I recently picked up the tome that is The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose. This is not a book for everyone; it is a book for people with the education and ability to allow them to grasp complex mathematical equations. That is to say, not me.
Regardless, he has some interesting ideas, and I especially like his description of our place in the universe. As we go about our days brushing our teeth and sitting down to our dinner tables, the world around us feels so stable and stationary. But we are, in fact, hurtling through the atmosphere.
He asks us to pick a fixed point on Earth—perhaps where you are right now. Take out your imaginary black marker and draw a dot on your spot. (The dot will stay in that place, and you will move on.) Ten minutes from now the Earth will have rotated—and you along with it—to a position about 10 miles away from your original black marker dot. But that’s not all, the Earth is also moving around the sun, so in fact you will be about 100 times farther away, but in the opposite direction, and the earth will have moved so far away that your dot will be beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. And then the sun moves around the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, which is a part of clusters and super clusters, and so on, and so on . . .. In a mere ten minutes, you will have moved unbelievably, mind-bogglingly far through space.
I find this idea comforting somehow.
The perspective helps me to sort out what is really important. Does it matter that my library book is overdue, or that I just spotted a new wrinkle? No! We’re all just hurtling through space.