How ridiculously small we actually are

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“From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

I love this quote by NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell mainly because it’s so profound. It really makes you think about how small we actually are and how insignificant actually even major conflicts are.

If we look at wars or other international conflicts, then they are a big deal to us, because we only have one planet. But if you look at our planet from the moon or mars or six billion kilometers away at the edge of our solar system, then such conflicts seem meaningless.

But the problem with this is that our brains are not built to comprehend such distances. So inspired by Edgar Mitchells quote I decided to write this article and make it easier to grasp how small we actually are.

Let’s start our journey on a random street.

So on this photo you see an average person standing and already next to the apartment buildings the guy seems rather small. We’re not going to stop here for long but remember this place as we move on.


Now let’s climb on top of the worlds tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which is located in Dubai. It’s the tallest artificial structure in the world ( 829.8 meters or 2722 feet) and the view from there is fantastic.

By David Jones [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Not bad, right? It’s called a megatall skyscraper. You can barely see cars on the street. But we’re not stopping here for long, our journey has just begun.

This is what the building itself looks like from a distance (hint: it’s the tall one in the middle)

By Nepenthes (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Now we will quickly conquer the summit of the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, which stands at 8848 meters (29 029 feet). This is our final resting stop on Earth, so take a good look at the view from here.

By Nepenthes (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Now isn’t that beautiful. You could stare in the distance forever. But for now you can say good bye to the planet, because next stop is in space.


Psst, take look out the window.

NASA

Yup, we’re on the International Space Station and we’re about 250 kilometers (220 miles) from the Earth’s surface. If you could drive away from Earth in your car, then it would probably take you about 2,5 hours to get here. As you can see we’re not very far, but already Portugal and Spain look quite small. Altogether about 56 million people live in these two countries.

Let’s move on and shoot for the Moon.


And here we are. That was fast, wasn’t it. We’re not going to land on the Moon, but we will look at how Earth looks like from about 380 000 kilometers.

NASA

Breathtakingly beautiful…


We are moving further away from Earth and visit another planet, which right now is inhabited by robots — Mars.

NASA

Earth is getting smaller and smaller. Now we are about 75 million kilometers from earth. But our journey is not over yet.


Poof! And now we’re near Saturn.

NASA

The distance between Earth and Saturn is roughly 1,2 billion kilometers.


But now let’s take a look at our pale blue dot from SIX BILLION kilometers.

NASA

So what I would like to emphasize one more time, is that if we look at ourselves from a distance, we appear very small. But six billion kilometers is basically nothing in the Universe.

Take our galaxy, the Milky Way, for example. Here’s how our solar system looks in the galaxy.

See anything? Me neither.

The diameter of Milky Way is about 100 000 light-years. 1 light-year is approximately 9 trillion kilometres (or about 6 trillion miles). That’s crazy!

Remember what earth looked like from the International Space Station which is 250 kilometers from us? Now think about how small we, humans, would look from there and how small our entire solar system is in our huge galaxy.

Do we live in the only galaxy in the Universe? Hell no! There are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies! There are more stars in the Universe, than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches on earth!

But lets come back to Earth and think about the first photo we looked at.

We are very small and insignificant to the Universe. But we all live on one planet and that’s all we have right now. Let’s not spend our time here on fighting and waging wars. Let’s make our time here as pleasent as possible, so one day we can go and explore our vast Universe.


Trayan Hobbes
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