Beyond the Blindfold

I was watching a thing the other day where some scientist explained that our entire universe might be a small bubble in some much bigger thing.

This, in turn, threw me into a “reality moment.” During which I freaked out for a second before returning back to my normal delusional state.

Let me explain further.

Humans, including myself, spend most of their time with a delusional blindfold on. This blindfold allows us to care about stuff that happens in life. Because in reality, life is completely, totally, and comically unimportant.

Let’s look at it for second. Our universe has been around for 15 billion years. Humans biologically identical to us have been around for about 100,000 years. So let’s create a small scale to put that in perspective. Let’s divide everything by 100 million and say the universe has been around for 150 years. If that’s the case, humans have been around for 8.5 hours. So if the universe were a civil war battle sight dating back to 1860, the human race is a tourist that arrived today to check it out.

And that’s 100,000 years of human history.

Think about that for a second. When we talk about BC and AD, we’re talking about 2,000 years. Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, Aristotle and Plato, Jesus, Confucius, the Vikings, the Crusades, all of that old shit—we’re talking about 2 or 3,000 years of history, or about 1/50th of all of human history. In our civil war battle sight scale, Jesus showed up about 10 minutes ago.

Now a person lives about 100 years. That’s 1/20th of this recent history and 1/1000th of all human history. If the universe is 150 years old, each human lives about 30 seconds. As a 27-year-old, I’ve been around for 8 seconds.

Okay, so that’s time—let’s move onto space for a second.

The universe has been expanding at light speed for 15 billion years, meaning it is currently a sphere with a radius of 15 billion light years and diameter of 30 billion light years.*

To put that in perspective, light travels 186,000 miles in a second, meaning a “light second” is a distance that would wrap around the Earth seven times. So a light year is impossibly huge. And the universe is 30 billion light years across.

Not a small sphere.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way (a really stupid name for a galaxy, by the way), is a disk about 100,000 light years across. And the Earth is a sphere with a diameter of 8,000 miles.

So to scale this all down, let’s say the universe is the size of the Earth. If that’s the case, the Milky Way is a disk 140 feet across—an ice skating rink.

Using that same scale, 1 light year would be .43 millimeters, about the width of a grain of sand (making a cubic light year one grain of sand).

And 1 light year is 733,212,000 times longer than the diameter of the Earth (8,000 miles). So 700 million Earths stacked on top of each other would be the height of one grain of sand.

I’ll spare you the math here,** but that means that if the universe is the size of the Earth, you could fit over 300 octillion, or 300 trillion trillion, Earths in one grain of sand.

To take it a step further, if a human is about 5 cubic feet in volume, you could fit 6 billion trillion humans in each tiny Earth speck.

In the "Universe = the size of the Earth" scale, one human is the tiniest, most microscopic of all microscopic particles.

Now—I’ve been here before. I think I was about 6 the first time I started to boggle my mind thinking about the instant of time and speck of space we each occupy before evaporating into non-existence for the rest of eternity.

But this thing I watched on TV—this “The universe may only be a tiny bubble in a much greater thing”—threw me for a new loop.

Because what that means is that our whole universe might be incredibly tiny in the scheme of all things, and if it is just one expanding bubble, it means that its own 15 billion year existence might be a speck of time itself.

Which makes the time and space of a human even more of a needledick.

But here’s the crazy thing about humans—humans are smart enough that they know how insignificant they are. We are the only species on Earth that can conceive of either our own insignificance or our own death. Indeed, I am a microscopic particle here for only a brief moment who knows that I am a microscopic particle here for only a brief moment. A person is a speck of nothing who materializes for a split second, realizes where it stands in the scheme of time and space, understands that it will soon disappear back into nothingness for eternity, says “Wait, what the hell?”, and then disappears into nothingness for eternity.

A human appears out of nowhere—gets it—and then vanishes.

And all of this begs the question:

If I know that I am the tiniest speck of dust around for a split second only, then why was I so upset when my fantasy football team lost on Sunday?

Why do we care so much about what happens in life?

Because of our delusional blindfolds. Thank god for the delusional blindfolds.

Humans, though intelligent enough to realize the intense and harsh truth, also have a built-in brain mechanism that makes us kind of “forget” about it on a day-to-day basis. And once we’ve stopped thinking about the truth, we can get all worked up about life and be good people and we can be passionate and enthusiastic about things and we can care about consequences and family and relationships and friends and sports and everything else. Which makes our 30 seconds of existence way more enjoyable. The world would be a pretty grim place without the delusional blindfolds.***

The fact is, even now as I’m writing this, my delusional blindfold is back on. I know this because I’m not really upset about any of this—it just fascinates me. But when I heard that guy say that thing about the universe being a bubble, I had one of those really intense moments where the reality pierced the blindfold for a moment and I was like, “Oh my GOD!!” and that’s what prompted me to write this in the first place.

And so, I’m gonna go back now to doing my microscopic thing here for my 30 seconds. Might as well be a happy little speck.


*This is the size of the “observable universe” which is, according to many scientists, far smaller than the full extent of the universe. And while 30 billion light years is often cited as the diameter of the observable universe, others have suggested differing sizes based on the curvature of time-space and other factors that I don’t understand.

**Since the Earth and a grain of sand have volume, you have to cube that first magnitude to figure out how many Earths could fit inside that grain of sand. What we’re really figuring out is how many Earths could fit in a cubic light year. And since 733,212,000 Earths, lined up, would equal the cube’s edge, we cube that total to get the amount of Earths that would fit inside the cubic lightyear—or in our “Universe = Earth” scale, the grain of sand. 700 million cubed is about 300 trillion trillion.

While we're here, I came up with these rough approximations while in nerd mode:

Earth diameter x 100 =
Sun diameter x 100 =
Earth orbit diameter x 100 =
Solar System diameter x 1,000 =
One light year x 100,000 =
Milky Way diameter x 300,000 =
Observable Universe diameter

***The microscopic elephant speck in the room here is that I’m clearly not religious, and someone who is will probably see things quite differently. Religious people who believe strongly in some form of afterlife don’t need a delusional blindfold, because for them, reality is not something you need to try to forget about all the time.


Anonymous said...

didn't get most of the math and the space and time stuff, but awesome post nevertheless.

made a tiny little piece of my already tiny little existence a tiny little happier. thanks.

now i'm going back to being upset about my tiny little existenced dog chewing on my new pair of shoes.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post. Just incredible. Especially that little list of proportions at the bottom.

luciamartinez4 said...

Mmmm...being in front of these unavoidable facts make me think I should run and live the 25? seconds I have left.
However, I refuse to think my existence is that tiny. Have to make it bigger, so I can bring the best.

(Sorry for my english, it's so poor)

Thomas said...

The sheer magnitude of time and space that exists is simply mind-blowing. Also impressive is the incredible smallness of things like electrons and protons.

The universe is almost entirely empty space, and even the matter that exists is composed of atoms, which themselves are almost entirely empty space!

Emperor Paolo said...

holy shit

Noah said...


the near-infinite smallness of us leads me to a logical impossibility of us being alone in the near-infinite space we occupy

Noah said...


there is after all a deeper significance to, or a higher being that intended for, our consciousness.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I can't quite remember
why those distances are so
linear now damn it.

The Creator .. and star ..

wv 'squard',just an e short
that would've been cool.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "holy shit."

Anonymous said...

You are a fascinating human.

Anonymous said...

Did you not see "Men In Black 2"? You really need to relax! It's all over in 2012 anyway!

Anonymous said...

So long and thanks for all the fish.