I was fascinated last year to hear astrophysicist Adam Reiss on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, explaining (with great humor, I might add) about how much we don’t really know about the universe. Talking to the show’s host Peter Sagal and panelists including P.J. O’Rouke, Reiss said:
SAGAL: I mean, isn’t it bizarre though to find out that 73 percent of the observable universe is actually invisible; we have no idea what it is?
RIESS: You know, it’s not just the 73 percent, it’s the other, there’s a 25 percent chunk in there called Dark Matter. We don’t know what that stuff is either. So…
SAGAL: Well wait a minute, 73 percent of the universe…
P.J. O’ROURKE: Plus.
SAGAL: So you’re telling use that everything that we see in the universe when we look out and we see all these galaxies and all this stuff out there, that’s 3 percent?
RIESS: That’s right. We’re really just the frosting on a cake and we don’t know what’s inside the cake.
Think about that: of the part of universe that we know about, 73% is invisible to us. And of what we can see, 25% is made up of stuff we don’t even understand. We can only see and understand about 3% of the known universe.
We don’t even know what’s beyond what we know – dark holes, other universes, infinity.
We like to think that with all of the advancements in science, medicine, and technology that we’re pretty darned smart. But the reality is that, when it comes down to it, we don’t know squat. We are, in fact, just tiny dust specks on a little pebble, floating around out there in a universe so mysterious and enormous that we don’t even know how much we don’t know.
It’s “Horton Hears A Who”, the reality show.
Think about that the next time you want to puff yourself up and proclaim there is no God. The truth is, you don’t know. You can’t know. You’re just frosting. Pretty, but also pretty tiny in the whole scheme of things.
Does that depress you? Not me. To quote Walter Bishop on “Fringe”: “Where would the fun be if we knew all there is to know?”
This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50”. Read more here.