Mapping the Universe has been a goal of scientists for centuries. From the oldest recorded history, humans have been fascinated by the stars. And we continue to search and wonder and scratch our heads.
Every day brings more information about the Universe, and every day we try and fit our new observations into our existing models of how things work.
The technology available to us to peer into the Universe is advancing at eye-watering speeds, and with the advent of ‘proper’ AI, this will only accelerate further. Machines that build better machines will soon take over the task of observing the Universe.
Already AI is being employed and has helped make some amazing discoveries. Huge structures have been found that link galaxies together. However, the Universe viewed one way looks like the most crowded of crowded city streets. Viewed another, it seems almost empty. New images show a void in space one billion light-years across. It is somewhere between six and 10 billion light-years away. There should be something there, but there does not seem to be.
Looking at images of Pluto taken over the past few decades demonstrates the advances in telescope technology. From a blurry grey blob to a detailed, multi-coloured image in 30 odd years.
And soon we will have the James Webb telescope which will show us new worlds and, perhaps, new civilisations.
Our problem when it comes to exploring the Universe is the slight frustration of not being able to go and look and the fact that we, as humans, are constrained by a single point of view. We cannot conceive of anything as complicated, multi-dimensional and overwhelmingly huge as the Universe.
Another problem with this overwhelmingly huge issue is that light speed is incredibly slow. To go and explore the Universe, we need to go a lot faster, and that, at the moment, is way beyond us. Trudging along at the speed of light, aliens hovering between us and the nearest star would see us watching soap operas from the 1970s or perhaps be laughing at our first clumsy mission to the moon. But, on the other hand, if you were observing Earth from that void six billion light-years away, you would not see any coherent activity at all. Just a molten, heaving blob.
Yet many people believe that UFOs are from other worlds, and they have mastered the art of speeding across the Universe to say hello. We’ll need to invent – or we’ll need AI to invent – the warp drive that will get us out there. In principle, it is simply a case of bending space-time. So, that’s OK then.
Suppose there is a ‘there’ to explore. There is still that nagging sensation that the Universe is, in fact, a brain, and we are a tiny piece of the puzzle.