It’s easier to look down than to look up. That’s exemplified by the nearly ubiquitous global head-tilt into personal handheld devices. When we look down, our worlds tend to become (profoundly) important, in relative terms. When we look up, or think up, we have an opportunity to ponder, and for that or those moment(s), our world takes a back seat. For most of us, our individual worlds suck up most of our attention. Looking up, even for a few seconds at a time, helps interrupt the bondage our worlds so ardently try to keep us locked in.
As a thinking species,
we know what we know, we know what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t know.
There is lots of evidence indicating that ‘what we don’t know that we don’t know’ is far more vast than what we know or what we know we don’t know. It’s out of our reach to imagine how much we don’t know what we don’t know.
With our ability to look into the universe with powerful and far reaching scopes, and applying complex quantum physics calculations and space/time theorems, we’ve figured out, so far, that we may (only may) know about 4% about the universe. Our uni-verse.
During our current generations we’ve come to know that:
- There are billions of galaxies in our universe, perhaps a 100 billion (est.).
- Galaxies contain billions of stars, (the Milky Way has abt. 400 billion, est.).
- The number of solar systems in our universe is a billion number to an exponential power.
- The nearest galaxy to the Milky Way is the Andromeda Galaxy — about 2.5 million light years away. One light year = about 5.8 trillion miles (or 2.5 million x’s 5.8 trillion — too many zeros for us to write on our living room walls).
- We can see galaxies tens of billions of light years away.
The term billions is a hard number to grasp. Taking billions to an exponential power is mind boggling. We’d need to be an Einstein or on heavy acid to come close to comprehending those numbers.
Astro Physicists have made remarkable discoveries over the last couple of decades. What they call Cosmic Background Radiation has left us a detailed blueprint of how our universe began and is evolving. They are still dusting it off. The more that is found leads to ever more questions. So far they’ve been able to conclude, among countless other discoveries, that:
- Our universe appears to be flat.
- Our universe is expanding and will do so exponentially, and will not contract as previously thought. In a few billion years, there will be no stars on the horizon to see outside our galaxy, which will then have merged with Andromeda Galaxy. But then again, we will be spinning so fast that it wouldn’t matter.
We know what we don’t know:
- We know there is something we call dark matter but we don’t know what it is because we can’t see it. Dark matter has mass, energy, and a large measurable presence in the universe.
- We know that there is an energy working against gravity expanding the universe we call dark energy, which makes up about 75% of the energy in the universe, and we have no clue about it.
- We’ve recently discovered that space might not be a complete vacuum, but with fleeting sub-sub particles that whisk in and out of existence. But we are still unsure about this phenomenon.
Some physicists are now deducing that there exists the possibility of a distinct parallel universe, or many others, or multi-verses. These uni-verses may bounce off each other, every several hundred billion years, creating big-bangs, the type which started our universe almost 14 billion years ago.
We don’t know what we don’t know:
- And therefore, we don’t know what that is. But it is substantial.
A well-known physicist was recently asked to explain the universe, to which he responded by saying “something is out there doing something we don’t know what.” We know a lot of what we didn’t know that we didn’t know a hundred years ago, and a lot more than 1,000 years ago. So too will we know more 100 and 1,000 years from now.
Over time, our perspectives on our origin, supreme beings, and the universe has lead us to develop a multitude of belief systems to help keep us get cozy with the unknown. We dig in deep to those beliefs and to our worlds. We harm and even kill our fellow humans over those beliefs.
It’s not to say we shouldn’t have beliefs, whether in a god, gods, religion, or no god, because believing in anything helps make us feel good. When there are groups of us who believe the same thing, we feel even better. The challenge we humans have been dealing with is trying to live together in relative harmony with multiple, even opposing, belief systems. It’s not easy though, to recognize that our beliefs come from a severely, at best, limited perspective. It’s not easy because the more fervently we believe in something, the less we are able to recognize perceptual limits.
To say that any one of us, on this spec of a planet among billions of billions upon billions of solar systems in the one universe that we are sure of but can barely grasp, believes and understands the concept of the cosmos and how it was created, might be like a gain of sand in the Sahara Desert thinking it knows the complete topography, complexity, and make up of the entire desert when it is largely clueless about its own dune.
One thing is certain: currently there are about seven billion humans on his planet, and growing. We are stuck here with each other, for better and for worse. It’s reasonable to think that our individual worlds are profoundly important, in a relative sort of way. It would therefore be intelligent if we figured out how to work together without physically mauling each other or the planet. We haven’t quite reached that level of sanity yet. But, we could start by looking up, just a few seconds a day.
If each of us looked up, (or thought up), for one second per day, that would be the equate to two million hours — per day. If we each looked up for 10 seconds a day and contemplated the cosmos, that would accumulate to the equivalent of 20 million hours, per day — of being open, not harming ourselves, others, or the planet that houses us. If we looked up a little more often and pondered the vastness of mind-boggling space, we might realize that what we think of as important, is not so important. That, in turn, would auto-inject levity into our individual and collective thought patterns, thereby causing a slight nudge towards becoming a more intelligent, advanced species.