Friday, October 14, 2016

It's a Big, Big House

Researchers at the University of Nottingham, taking time away from advising local law enforcement on techniques for bandit-catching, have analyzed data from the Hubble Space Telescope and determined that previous estimates of the number of galaxies in the universe were low.

Before the team re-examined the data and used a new model to run the estimates, astronomers and cosmologists thought there were about 200 billion galaxies in the universe. If you were to start at your birth and count one number every second, you would reach 200 billion a few days before your 6342nd birthday. If you go back 200 billion seconds in history, you get to be on the ground floor of the development of civilization in Sumeria and Egypt.

That number, though, was a lowball by a factor of 10, the Nottingham group says. There are probably closer to 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. Count that out the same way as before and you will be blowing out 634,000 candles on your cake. To go back that many seconds in time will allow you to shake hands with human ancestor Homo heidelbergensis, just before running towards the nearest tree because the number of carnivorous megafauna who liked to eat slow bipeds may not have been 2 trillion but it was more than enough.

This revision blows what little of my mind remains after contemplating just how big the universe is under the old models. And it makes me wonder how some of my fellow traditional Christian theists can see a God who operates on such a scale as somehow lesser because he did not operate on the one of 6,000 years to which they demand adherence.

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