To begin I will assert that there is an infinity around us. That is not to say that the universe itself is infinite, but that space is. What is truly contained in that space however remains to be seen, but simply put, it is everything. Clearly if space is infinite then all possible events must occur somewhere within it. We know then, for example, that we are not alone as intelligent life forms (a term I use quite loosely in this context), and that somewhere a species is currently living in a civilization that the reader considers to be an ideal society, to name just a few things.
Such facts as these seem remarkable, and indeed they are, but mathematically speaking they should not be at all surprising to us. Of course these things must happen. In an infinite space how could they not? Probability becomes irrelevant, as even the most unbelievable circumstances, the most miraculous chains of events, and the most fascinating phenomenon are sure to occur when given an infinite amount of chances to occur. In fact, in an infinite space all things are bound to occur an infinite amount of times. That is, we as a species, a civilization, and as individuals, are not unique. In this space there are an infinite amount of planets with circumstances exactly like ours that have existed, are existing, or will exist. Somewhere in that space, this exact scenario in which the reader looks upon these words in this language is occurring exactly as it is here. We are not unique, in fact on an infinite scale we are not even uncommon. We are less than sand in an hourglass, more powerless than the trees to stop fire, and exist as fractions of instants on a grand and unceasing clock.
Even so, we are not insignificant. It is true that our existences are not special or even unique, and that in fact nothing happens for any reason apart from cause and effect. It is true that there are beings in this infinity more perfect and more powerful than us, that our intellects, our accomplishments, our triumphs and our follies are dwarfed by those of other species who we know to exist only through mathematical reasoning. It is also true that somewhere in this infinity there is a small red crustacean creature named Ji’rra currently making toast with the heat produced from his foreleg. All these things considered, it is quite easy to look at ourselves and say we are insignificant.
This of course is a ridiculous conclusion. If we are insignificant, then our neighbors are just so, and theirs, and theirs after them. Our planet is therefore insignificant, and all planets neighboring it are just so, and so on and so forth. Where do we draw the line? Where do we say that something becomes important or worthy of note? In an infinite space, we cannot make such a decision, and therefore it must be concluded that nothing is significant. No life, no existence is of any real importance. This makes sense of course, seeing that all things are bound to happen multiple times in an infinite space, we can therefore conclude that such things occurring is of no real interest. This conclusion seems obvious, if not slightly terrifying at first, but it is ultimately wrong.
The reason that we exist, that the universe exists, that all things around us exist is because they must exist in an infinite space. Everything must be, and all outcomes must occur. Because all things must be, it is easy to say that this makes them less than miracles, even less than significant. However, it must be realized that the greatest improbability of all is one that need not be: that there exists and infinite space. Infinity need not be created when there are less than an infinite amount of possible outcomes to see to its creation, yet here infinity is. Here is space all around us. Here are planets and solar systems, galaxies and stars. Here are people, some like us and some not. Here is a land that we call perfect, here is one we call abominable. Here are species of all sorts fueled by the singular force of life. Here is everything. It need not be given a chance to be, and yet it has.
Thus it can be said that all things are not insignificant, and that through existing in the greatest miracle of all, all things are miraculous. It is because we are so little that we become so much. We exist because we must, because in an infinite space all things must exist, and it is because the space where we are allowed to be need not be itself that we are all wonders. In a way, we are destined to live the lives we do. It is the infinite improbability of infinity that is the true miracle. It is because we are so unremarkable that we must be inspired. It is the very nature of our improbable circumstances that makes them probable, and the very nature of that probability that makes it unfathomable. We are all given a chance to live because there exists a space where such events may occur, and are indeed sure to occur. To say that such an opportunity is anything less than extraordinary is nothing short of foolishness. We are all part of the one true miracle, the miracle of our own certainty, and for that we are all significant.
New Type of Black Hole Found—Relic of Early Universe?
Middleweight black hole may explain how giant cousins formed.
There’s a strange new brute on the celestial block—the middleweight black hole, a new study says.
After nearly three years of spying a superbright object nearly 300 million light-years away, astronomers with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and SWIFT telescope recently announced the discovery of HLX-1, the first representative of a new type of black hole. (See black hole pictures.)
(Related: “New Class of Black Hole Found? .”)
THE ART PROCESS: photographing outer space
The universe is constantly being created—and destroyed. It hides nothing. You’ve seen these colorful, wondrous images of galaxies, nebulae and supernovas before but have you ever wondered how these images are collected? Here’s some truth about the process with the most-ess.
First of all, a little history to put things in perspective. The first full photograph of planet Earth wasn’t captured until 1972, when the Apollo 17 crew left Earth en-route to the moon on December 7th. Since the moon was behind them, they had a perfectly lit view of, well, us! And this photograph was taken so that we can marvel at, well, ourselves!
The leading photograph shown above is of Spiral Galaxy NGC 3982. To achieve this image as we see it, there’s first over 1400 screen captures taken, one every 10 seconds, from the Hubble telescope over the course of 3 weeks. This amounts to 10 hours of processing, beginning with black and white images from 3 Hubble cameras.
“Creating color images out of the original black-and-white exposures is equal parts art and science”
Hubble doesn’t use film, it’s cameras record light from the universe with special electronic detectors. Finished color images, as we see them, are actually combinations of two or more black and white exposures to which color has been added during images processing. So, not to shatter any or all illusion, but these colorful and dazzling images are not exactly what we would see in outer space with our own eyes. Hubble can detect all the visible wavelengths of light plus many more that are invisible to human eyes, such as ultraviolet and infrared light.
The images, in order, are Spiral Galaxy NGC 3982 (I personally would have called it something cooler), The Crab Nebula, The Eskimo Nebula, The Helix Nebula, an old star giving up the ghost, The Eagle Nebula, and the last two are the great Carina Nebula.
Thanks for the eye vacation, NASA.