The big, big bang theory

Our universe is bigger and more incomprehensible than we ever imagined. A recent study increased the number of stars in place to about 300 sextillion. How many is that? Well, frankly, a lot.

Our universe is bigger and more incomprehensible than we ever imagined.

A recent study increased the number of stars in place to about 300 sextillion.

How many is that?

Well, frankly, a lot.

If the latest census is correct, there are now about three times more stars than scientists recently thought.

The old, smaller universe was so large it confounded efforts to comprehend its vastness.

Today … well, forget it.

And that, as we shall soon see, is a problem for some people.

Of course, for ordinary folk there’s no easy way to quantify such a figure.

Author Bill Bryson has done his best in his A Short History of Nearly Everything. And, while he does an excellent job, the whole effort still seems as comprehensible as binary code.

For example, the whole 300 sextillion stars came from a smattering of matter that was, well, very, very, very small. Much, much smaller than a proton, of which, Bryson notes, 500 billion would fit within this coming period.

And that first essence of the universe is believed to have been much smaller than that proton. A billionth the size, actually.

And now you are reeling and thinking about turning the page. Don’t.

We’re almost done.

See, something happened.

From that single mind-numbingly small bit of matter we got our entire universe. Wham!

In less than a minute, it was 1.6 million billion kilometres across (just think, “big”).

In just three minutes, 98 per cent of all matter that will ever exist within its boundaries was created.

“It is a place of the most wondrous and gratifying possibility,” wrote Bryson. “And beautiful, too. And it was all done in the time it takes to make a sandwich.”

As noted, it’s hard for most of us to comprehend.

But what of the scientists, who spend their lives contemplating such things?

Surely they have a glimmer of understanding of its majesty?

Nope.

In fact, Pieter van Dokkum and Charlie Conroy’s census (they are the Yale University astronomer and Harvard astrophysicist who just wildly expanded the number of planets in the universe) has angered a lot of scientists, according to a recent New York Times story.

The hugely increased universe has made the place less orderly. It has upset the cosmological apple cart.

They thought they had a bead on it and, now, everything is more complicated than the scientists once believed. Their minds are reeling. They are unsettled.

Which kind of reflects the lives most of us live, doesn’t it.

Everything is a little more complicated than it seems. And we spend much of our time sifting through the details and figuring it out. School, relationships, work, that bookcase we just bought … it’s all so very hard to figure out.

But doing so may be our raison d’etre.

So, how many stars are 300 sextillion?

Hard to say, really. But great minds are working on it.

Their first attempt is to let us know that, in a weird coincidence, it’s about equal to the total number cells in all the people on Earth.

A coincidence that, for some odd reason, is both comforting and thought provoking.

The mind reels ….

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read