Tuesday, 24 April 2012

U is for ... Universe

I recently thought to myself that I don't read enough non-fiction, so decided to rectify this by spending my hard-earned Waterstones points on something factual. I chose Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time'.

Yes, it became very obvious very quickly that I had aimed a little high.

I persevered, though, and I'm now about 75% of the way through the book, and although I have probably only understood around 50% of what I've read, I'm enjoying it. Why? Because it makes any problems or worries I might have seem completely, utterly and entirely insignificant.

Take, for example, the big bang. It happened around ten or twenty thousand million years ago. Just think about that for a minute. Actually stop, read the words, think about them and try to get your head around them.

Ten or twenty thousand million years ago. 

If you're anything like me you'll be struggling even to comprehend a number so humongously huge. It's just so astronomically big that it's difficult to understand. 'A Brief History of Time' is full of that: numbers and speeds and distances so ridiculously big that they're guaranteed to make your tiny little blip of an existence seem like just that: a tiny little blip.

Now, I'm not saying that your tiny little blip of an existence is pointless (that'd be pretty rude). No, I can guarantee you that you mean more than the world to at least one other person on this planet (and I can't think of anything less pointless than that), but what I am trying to say is that sometimes it's good to think about those stupidly big numbers and speeds and distances. In comparison, any concerns or problems seem kind of piddly. 

Good old Douglas Adams said it best in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.

'Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.'


  1. I had the same experience with Hawkings book! And dear Douglas Adams....life the universe and ev everything, the perfect summing up of all the BIG questions don'tyou think. Great blog.

  2. One can always rely on Douglas Adams to inject a bit of reality to science.

  3. I alos posted on Universe today. And love the Hitchiker's series. What a great concept.

  4. Great post. The only non-fiction books I read are history and self-help books, which is pretty pathetic.

  5. The universe is beyond out comprehension, like our own existance.


  6. Douglas Adams had a knack ;)
    And I loved 'A Brief History of Time'. It generated some fabulous discussions with friends.

  7. I always wondered how they came up with those numbers. I suppose there's some kind of mathematical equation but since scientists now believe the universe's expansion is actually increasing, I wonder if they've had to rethink their formulas.