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Thread: But we are the middle of the universe!

  1. #1 But we are the middle of the universe! 
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    I'm hopeful moderators will resist trashing this thread. I used artwork for easier consumption, rather than a "wall of text". Personally, I abhor long posts, so this is quite the exception for me.

    I saw the title to another thread, "Why aren't we the center of the universe?" by The Huntsman, and only as I can seem to do (and sometimes to the irritation/consternation of others), I interpreted words differently, turned the question/statemenet inside out, in order to satisfy the fact that we are!

    To begin with, "we are". We exist. We are not only lifeforms, and even highly sentient, but are the most highly-developed lifeforms known to us, and maybe anywhere. We "are" because we exist at the "middle" of the universe. By "middle", I don't mean the "center", which implies a zero coordinate, but more like the mean or median or even mode or somewhere in that region of various spectrums. We are not at the extremes, but in the "middle".

    So I guess I'm saying that what the other thread prompted me to consider seems a follow-on to the Drake Equation considerations. Why do we exist "here" — along various spectrums?

    I'm not a student of astrophysics or astronomy, so I don't know where the Milky Way lies in the universe, but I'll bet you it's not at the "center" (sorry Huntsman) but somewhere in the "middle". I'll leave that aspect of the universe for someone here more knowledgeable to answer. Thanks.

    As for the Sun's location in the Milky Way, it's not at the over-powered/overly-certain/destructive/whatever "center" of the Milky Way, and it's not at the under-powered/under-controlled/chaotic/whatever edges of the Milky Way. It's in the "middle" (see below).



    As for the type of star that spawned us, it is not a Supergiant or a Giant or a Dwarf. No, it's in the "middle" — in the Main Sequence. And within the Main Sequence, it's not at one extreme or another, but it's somewhere in the "middle".



    As for the Earth's distance from the Sun, it is not the closest planet to the Sun, which is too close to that big attractor, the Sun, and so, subject to bombardment by all manner of objects that it may attract. And it does not reside at the under-powered/under-regulated/chaotic/whatever edges of the Solar System, but somewhere near the "middle".



    In size, Earth is not among the largest planets, or among the smallest planets, but somewhere in the "middle". Large/massive enough to clear its neighborhood of pesky objects, but not so large that it keeps attracting occasional objects — for example, those in extreme, high-energy orbits around the Sun.



    Concerning the latitudes where we have thrived most, it has not been near the intensely hot equator or the intensely cold poles, but in the "temperate" latitudes. The way I see it, if life required an extreme temperature (hot or cold), life would be living on the fringe, and if the world's climate changed, life might be out of luck. By existing in the moderate temperatures, when the world's climate changed, then life could simply migrate. This is something life can do in a continuous world, such as the Earth's surface, but not, say, from planet to planet.



    The way I see it, the extremes are inevitable. Gravity attracts mass (and more gravity) to the physical "center", leaving it relatively over-powered and destructive due to its central mass attracting all sorts of stray objects whose kinetic energies increase as they approach the "center" — whether it's the center of the universe, Milky Way, Solar System, or planet — causing greater than average damage to objects close to the center (or in the case of the Earth, great damage to the center itself).



    At the other extreme, the distal end of the spectrum away from the center, there's less control and more irregularity, which leads to more chaos. The existence of this fact shows that it's meaningful in creating an environment not suitable to nurturing life. Along these spectrums (and probably others), it seems important to have the center to create the spectrum/dimension to allow life to thrive somewhere "in the middle". Everything in moderation.

    My short question may seem anti-climactic, but — Does all this make sense?


    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    Forum Senior pineapples's Avatar
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    Are you not simply cherry picking your “middles” here.

    I could say the universe is 16 billions years old. That’s relatively a very very young age compared to how old the universe is estimated to last. So we’re absolutely nowhere “in the middle” time wise.


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    I have to say that your use of "middle" is a little loose. For example, if you average out the masses of the planets, Neptune comes closest to being at the "middle" and the Earth is ~1/17 of that mass.

    As far as the Sun's mass goes, the lightest stars are ~10th its mass and the most massive 100 times its mass, so on this scale, Its mass is on the light end of the spectrum.

    And if you look close a the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, Stars like Sirius or Vega, at some ten times the luminosity of the Sun are closer to the middle of the diagram than the Earth is.
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    ▼▼ dn ʎɐʍ sıɥʇ ▼▼ RedPanda's Avatar
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    Maybe the only reason we can exist is because we are not at any of the extremes - i.e. we are in the 'middle'.
    We are not only inside our solar system's Goldilocks Zone but also the Milky Way's 'Goldilocks Zone'.

    But I think 'middle' implies 'centre' and so maybe a better word should be used.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapples View Post
    Are you not simply cherry picking your “middles” here.

    I could say the universe is 16 billions years old. That’s relatively a very very young age compared to how old the universe is estimated to last. So we’re absolutely nowhere “in the middle” time wise.
    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    I have to say that your use of "middle" is a little loose. For example, if you average out the masses of the planets, Neptune comes closest to being at the "middle" and the Earth is ~1/17 of that mass.

    As far as the Sun's mass goes, the lightest stars are ~10th its mass and the most massive 100 times its mass, so on this scale, Its mass is on the light end of the spectrum.

    And if you look close a the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, Stars like Sirius or Vega, at some ten times the luminosity of the Sun are closer to the middle of the diagram than the Earth is.
    At one point, I considered whether I was cherry picking, but then I couldn't think of any spectrum where "life as we know it" existed at an extreme or pretty close to it, although I do admit to being somewhat loose with my use of "middle". I had a hard time finding a word to use because, for example, not only could mean, median or mode not be used, they also could usually not be computed. I also figured that the exact mean, median or mode could probably never be found anyway. I used "middle" not only because it is nondescript, but also because it is qualitative instead of quantitative.

    I'm certainly not criticizing anyone's thinking here, but let me use the examples offered to explain how "middle" seems to define itself. This is good because sometimes something like this can best be explained through discussion.

    As for time, which is a good example, I don't know how to respond, although I don't know how "life as we know it" will play out over time. We do tend to think of time as never-ending.

    As for planet mass, the "middle" defines itself like this. If we were Neptunians discussing the possibilities of extraneptunian life, we would be strongly curious whether creatures like us Neptunians existed on Uranus, because, not only is Uranus about the same mass as Neptune, but it's also the same class of planet and it exists in the same neighborhood (ie, distance from the Sun), meaning that it's subjected to almost the same amount of solar radiation and gravitation and to pretty much the same objects passing by in extremely elliptical orbits around the Sun. Because we can conclude that there are no Neptunians tapping away on their computers discussing astrophysics on Internet forums, there are also no Uranians (?) doing so, and all because they are not near the "middle" of the appropriate spectrum. (Also, should we include dwarf planets and large asteroids in our calculations?) True, Neptune may contain life, but it would be extremely low in the evolutionary process.

    As for the H-R diagram, let me think in terms of it's significance. Life probably needs a constant energy output from, and a constant size of, its star. It would likely seriously hinder or destroy evolution if, a billion years ago, the Sun's energy output suddenly increased or decreased by a factor of 1,000. If its diameter suddenly grew by a factor of 1,000, there would be solar flares that that would lick Earth every now and then, causing all sorts of serious problems and possibly stealing our atmosphere. So, Janus, as you know more about the H-R diagram than me, is there a fairly steady output/size/etc section of the Main Sequence, and is the Sun in it? As I intimated, I'll bet such a section exists, the Sun is in it, it's been in it for some time, and hopefully for some time to come. Again, I hope, the "middle" tends to define itself.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post

    But I think 'middle' implies 'centre' and so maybe a better word should be used.
    I suggest changing the thread title to "but we occupy a quasi-medial node of the universe"
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  8. #7  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Maybe the only reason we can exist is because we are not at any of the extremes - i.e. we are in the 'middle'.
    We are not only inside our solar system's Goldilocks Zone but also the Milky Way's 'Goldilocks Zone'.

    But I think 'middle' implies 'centre' and so maybe a better word should be used.
    Yes, that was a bold thought of mine ... that we/life cannot exist at/near the extremes. For example, now pH comes to my mind (although I know extremophiles exist, they are very rare). Is pH 7 an absolute or relative "middle"? I know the scale goes beyond 14, although I don't know if it goes negative.

    Yes, "Goldilocks Zone". And how about "Moderate Zone"? I had mode in mind and I even said Everything in moderation, but I didn't think of moderate!

    And does anyone know where the Milky Way resides in the universe? I've researched it a bit, and I think that without reference points, the Milky Way will seem like the "center" of the universe.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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