In 1990, the Voyager 1 space probe took a picture of the earth, named as the “Pale Blue Dot” from 3.7 billion miles away. This earth, home to mankind for thousands of years, is smaller than a speck of dust in the immensity of space. We can feel so insignificant, and yet we cannot place limits on what mankind is meant to achieve. Just what is our destiny? Let’s explore the vastness of the universe but also look at how unimaginably large we are compared with the infinitesimally tiny.
The universe is enormous. Here are some of the estimated numbers involved. (I have rounded them to the nearest power of 10 for convenience).
- 1024 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – Number of stars in the known universe.
- 1011 or 100,000,000,000 – Number of stars in our galaxy – the Milky Way.
- 1013 or 10,000,000,000,000 – Number of galaxies in the known universe.
- 1023 or 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – Miles to the edge of the observable universe.
- 1028 or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – Weight of a typical star relative to the human body.
- 1069 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – Volume of the observable universe in cubic miles.
Compared with the size of the universe, we seem very small and insignificant. But enormous numbers work both ways. Someone has estimated that the number of stars in the universe is only about the same as the number of molecules in ten drops of water. So in molecular terms we are huge!
There are about 1013 or 10,000,000,000,000 cells in the human body. Compared with a human cell, you and I are massive, astronomic in size. Having said that, a cell is not that tiny as each consists of about 1014 or 100,000,000,000,000 atoms. Each cell contains the DNA which defines us as a whole. If a cell could think, it would not be able to imagine the complete human body. (Do you think they might hold debates about the existence of human beings?)
So on a logarithmic scale speaking we are somewhere between the infinitesimally small and the astronomically large. Perhaps we do not have to feel so insignificant after all.
Between the sub-atomic particle and the universe there are unimaginable numbers involved. I believe that our creator, God, has a purpose for this universe and mankind has a special place in that plan. He has placed us in the middle between the incredibly tiny and the colossally big. He has put within our make-up a thirst for knowledge and a yearning to explore. Having surveyed most of our planet, who knows what our limits are?
I like to speculate the possibility that mankind will eventually spread throughout the universe. We haven’t been altogether successful at caring for our own planet or at treating one another well. It is essential that to continue we must do so in partnership with our God. Love is the greatest force in the universe and we need to respond to the unconditional love of God by loving him wholeheartedly and loving all those who he has created. Then, only, can we fulfil the destiny for which God created us.