If the Universe is so big that we can’t get there, why are we looking?

the Universe
Image by denbelitsky | Bigstockphoto

The Universe is unimaginably big. Every day, we see pictures of what look like pretty pinpricks of light, and it turns out they are entire galaxies.

Given this, we have to ask ourselves why we are interested enough to invest many billions of dollars in just looking. Even someday, getting to the centre of our galaxy seems a tall order.

Scientists spend more millions of dollars coming up with theories about the Universe. The latest is that it is doughnut-shaped (so it must be American). This theory is rebuffed by as many who support it. Many think that the Universe is flat, or at least on a flat plane, and the discussion is now about whether that flat plane can be folded so that you could travel around it and end up where you started. Rather like Earth (except for the round, globe bit).

Many observers say that our obsession with the Universe is because without observing something so much bigger than ourselves, we would freak out. So, a sort of visible manifestation of God.

Others say that our obsession with the Universe is to figure out how we got here and possibly why.

It seems ridiculous to ponder the Universe if we cannot get to the restaurant at the end of it.

Unless.

Are we missing something? Is there actually a way of travelling across interstellar space that we do not know about and cannot even imagine the technology needed without blowing a fuse?

A scientist will tell you anything is possible, and many discoveries come as complete surprises.

A new theory is that advanced civilisations are able to communicate with each other using starlight. By dimming and brightening the light from a star, or star cluster (the theory goes), aliens may be having a good old chat, using stellar smoke signals.

Another goofy theory? Well, a goofy theory put forward by a respected quantum physicist called Terry Rudolph, based at Imperial College in London. And you don’t put out weird theories without a heap of evidence and a load of spreadsheets. Not if you want to keep getting grants.

Yet, if you accept that theory as possible, you have to wonder about other visible structures in the Universe. Black holes, for example, have long fascinated the scientific community. Some are so big that our solar system would be the size of a pinhead if it were swallowed. Others believe that if you go through a black hole, you could pop out somewhere else in the Universe, albeit extremely thin and extremely dead.

Still, others are pondering the giant structures that seem to hold the Universe together. Are they ‘the bones’ of the Universe or are they superhighways – sort of intergalactic hyperloops?

Whether all this turns out to be fantasy or some of the truth, it is clear that we are not ready to grasp the real answer. Until we are, we probably should continue to gaze at the Universe and wonder at its vast and awesome beauty.

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