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PhilGoetz comments on Max Tegmark on our place in history: "We're Not Insignificant After All" - Less Wrong

18 [deleted] 04 January 2010 12:02AM

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Comment author: PhilGoetz 07 January 2010 03:49:19AM *  2 points [-]

For starters, we're smaller than we thought.

On the contrary. We now know that we are larger than the universe.

Our solar system has 1 sun and 8 "planets". Our galaxy contains about 300 billion stars. There are about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. That's a mere 3x10^22 stars.

A carbon atom has 1 nucleus and 12 electrons. One human cell contains about 100 trillion atoms. One human contains about 100 trillion cells. I myself contain almost as much mass as 3x10^27 carbon atoms.

I'm also older than the universe. The universe is about 14 billion years old. The natural timescale to use for the universe is hard to estimate. If the solar system is the basic component of our universe with respect to size, then we can use the timescale of the solar system as the basic time unit for the universe.

Suppose we say the unit of time for our solar system is one Jupiter year, or 11.86 earth years. The universe is then 1.2 billion Jupiter-years old.

The natural timescale of me is also hard to estimate. I know I'm going to win; since I'm more than 1.2 billion seconds old; but let's have a go anyway:

I am a chemical being, so it's fair to consider chemical but not nuclear processes. Hydrogen bonds break and form in less than a nanosecond (CJ Margulis et al. 2002, J. Phys. Chem. B, "Helix Unfolding and Intramolecular Hydrogen Bond Dynamics in Small α-Helices in Explicit Solvent"). So let's consider the nanosecond the natural timescale of me.

This makes my age, on my timescale, just a little less than the square of the universe's age on its timescale.

Take that, universe!

And if you want to truly crush the poor universe's spirit... try measuring information content.