The universe is a big place. Its so big that it is difficult if not impossible to wrap your brain around. And it just got a lot more difficult. The previous estimate for the number of galaxies in the universe was 200 billion, each galaxy itself containing about 300 billion star systems and each star system represents a chance of harboring complex life. The new estimate is a ten fold increase which brings the number to 2 trillion and can be found here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.03909v2.pdf
What is a trillion anyway? I don’t know. I mean I know what a trillion is. Its a 1 followed by a whole bunch of zeros. But what is it really? The image below, that I may or may not have borrowed, helps conceptualize it a bit. Just imagine each bill representing 100 stars. And also imagine the guy standing next to all those stars not vaporizing….as a matter of fact forget the guy altogether but just use it a reference to see how millions billions and trillions compare to each other. I mean if you want to imagine the guy being vaporized you could do that too.
So as you can clearly see a trillion is totally a lot more than a million or billion. A lot lot more. How the hell did those crazy scientists figure this out? Through the development of more accurate instruments and the painstaking task of analyzing data / images from those instruments. An International team of researchers took a look at tiny snapshots of the sky and counted. Or probably developed a computer program to count for them. They then took the amount of stars they counted per size of the sky being examined and extrapolated outwards to the area of the sky unexamined.
This is a very exciting announcement for a few reasons:
- Higher probability of the existence of fucking aliens…..seriously though.
- Higher probability of other cool shit
- We know so little about the universe and that’s ok.
When science is at its best it is falsifiable. That’s what makes science the best tool of examining the world around us. Because of bias and other flaws in both humanity’s nature but also things such as instrumentation this is very important. Our ideas and world view shouldn’t be static. They should be plastic and able to be changed in my opinion because as far as I can tell there are no absolute perfect truths.
“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think its much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.” Richard Feynman