On average, I can cover a mile every 3 minutes on my bike. The furthest I have ridden my bike at one time is 171 miles. It took me nine hours. It’s 240 miles to cross Ohio on I-70.
NYC to LA is 2,800 miles. In my car, at 75 mph, one mile takes about 50 seconds. That would take 39 hours of non-stop driving. Most commercial jets go about 600 mph, or a mile every 6 seconds. That trip takes almost 5 hours non-stop. From LA it’s 9100 miles to Bangalore, India, a 16-hour flight. That’s less than halfway around the world, which is almost 25,000 miles around.
I’ve never been to the continents of Australia, Africa, Antarctica or even South America. They’re simply too far out of the way for me to visit.
Many people never leave the country they were born in, over the course of their entire lives. The world is a big place. Despite its size and vastness, we’re a speck in space. In fact, despite humans being on the 4.6 billion-year-old planet for nearly 10,000 years, only a couple of dozen people have ever seen the earth as a complete sphere. The farthest astronaut has only ventured 250,000 miles from home.
Spacecraft exploring the outer reaches of the solar system go 10 miles every second. Still, it took New Horizons 9 ½ years to reach Pluto, 1500x further away than Mars.
Voyager 1 took a solar system selfie as it left it, 4 billion miles away from us. This is the image. At first, the team couldn’t find earth, a mere .12 pixels across, as it was lost in a sunbeam.
When the photo was taken, astrophysicist Carl Sagan said the following, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives…There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
An estimated 108 billion people have lived on earth. There are an estimated 100 billion observable galaxies, each with 100 billion stars.
Maybe we’re the only physical life in the universe. Maybe not. Either way, we’ll never see another. We’re too isolated. And that makes our species special. That makes you special and your life important. Don’t waste it.
Images courtesy of NASA.