December 4, 2010

Ooops, We Missed A Few

For some reason scientists are always amazed when they underestimate God's Creation. Whether you examine if from the mega- to the micro- or yacto-scale, it's bigger, it's faster, it's smaller, it's expanding; and we are continually confounded by the complexities of its simplest, most elemental components. From the Christian Science Monitor:

It's a cosmic embarrassment of riches – the universe appears to hold three times the number of stars many astronomers might have estimated only a year ago.

That's the implication a pair of scientists has drawn after measuring eight huge elliptical galaxies that they selected from two vast galaxy clusters located between 53 million to 321 million light-years from Earth.

With as many as 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, each with hundreds of billions of stars, the result – if it holds up – implies an enormous number of additional burning gas balls out there, with intriguing implications for explanations of how stars and galaxies form and evolve, researchers say.

The cause of this huge revision of the stellar census are stars known as red dwarfs, literally the dimmest stellar bulbs on the shelf. These stars weigh in at no more than about 30 percent of the sun's mass.

Surveys of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, have found that these dwarfs outnumber sun-like stars by about 100 to 1, explains Pieter van Dokkum, an astronomer at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. But the dwarfs are so dim and other galaxies so distant that red dwarfs fail to appear when astronomers try to account for the stars other galaxies contain.

Scientists have tried to estimate the number of stars in the universe - as if they know how big the universe really is. What they can do is measure what is detectable to the human senses through instruments constructed by Man. And apparently that's not good enough. With this latest discovery, estimates for this number now range as high as 300 sextillion.

That's 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Even Goomba's waist falls a bit below that.

But my question always comes back to this: where did it all start? Our world views are strongly influenced by this foundational belief; is it all mere chance or is there a Creator - a Supreme Omnipotent Engineer who designed all we sense around us and beyond even what our pitiful imaginations can suppose?

If you believe in a Creator, then you have an immutable, immovable foundation that upholds the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution as the Founding Fathers conceived them. If not, then you do not hold to the notion of inalienable rights because they can exist only as long as the governing authority deigns to let you have them. Mankind has existed under the latter for millennia and only for a relatively short while under the former.

But I digress, back to the stars ... and hydrogen.

Our own familar blazing orb, the Sun, is a medium sized yellow star that is approximately 870,000 miles in diameter. It's volume is 338,000,000,000,000,000 - 338 quadrillion cubic miles. It is 332,946 times as massive as the earth. NASA estimates that the Sun burns 600 million tons of hydrogen every second.

If our own medium sized star runs through that much hydrogen in one second, how much hydrogen is needed to fuel 300 sextillion stars to burn for a second? For ten thousand years? A billion years? The numbers are beyond comprehension. And it is beyond comprehension how this mass, and a seemingly infinite amount more, came into existence in a twinkling ... by chance.

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


DC said...

Wow, great post, Sig.

The magnitude of the energy generated by our Sun ... a small star by comparison ... speaks of a powerful Creator indeed.

Your point re: the Declaration and the Constitution (a digression?) is really the debate today ... will we go down the post-modern brick road or no?

Finally, the allusion to Goomba's waist helped to put some of those gigantic numbers in context. Thank you.

Hoping the Blind Will See said...

Geez, let's hope obama never sees that word (Sextillion), or understands that number. Having him learn the word Trillion has been bad enough!

banned said...

My UK paper used this to suggest that there was a X three increase in the chances of intelligent life being out there; my view is that it means there would be a X three probability of them having already arrived and wiped us out, by accident or design.

Thinking about space, infinity and stuff makes my brain hurt.

Nickie Goomba said...

Siggie... You've slammed another tater out over the left field bleachers.

C.S. Lewis said, Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Nickie Goomba said...

banned... My head hurts when I overdo the garlic on my ziti.

Rhod said...

Sig, to encompass your talents and depth, we need a universe as large as the one you describe.

I'd only say that, like Goomba and DC, the universe isn't only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine...

...and human life in this scene isn't highly probable, because when you consider the conditions necessary for it, it's highly improbable.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

That's a bizillion something.

sig94 said...

DC - You and Rhod are gonna turn my pretty head with all that talk. I remember an astronomy course I took as a freshman waay back when. The professor (the only full professor I saw in my entire first year) did a lecture on the moon. He concluded by saying that no way we should have something this large and this close to the Earth. It defied what was known then. I have looked but can't find anything that addresses this on the web. If he said this today he would be fired for hate speech.

sig94 said...

Blind - I doubt Obongo could get past the first three letters before he's taking another vacation at his favorite Chicago men's club.

sig94 said...

banned - no matter how many stars or planets there are, the same basic questions apply - where did it all come from and why are we here? Aside from beer that is.

sig94 said...

Nickie - when we consider creation, words usually fail us. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite. That's when the beer and our egos kick in and we all become geniuses.

sig94 said...

"...the universe isn't only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine..."

Rhod - I think I'm gonna get a tattoo with those words across my, well, some part of me. And I can imagine some pretty strange stuff before my meds kick in.

sig94 said...

Odie - we used to throw around big numbers like a googol (10 to the 99th) and googolplex (1 to the googolth) but Google™ and their copyright infringement lawyers took the joy put of that.

The_Kid said...

And I also agree with Carl Sagan. I believe the universe goes to infinity in scale in both directions.

eg. Solar systems as atoms for one perspective, atoms as solar systems for someone else's.

sig94 said...

Kid - I remember the end of the first MIB movie. Aliens using galaxies as marbles.

The_Kid said...

Sig, yea there was some Carl in that flick.

Doom said...

And they laugh at the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Seriously. God simply Is. I think their main problem with God is that, to believe, you have to settle for not knowing. They thought, as did Eve then Adam, that the forbidden fruit would be the tell all of tell alls.

Welp, all I have to say is, back to the fig leaves, damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead? Oh, wait, that is them, minus the fig leaves? How embarrassing! (damned torpedoes and all)

Starsplash said...

Actually the star we call ours is in the 90th percentile in size. It is bigger than 90% of the rest of them.

That is what they say anyway and I believe them.

'Them?' I don't know who they are.

Doom said...


I wonder if, like they say about Porsche owners, if we are trying to compensate? Wait, we didn't choose. Maybe God chose for us in this manner? Sorry, loopy thought day. *beep beep*