Where in the Universe Are We?

My fascination with scale and the the enormity of the universe led me to find this wonderful map made by Andrew Colvin. It shows a mere 150 million light-year-wide slice of the entire known universe — only a fraction of its total width of 13 billion light years.

I’ve taken Andrew’s map apart, section by section, to give you a view of this little sliver of the universe where our solar system is nestled. I hope you enjoy this tour of 150 million light years, which is 900 trillion miles wide!

Begin scrolling now to see the local supercluster (at the far right of Andrew’s map) and continue scrolling to narrow in on our own Milky Way galaxy and sun.

universe 150 million ly

The Fermi Paradox: Where is Everybody?

fermi paradox explanations infographic
Since the universe is very old and really big, most scientists posit a high probability that a small percentage of planets are homes to intelligent life and civilizations. Some of these civilizations would be older and more technologically advanced than ours.

If this is the case, many have wondered, why haven’t we seen any real evidence or scientific proof of their presence? Wouldn’t they have visited us by now? Wouldn’t we have detected their movements?

“Where is everybody?” asked the physicist Enrico Fermi back in 1950 while having lunch with Edward Teller and two other scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The topic of UFOs had come up in the conversation, Fermi posed his question, and a lively debate ensued to which no satisfactory answer could be conjectured.

The debate still goes on.

The Phenomenon of Double Stars

double star alberio

Albereo (spelled Albireo by some) is one of the most beautiful double stars in the visible universe. It is made up of a small blue star and a large golden yellow star. Since they sparkle like brilliant jewels when viewed through a telescope, astronomers refer to their color as sapphire and topaz.

From a distance, a binary star looks like a single star but really it is two stars, paired up for billions and billions of years, locked in a gravitational embrace from which they never waver. The two stars are often of different mass and size, but still they remain joined in perfect equilibrium. You might be amazed to know that most stars in the universe are binary.

Andromeda Galaxy Up Close


This image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy.

The full image contains 1.5 billion pixels and would span more than 600 HD television screens.

Take a look at the close-up below, represented by the white rectangle shown in the inset:

andromeda galaxy sharpest view ever

I recommend to treat yourself to a full tour of the Hubble image via a zoom tool.

Astronomers estimate that the Andromeda galaxy contains about a trillion stars, at least twice the amount of our own Milky Way. Here’s a full view (low resolution) of our nearest galactic neighbor, 2.5 million light years from Earth.


Earth’s Near Future

Things are about to get very interesting on our planet.

We are entering an era of true scientific wonder.

It’s the dawning of the Nano Age, which we are quickly entering, eyes closed, for better and for worse.

The better part:

  • microscopic, cancer-killing robots that roam the bloodstream
  • bionic limb technology that enables the paralyzed to regain muscle control
  • retinal displays — imagine a computer screen embedded in your contact lenses
  • space elevators
  • massive-scale harvesting of solar energy in space
  • wireless electricity and self-powering devices
  • robots that can perform human tasks

The worse part:

  • robots that can perform human tasks (how will people make a living?)
  • insect-sized video surveillance robots that roam the planet incognito
  • virtual-reality addicts — distracted living will be a big problem
  • toxic nanoparticles that pollute our air, our homes, our water supplies
  • military applications of nanotechnology — invisible weaponry

The part I’m not sure about yet:

  • brain-to-machine interfaces that will enable us to thought-command our devices
  • artificial intelligence
  • digitized brains into which knowledge and memories can be uploaded or downloaded
  • cheap, mass-scale molecular manufacturing will set off economic upheavals locally and globally
  • ubiquitous computing

UBIQUITOUS means everywhere at once. As the computer chip shrinks to the size of a dust speck, we won’t resist the temptation to computerize everything imaginable — our clothing, our cities, our food packaging, our brains. They will all be networked via the cloud. Every part of our lives will be vulnerable to cyber attacks and malfunctions.

Earth needs, more than ever in our history, legions of ethical nanotechnology researchers, scientists, inventors and innovators. We need smart and wise ones who will intelligently guide the development of nanotechnology, as unwieldy a beast as it will prove to be.

The Nano Age


An invisible nanogear. Each dot you see is an atom.

Ready or not, the Nano Age is here.

Nanotechnology is about to touch and transform every facet of our lives with enormous impact and consequence. It is said that our dawning Nano Age will outshine steel, plastic, and the silicon chip as transformative milestones in Earth’s long evolutionary adventure.

NANO means “one-billionth and refers to the increasingly microscopic scale at which our scientists can manipulate matter and energy. 3D printers are a macrocosmic equivalent of the atom-by-atom production of matter that nanoscientists are now perfecting.

The Nano Age will bring us (for better and for worse):