In Isolation

There is an interesting fact about the way the universe is put together. The distance between stars is large. The distance between galaxies, however, is not.

If your head is spinning, that’s because it’s all relative. The size of stars (870,000 miles in the case of the Sun) is small compared to the typical distance between stars (something like 30 trillion miles, give or take, in this part of the galaxy). That’s a factor of about 35,000. The distance between galaxies, however, is closer to 20 or 25 times their diameter, typically, in clusters. That would be like a dinner plate in one corner of your living room and a second in the opposite corner near the ceiling.

That relative size trick is a game astronomers like to play alot.

The fact remains that stars are rather isolated in space. There’s a lot of distance between them, enough so that even when galaxies collide, the stars in them do not. The gas in the galaxies does collide however, and that makes for some interesting effects. But I digress…

The relative isolation of stars has a profound effect on our chances of meeting up with some other, alien, civilization: It doesn’t make it more likely to happen, that’s for sure. There’s some other effects that this isolation has on our ability to communicate that are a little different (and perhaps a little more subtle) than I realized before.

I’m continually impressed that the odds of finding some other living intelligence in this universe are continually judged to be smaller as our knowledge increases. The arrow of increasing wisdom in that little factoid seems to be pointing to our uniqueness.

Could it be that the single more rare, unique thing in the universe just happens to be human brains? And if so, what does that tell us about the ways in which we should treat each other? Dare I say that it means each human life is incredibly valuable and precious?

Naw – that’s just the babbling of one blogger in his pajamas.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Science

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