In case you would like to feel very small today

NASA Releases a five-year time lapse video of the Sun that uses 2,600 Terabytes of data:

Which brings to mind the videos that zoom out and in from Earth to the known universe, where each circle represents a scale factor of ten (I like watching from 2:33 onwards):

Recently I was reading MIT professor Alan Lightman’s Accidental Universe, a lay introduction to modern developments in physics and some of the emotional, philosophical, and religious questions they raise.

In particular, I wasn’t familiar with some of the think around the multiverse–that this is just one of many existing universes where different laws of nature may apply.

If the multiverse idea is correct, then the historic mission of physics to explain all the properties of our universe in terms of fundamental principles—to explain why the properties of our universe must necessarily be what they are—is futile, a beautiful philosophical dream that simply isn’t true. Our universe is what it is simply because we are here. The situation can be likened to that of a group of intelligent fish who one day begin wondering why their world is completely filled with water.

That uncertainty also disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove. Sound familiar?

So even the zoom out and in above is a fraction of what exists.

Some people find more comfort in philosophy and religion as a result, but I find much, much less.

22 thoughts on “In case you would like to feel very small today

  1. Chris,

    I enjoyed this post. I for one don’t see an inherent conflict between religion and science (which probably places me in the minority) for exactly this reason, i.e. that there is much of our own universe that we can not observe, never mind other universes. In other words, science isn’t capable of delivering all truth.

    I choose not to believe in flying spaghetti monsters or old bearded men wielding lightning bolts. But I hope there is still room for a more reasoned and metaphorical sense offaith in metaphysical things, one that can accept science but also humbly accept the things we don’t know and can not know.

    I’ve written on this broad topic a couple times:

    Love the blog.

  2. I came across an explanation recently for *why* physicists postulate multiverses. Apparently, some very fundamental physics doesn’t actually predict a matter-filled universe, and (at least some of?) the constants pinned down so far seem arbitrary and too convenient for how they’re just right to allow us to exist. (Popular discussion about this: )

    The physicists’ concept of a solution to this intellectually unsatisfying situation was to postulate a teeming soup of universes with all possible constants. Then the fact that one of them happens to be good for us is just a matter of statistics.

    I’ve got to say it seems to me there could be a much simpler explanation. Maybe we just don’t understand the fundamental laws of the universe yet.