your body, the elements in your blood to those in the neurons of your brain, each and every one of them were forged in the hearts of dying stars. And if that were not enough, your atoms are even older. There sure are a lot of them too, approximately 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them. I hope you'll forgive me for not being able to remember the name for that many. I shall call that figure 'A Lot'. Even more astonishingly, each and every single one of those atoms, not one excluded, is co-operating and performing without complaint in a statistically improbable mission to keep you alive. So, let's not forget to thank your atoms, because the bits that make them (and therefore you) were born in the Big Bang.....some 14.7 billion years ago. So, y'know, Happy Birthday and stuff - you'll understand if we didn't bother with a cake and candles....

But let's not stop there, I sense that I have not quite beaten back the worry monster inside you. The big ball of nuclear explosion that we're orbiting, one that's been exploding for about four and a half billion years, has perhaps 200-400 billion brothers and sisters in The Milky Way. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but as you can imagine the parties are a riot. VY Canis Majoris appears to have eaten all the cakes though - in fact if you're seeking perspective on this little size comparison, you could do worse than having a look at this little video.

But just so it doesn't get bored, the Universe has provided the Milky Way Galaxy itself with 100-200 billion other galaxies for company, and this is just in the small fraction of the Universe that we can see. I don't mean to be rude, but you and your problems could not be smaller on a stage that spans 14.7 billion light years.

Lest I bore you with statistics and too much information, let me leave you with this. Your problems may appear overwhelming, so at such times I suggest you head outside at night and look up. If you're lucky, you'll have a clear night and some stars will put on a show for you. For each and every star you look at will be allowing you to look back in time; the photons that make up the light you see have been travelling for a hundred or five hundred or a thousand or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years to meet you.

Your problems are fleeting, but the stars....and therefore you yourself....will outlast them all. :)

Just a small Human in a big Universe,

Ger Morris


No comments:

Post a Comment