I just read this on Twitter, from @SciencePorn:
I started thinking about that. If the sun is the size of a white blood cell (which, by the way, is about 1/700 the size of a red blood cell), the earth would be so tiny it would be nearly undetectable. The sun would be 10-12 micrometers in diameter, and the undetectable earth would be orbiting 93 inches (less than 8 feet) away from it (if I calculated my ratios correctly).
So, consider this for a moment. If you are an alien being who is capable of “flying” across the continental United States, exactly how are you going to “find” a planet that is undetectable to the naked eye, a mere 8 feet away from a star that is also undetectable to the naked eye?
This is why I have such a problem with so-called “alien encounters” and other UFO reports. It’s not that I reject the notion of life elsewhere in the universe – it’s just that I doubt very much if we would be noticed. Granted, it’s possible someone in a nearby neighborhood (the equivalent of “out in the yard” or perhaps “across the street” might notice something, but they would have to be centuries ahead of us to be paying us a visit.
It’s just not very likely.
The reason these stories keep coming up, and are so readily believed by many, is simple. We, as humans, have a hard time visualizing and comprehending things that are “big”. Big distances, big numbers, and long time periods are very difficult for us. For example, this video shows how hard it is for us to truly comprehend big numbers (like trillion dollar budgets):
Here is another video that reveals our limited mental capabilities in reference to time. This is from the original Cosmos series narrated by the great Carl Sagan. In a similar fashion to how SciencePorn illustrated the size of our galaxy, Carl compresses the history of the universe down to what we can comprehend – a 12 month calendar. Known human history comprises mere seconds during the last minute of the last day of the year:
Finally, as an exercise in comprehending quantity vs. distance, I calculated this some time ago. There is a TV commercial by Brita filters claiming enough water bottles are discarded each year to stretch around the earth 190 times. Check it out:
Because a couple of relatives of mine said they did not believe it, I calculated the following. Brita claims 39 billion are discarded each year in the U.S alone. Other sources I’ve found reduce that number to about 22 billion (6o million per day).
Using the latter figure – let’s use 6 inches as the length of the average water bottle. I think the average would be slightly more than that, but we’ll be conservative. At 6 inches – 10,560 bottles laid end to end would equal a mile.
If we multiply that number by the earth’s circumference in miles (rounding up to 25,000), we see it would take 262,954,560 bottles to circumnavigate the earth once.
Divide 22 billion by that number, and we get 83 times. (Of course, if we use Brita’s number of 39 billion, we get closer to their number at 148). Brita, of course, is selling something so they are not being as conservative as I.
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