The end of semester is upon us. Only one day left of classes, and I am experiencing much the same feeling as teacher as I once did as a student.
Perhaps it was appropriate then, in my limitless stretches of freedom I’ve now gained, that I’d find this map of our solar system to pass the time. It was made on the aforelinked website so as to demonstrate the true scale of the solar system, measured according to if the moon took up one pixel.
Well, after scrolling for twenty minutes and reaching the halfway mark (roughly equivalent to the distance of 103, 122, 405, 177.5 blue whales), I think I very much understand what they’re trying to express: there’s a lot of fucking space out there. Almost, in fact, more than the free time I have.
So I thought I’d share the spoils of my internet find with you, and leave you with the metaphor I liked most that they used to describe the vastness of Nothing. (Quotes taken from the map at the distances sited).
With so much emptiness, aren’t stars, planets, and people just glitches in an otherwise elegant and uniform nothingness, like pieces of lint on a black sweater? (126, 046, 888, 999.6 blue whales)
But without the tiny dots for it to stretch between, there would be no emptiness to measure, and for that matter, no one around to measure it. (131, 170, 731, 075.8 blue whales)
You might say that so much emptiness makes the tiny bits of matter that much more meaningful – simply by the fact that, against all odds, they aren’t empty. If you’re drowning in the middle of the ocean, a floating piece of driftwood is a pretty big deal. (134, 299, 785, 346.7 – 134, 397, 079, 649.5 blue whales)
What if trillions of stars and planets were crammed right next to each other? They wouldn’t be special at all. (137, 409, 149, 104 blue whales)
It seems like we are both pathetically insignificant, and miraculously important at the same time. (140, 532, 991, 180.2)
I leave you with that, fair fellow glitches of lint. I do recommend you scroll for a while and then hit the little sun in the bottom left corner to compare the speed of your scrolling to the speed of light.
You can also change the distance measure scale by clicking on the km marker in the middle/bottom part of the screen to see distance according to length of miles, Earths, pixels, buses, Great Walls of China – or, of course, blue whales.
For more on whales of space, here is a short panel explaining their mythological beauty and dignity.