The Size of the Universe

The size of the universe

To have any concept of size, one must refer to some sense of scale – or system of measurement. Systems of measurement are usually born around some convenient point of reference, as in how the measurement of one foot (12 inches) is relative in length to “roughly” that of a human foot – at least that was the general idea, way back in grandma’s day, before the “foot” became standardized! Yards were measured out to approximate the length of a human arm (yeah right) and most early systems of measurement were based upon something the eye could see, up close and familiar.

When seeking to assess the size of the universe, it would first make sense to have a system of measuring vast interstellar distances – to this end, we resort to the “light year” which refers to the speed of light – at least that’s the general idea. “Grandma Lucy, what BIG ‘feet’ you’ve grown!”

Even the speed at which light travels in a vacuum is relative to our perspective, but that’s a whole other story. A story with a certain “tilt” to it – or bias, if you prefer.

We’ve devised a Base 10 system of numbers, roughly inspired by ten human fingers or toes – ever wonder why we call them “digits”? We even dare to include “digits” in scientific notation – a light year is not exempt. We’ve determined that light travels at 186,000 miles per second (in our calculations), or 516,181,248,000,000 feet per second, as one of our miles equals 5,280 feet. Yes, we are attempting to walk across the universe with our “fingers”!

We clever humans have also devised the sidereal year which is the orbital period of Earth, equal to 366.25636042 earth rotations or sidereal days (quaint human years – roughly).

The precise length of a light year depends upon referring to the exact length used for one Earth year (365 days) – in our books anyway! What if we were from an entirely different planet with a whole ‘nother year and say, we had an “odd” number of fingers or toes – kind of makes a person change perspective – drastically!

Now imagine, you are an infinite being, existing in infinite space, eternally revolving around the finite calculations of minds that are hung up on little digits, such as ours. Go ahead, it may amount to a quantum leap for you, but one giant “foot forward” on behalf of humankind (or Grandma) – kind of gets things in a “universal perspective”, doesn’t it?

Now, what was that question about the size of the universe? Oh, and if I decide to let my digits do the walking, I’ll keep it to the telephone directory. The mind is a far better traveler …