Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why is space so big?” you ask? Good question. (OK, it is a little bit Douglas Adams maybe but it beats some of those perplexing personal questions. After all, we don’t know the difference between “The Bait ‘n’ Tackle” and “the Bait ‘n’ Switch, mmmkay?)
As today’s guest speaker George Dvorsky, contributor to io9, confirms: “Space is big.” Author Douglas Adams said so.
Dvorsky also confirms that the Universe, “an expanse of expanding space” presently seems to be nearly “92 billion light-years in diameter. And that’s just the observable Universe.”
Why is space so big? Theoretical cosmologist Sean Carroll, a research professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena told Dvorsky:
“It’s because we have some pre-existing expectation for what it ‘should’ be like, or what a ‘natural’ universe might be. But the universe doesn’t have a purpose, and there’s nothing more natural than Nature itself—so what we’re really trying to do is figure out what our expectations should be.”
Dvorsky agrees that space appears to be so big because of “our position as biological organisms. We’re evolutionarily biased to perceive the Universe the way we do, both as creatures that formed in the ‘in-between scales’ (of the macro and micro-universes), and owing to our psychological and cognitive predispositions, including our inability to comprehend large numbers and sizes beyond a certain point.”
Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics invokes the anthropic principle. Dvorsky explains this “states that observations of the Universe must be both consistent and compatible with the conscious life that observes it.”
McDowell told io9: “It is the vast numbers of elementary particles and of space-time geometry quanta that give the illusion of continuity and the emergence of complexity.”
Dvorsky notes that space has to be so big “otherwise we wouldn’t be here to observe it.” Additionally, our “perception” of the Universe is limited perhaps even illusory as McDowell notes.
Brian Koberline, an astrophysicist at the Rochester Institute of Technology, reports the so-called “size of the Universe is a function of the strength of different physical constants.” He states: “If they were different the ‘scale’ of the universe would be different.”
He adds that our “built-in speed limit”—the speed of light—prevents us from seeing space as anything but big. He concludes: “It limits how far we can travel in our lifetime, and even whether we can reach some of the most distant galaxies—which we can’t. All of these physical constants determine the scale of a universe like ours.”
Do you really need any more math and science here? The truth is space is so big because of our various limitations. Space is so big because that’s how we see it. In fact, it’s the only way we can see it.
Why is space so big? Now you know.
You ask the questions. We provide the answers.
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