Humans have looked out from Earth into space for millennia and gazed with wonder. Although humans have named the spaces, planets and stars and learned more about space and the universe, they still do not understand the universe or their place within it. Perhaps it is possible to learn more by studying what people have said about the universe. People have said and written some amazing things about the universe and so it is difficult to choose the very best quotes to help understanding.
Albert Einstein is the oft-quoted scientist and philosopher, who gave humanity his theories on relativity and motion. One Einstein quote puts humanity firmly in its place: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Frank Zappa, the American musician and philosopher, would seem to agree with this view: “Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.” An anonymous person put it more pithily: “Scientists say the universe is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. They forgot to mention morons.”
Arthur C. Clarke answered humanity’s eternal question, “Are we alone?” in 1996. He said, “I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.” Although Mr. Clarke was not always sure, whether humanity is alone in the universe or not, “Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.”
Humans might not understand everything about the universe yet, but as Stephen Hawking, the celebrated physicist, says, “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star but, we can understand the universe. That makes us very special.” Brian Cox, physicist and Fellow of the Royal Society, would seem to agree; he describes humans thus: “We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself.”
Rachel Carson, marine biologist, writer of “Silent Spring,” the book that sounded the first warning about human damage to the environment, advised that humans should learn more about the universe. “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
Stephen Hawking, too, worries that humanity may destroy itself. In his book, “A brief History of Time,” he said that previous information, intelligence and scientific discovery gave humanity a survival advantage. He continues,”It is not so clear that this is still the case: our scientific discoveries may well destroy us all, and even if they don’t, a complete unified theory may not make much difference to our chances of survival. However, provided the universe has evolved in a regular way, we might expect that the reasoning abilities that natural selection has given us would be valid also in our search for a complete unified theory, and so would not lead us to the wrong conclusions.”
Humans have marvelled at the universe since the beginning of history. It is infinitely variable and infinitely marvellous. There is always something new to learn and understand about the universe, and scientists are painfully aware that each time they learn something new about how the universe works they understand how much there is still to learn. How could any human ever be bored? As Bill Bryson, the American author, in his book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, wrote, “Tune your television to any channel it doesn’t receive and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe.”