Department of Mathematics

Nate's Math Page
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Things I Love:

Kids; all kids; a few adults.

Saying stupid things I might later regret. 

Using semicolons improperly;

Things That Irk Me:

Light beer; fat-free or low-sodium anything.

Arrogant professors; lying politicians; people who prey on weakness, fear, ignorance or prejudice; men who treat women badly; women who treat men badly; mean people; selfish people; fake people; superficial people; yes, most people.

Deniers of biology; we're great Apes, stop pretending otherwise.  

A Quote From Somebody:  

"I bemoan being a beast, driven by carnal desires. Until I get hungry. Like now."    --Roccodinuovo

A Quote From Somebody Else:  

"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."    --Dr. Johnson 

A Fantabulous T-Shirt

                                 Buy it
here.  (Thanks, Josh, for wearing it to class.)
This shirt depicts our galaxy, the Milky Way. Its diameter is about 90,000 light years -- 529,063,394,774,490,000 miles.  Our puny solar system is subatomic in comparison, less than 0.001266 light years in diameter.

The Milky Way, an average sized galaxy, contains 200-400 billion stars.   There are probably more than 100 billion galaxies, which suggests there are a helluva lot of stars in the Universe:

20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or more?!?!

That's a big number.  I wonder how many of those stars have planets, like Earth, orbiting them?  How many have life?  Is it really just one? 

Of course, nobody knows for sure.  But, it's hard to assume our planet is "special" when we've only observed a smidgen of the universe. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Even our own galaxy is far too large to assume Earth is special.  And there are billions of other galaxies that we have no hope of exploring in detail.  For example...

    Holy crap! That's a lot of stars!! 
This is the sexy spiral galaxy NGC 1300.  Every speck of light in this picture represents a star, like our sun.  Yes, you are looking at billions of stars right now. (BTW, these images are courtesy of the Hubble telescope.)

            Which sub-atomic particle is our galaxy?  

Every speck of light in this picture is a galaxy, like NGC 1300 above. That's right, each dot is actually a cluster of billions and billions of stars that we'll never explore.  And those stars have planets -- gazillions of planets -- orbiting them.  

How "special" does Earth seem now?  And why do humans need to feel special, are we that insecure and egocentric?

People used to believe that Earth was the center of the solar system, the sun orbiting our blue planet daily. Galileo disagreed, published his observation-based science to the contrary and paid a huge price for it: found guilty of heresy, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. 

The same center-of-the-universe/need-to-feel-special mentality that Galileo offended 400 years ago still persists today, though in different, often more subtle, guises.

For example, isn't nationalism a manifestation of our  central-universe/we're-special mentality? How about Providence? Manifest Destiny? Or, more recently, Benevolent Hegemony (based, as it is, on National Exceptionalism)? What about believing that you and yours received divine ordination via revelaton, and the other 5 billion people on Earth are just...well...wrong?

C'mon, this reeks of insecurity and egotism.  It's a perfectly natural -- yet wholly delusional -- defense mechanism, protecting our fragile self-identities from the obvious: In Universal terms, we are a tiny, ant-like colony inhabiting a speck of dust. Get over it.

©2006 The Pennsylvania State University