The God of Small Things?

universe~ by Rohit Mohan

In the second it takes for the eye to blink, a beam of light travels about eight times around the earth.

Even at that astounding speed -- a staggering 300,000,000 metres in one second -- it will take 93 billion years for light to cross the immensity of our “observable” universe(1) (ignoring, conveniently, that the universe is expanding) Just how wide, then, is the universe? Here’s the simple calculation:

Speed of light = 3 x 108 metres/second

Time for light to cross the universe = 93 billion years
= (93 x 109 years) x (365 days/year) x (24 hours/day) x (60 minutes/hour) x
(60 seconds/minute)
= 2,932,848,000,000,000,000 seconds

Let’s just call it 3,000 quadrillion seconds for a nice, round number, shall we? What’s a few trillion seconds here or there in a calculation of this size?

The distance that light travels in that time, the breadth of the universe, is:

(300,000,000 metres/second) x (3,000,000,000,000,000,000 seconds)
= 900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 metres
= 9 trillion quadrillion metres (about 5.6 billion trillion miles)

Even for the math lovers, this answer holds no sense of perspective. It’s so freakishly enormous that it’s just completely, utterly unimaginable.

So let’s try to give it some perspective. The diameter of the earth is about 12,800 kilometres -- 12,800,000 metres. That means fully 70 million trillion earths stuck side-to-side will bridge the vastness of this one universe.

No, I can’t put it into perspective -- I have no analogies to present for magnitudes this small. I can only say that the earth is as small in comparison to the universe, as a millionth of an electron is to you, and hope that you appreciate just how completely insignificant that is.

And you, well, you -- or I or another human being -- are as small in comparison to the earth as a grain of sand is to us. Because a human being, perhaps of an average height of 2 metres, is (2 metres / 12,800,000 metres) of the earth’s diameter -- about a billionth of it.

A human is a billionth upon millionth upon trillionth part of the universe. Do you ever stop to consider what’s going on with something that small? Something so small it’s as close to a complete zero as you can possibly get?

Why, then, must the Master of the Universe, the God of all things (if at all there’s one), be expected to govern the minutiae of the lives of entirely insignificant beings, who don’t amount to more than a resounding zero in the Universe he supposedly commands?

Rohit is a software engineer by profession, but a physicist at heart, and hopes to teach either some day. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(1) It was thought to be 93 billion light years, but it now seems even that was an underestimation. This article tells of the width of the universe as being 156 billion light years -- and expanding. 93 or 156, the point of this piece remains the same.