It’s amazing the number of things an average person can worry about in modern society. People worry about money, family, relationships, jobs, and all the other issues that fall under those categories. It’s quite possible to have over a dozen concerns in your head at any one time. Living in a modern society is a complicated endeavour.
With so much going on, I wonder if we could just step back for a second and get some perspective or perhaps think of something else other than our normal concerns. When you think about present-day modern civilization, it’s amazing what humans have accomplished. We are essentially animals. We are animals like every other animal on this planet. Granted, we’ve evolved into one of the most intelligent species this planet has ever witnessed but we’re animals nonetheless.
So here’s the part where I ask you to acquire a piece of perspective. Every human that has ever lived has done so on this planet. Every piece of recorded human history has transpired on Earth. This planet is of just one of eight in this solar system. As every one of us worries about what to eat for dinner, we hurtle around the sun on a rock that somehow has sustained life for millions of years.
Do you ever just wonder what lies out there in the far reaches of space? I know that our solar system resides in the Milky Way galaxy but what’s beyond that though? Is it more galaxies? So, if that’s true, what’s beyond that? What is at the edge of the universe? Is the universe finite? If it is, what is beyond its extremes? If it isn’t, how is it possible that something that exists cannot have boundaries or a definite size? What existed before the Big Bang?
Stop for a minute and think about those things. It’s utterly amazing the cosmic situation that we find ourselves in.
I would be remiss in a discussion about the cosmic makeup of the universe if I did not address the issue of extraterrestial life. It has been said that there are as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on any typical beach. Given the vast number of stars out there, it would seem logical that intelligent life, like ourselves, would be common in the universe. Yet, for all the conspiracy theories out there, we appear to have no concrete proof that there is any other intelligent life outside of what is on Earth.
The contradiction between the high probabilities of life on other planets and the lack of evidence of such life is sometimes referred to as the Fermi paradox. It’s a fascinating read on Wikipedia and I encourage you to give it some attention. People have attempted to come up with theories as to why we are observing such a paradox. I won’t list all the theories but one interesting one is that intelligent life does exist but humans cannot detect it because of our own biological or technological incompatibilities.
An interesting theory that tries to explain the Fermi paradox is the Rare Earth hypothesis. It supposes that despite the vast number of stars in the universe, the chances of intelligent life existing outside of Earth is exceeding small. The theory states that so many things had to go right for life to evolve on Earth, the odds of that happening on another planet are small enough that we might not ever come in contact with another intelligent lifeform.
Thinking about the issues of cosmology won’t solve your personal problems but it sure is interesting. If you want more to read, I suggest you start with Wikipedia’s entry on the known universe.