THE DIMENSIONS OF THE MACRO, THE MESO AND THE MICRO UNIVERSE
When we look at the sky in a clear night from the peaks of a high mountain, it seems boundless. We are struck by the blue splendor of stars like Sirius or Vega, or by the reddish luminescence of Antares, we fantasize about the designs that the constellations form in the sky and we build on them the myths that we drag over millennia. Based on our fantasies we have built a microcosm of our own size and consumption. Our eye is able to distinguish even the weakest stars, but even with these there are not more than 6000 stars that we are able to see spread over a celestial vault of 180 square degrees. It seems like a huge number but it is not.
Let’s now take a decent telescope and aim it at only 1 square degree of sky, that is a solid angle 32.400 times smaller, to discover that we can push ourselves far both in space and in time until we see a globular cluster at a distance of 1 million years light: it is composed on average of 100,000 stars.
Let us now take a much more powerful telescope and push ourselves up to 5 billion light years: then in that tiny piece of 1 square degree we will observe a cluster of galaxies, composed of at least 100 galaxies. With that powerful telescope that means we see around 100 x 100,000,000,000 stars in all, or ten thousand billion stars.
We then multiply this “small number” by 32.400 and we will get a value that is over 300 million billion stars contained in the whole northern part of the celestial sphere and at a both spatial and temporal maximum distance of of 5 billion light years. At this point we multiply the whole by 2 so we get approximately the roof of stars that actually surround both us and our Australian cousins. At this point we will reach over 600 million billions stars, only admitting that on average all the galaxies contain more or less the same number of stars as ours. If we then consider that there are also giant galaxies then the previous number could reach at least a billion billion stars, most of them similar to the Sun, an insignificant yellow star of medium spectral type that is located a little at the edges of the Milky Way, our galaxy.
Not everyone knows that in addition to the Sun many other stars can also have planets, and since on average a star can contain 10 planets, we arrive at a number that is approximately 10 billion billion planets within a distance of 5 billion light years.
Considering a whole series of parameters that lead to the formation of life and technological intelligence in the universe, we discover then that in the most pessimistic situation, our galaxy can contain only 100 advanced technological civilizations like and/or much more advanced than us. That’s truly a drop of water in an ocean of “solitude”! But if some of these civilizations over a period of 1 million years of evolution have learned – as likely – to colonize other stars, then it turns out that the planets inhabited by advanced civilizations could be not 100 but one million: a “very small” figure anyway, since this number is still 100,000 times smaller than the number of stars in our galaxy. A real desert galaxy! A desert that then extended to a slice of the known universe would give us a total of “only” one hundred thousand billion intelligent civilizations scattered across up to 5 billion light years away, and we do not take into account the fact that the dimensions of the whole universe should instead to be extended to 13.5 billion light years and not only to 5.
Due to the finite speed of light, for any eventual communication between contemporary civilizations it would take a thousand years on average to wait for an answer, while the other civilization may have become extinct or self-destructed. But it is also true that even if only one civilization is able to harness the negative energy from the quantum vacuum, then it could move almost instantaneously through space-time, to the point that communication and contact would become almost synchronous.
Our technological civilization is only 100 years old and we already know the theoretical quantum-relativistic possibility of constructing space-time shortcuts. So what about the 100 possible super-technological civilizations that could live in some distant planets belonging to some of the 100,000 stars of a globular cluster with stars that are so old as to have given these evolved civilizations all the time to develop for millions of years all uphill? They may have found the secret of the “Stargate” for a long time. Let us not forget that the globular clusters in the universe should be more or less 10,000 billion.
Let’s look and think more often about the numbers of the sky …
Now let’s go back to the ground and look at our body in the mirror: it is ten million billion billions of times smaller than our Universe and one hundred million billion times larger than a quark. A medium weight human being consists of 7000 trillion trillions of atoms, 99% of which are made of hydrogen, oxygen or carbon. Since inside the atoms there is a huge quantity of electrons, protons and neutrons, the total number of particles that interact inside each of our bodies is even more tremendously high. This number is in the order of 26,000 trillion trillion for each medium weight human body.
We now walk on the beach and turn our eyes to the sea. We are facing an endless expanse of liquid composed of billions of billions of drops of water. But what is a drop of water made of? It consists of molecules in turn composed of atoms, and in a single drop of water there are as many atoms as there are drops of water that fill the Mediterranean Sea. Atoms are not compact bricks, in reality they are made up of infinitely smaller particles separated by an immense ocean of emptiness.
Each atom consists of protons and neutrons in the nucleus and electrons in the outer orbitals: the electrons are more than 1000 times smaller than protons and neutrons. And even within the atom the distances are abysmal. To visualize these distances we could imagine the atomic nucleus as big as an orange. Making the appropriate proportions then the electron would be as big as a grain of sand placed at a distance of one kilometer from the orange. A boundless empty space exists between the core and the electron. In fact the mass is concentrated mainly in the protons and neutrons of the nucleus and, much more weakly, in the electrons. So much so that if we could eliminate all the emptiness inside the atoms of 5000 cruise ships, we would eventually get an object as big as an orange but with the same weight as the ships. The density of the matter within the atom is immeasurably small, while 99% of the mass of an atom is concentrated in the nucleus. Atoms tend to join together in molecules, the size of a billionth of a meter, that is 10 times larger than the atoms themselves, while within them there are nuclei that are 10,000 times smaller than the atom, 10 times larger than protons and neutrons , and 1000 times larger than the three quarks that make up each proton and each neutron. The size of a quark is therefore a billionth of a billionth of a meter. But if we really want to go down to the smallest dimension ever, the one whose thickness is a superstring, then we have to make a journey into the infinitely small within a hundred millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a meter.
At this point we have reached the mythical “Planck length”, where the quantum and relativistic forces unify and where we enter into a regime that is no more made of 3 but rather 10 dimensions all twisted around the Planck length. We have thus plunged ourselves into a new ocean – this time multidimensional – where virtual particles and antiparticles are born and die in an eternal endless bubbling, in what is called “quantum foam”: the great “living ocean of nothing”, from which perhaps our universe was born by inflating one or more quantum fluctuations until they become as big as the known universe: a space inflated up to the size of 13.5 billion light years, born of a fluctuation of the void. Perhaps a bubble born of the unconscious thought of an eternal child who plays with soap bubbles without knowing he is doing great things.
We intelligent living beings live in two universes, one large and one small.
Meanwhile, like moles living underground, we cannot see, even if physics imagines it, that our Universe and the particles it contains are probably only one of the infinite possible Universes distributed, like islands in an ocean. An infinite space permeated by the quantum void, the fluctuations of which are constantly generating new universes. In an eternity without end.