Even today, more than eighty years after Oort’s bold guess, we still don’t have a clue what this dark matter is made of. We know it exists. We know where it is. We have maps of its presence within and around galaxies throughout the universe. We even have stringent constraints on what it is not, but we have no clue what it is. And yes, its presence is overwhelming: for every one kilogram of ordinary matter made out of neutrons and protons and electrons, there are five kilograms of dark matter, made out of who-knows-what.
― Christophe Galfard, The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond
When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.
It takes a fearless, unflinching love and deep humility to accept the universe as it is. The most effective way he knew to accomplish that, the most powerful tool at his disposal, was the scientific method, which over time winnows out deception. It can’t give you absolute truth because science is a permanent revolution, always subject to revision, but it can give you successive approximations of reality.
We are the universe aware of itself. We let the miracle get lost in distractions. On a planet so rich with living companions, much of humanity sentences itself to solitary confinement. Late at night, I used to lie in my boat listening to radio calls from ships to families ashore. There was only one conversation, and it boils down to, “I love you and I miss you: come home safe.”
―Carl Safina, The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
Can you not see… that fairy tales in their essence are quite solid and straightforward; but that this everlasting fiction about modern life is in its nature essentially incredible? Folk-lore means that the soul is sane, but that the universe is wild and full of marvels. Realism means that the world is dull and full of routine, but that the soul is sick and screaming.
The universe is not a stagnant place where technology stands still and only the few govern its destiny. Rather, it is a multidimensional dynamic entity that interacts with all things, even the very smallest. And what part we each place in it and the effect we have on it is a matter of our own choice.
There is a wide yawning black infinity. In every direction the extension is endless, the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce. But most of all, there is very nearly nothing in the dark; except for little bits here and there, often associated with the light, this infinite receptacle is empty.
This picture is strangely frightening. It should be familiar. It is our universe.
Even these stars, which seem so numerous, are, as sand, as dust, or less than dust, in the enormity of the space in which there is nothing. Nothing! We are not without empathetic terror when we open Pascal’s Pensées and read, “I am the great silent spaces between worlds.”
―Carl Sagan, From an undated, handwritten piece of text which Sagan wrote when he was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago
He knew one of the women well, and had shared his universe with her. They had seen the same mountains, and the same trees, although each of them had seem them differently. She knew his weaknesses, his moments of hatred, of despair. Yet she was there at his side. They shared the same universe.