Dear Neil DeGrasse Tyson,
When I was a young girl I had a model of the solar system that would spin around and show how each of the planets made their orbit around the sun. As I grew older I soon realized that beyond our solar system lay billions and billions of other solar systems. I had general knowledge of how immense the universe was, but I didn’t fully understand it all. In the past month after reading your book my horizons have been broadened and I look at things differently than before. Recently I finished reading a published compilation of essays that you have written called “Death by Black Hole.” After reading your book I was intrigued by your works and wanted to learn more about the universe. I then proceeded to watch all of the episodes of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” so I could soak up as much information as possible. Your essays paired with “Cosmos” has changed my worldview entirely.
Before I read your book, I knew that the universe was enormous, but I couldn’t quite grasp how vast “infinity” was. I started to compare sizes of things to try and understand exactly how big the universe was. Often times I would find myself looking out of windows or imagining pictures in my head of enormous warehouses or large landscapes and I would think to myself, “this is not infinity.” Ever since I started pondering infinity, I felt extremely small. If I saw ants crawling along the sidewalk, I would put myself in their position and wonder how big everything seems to them. Things got even more interesting when I started watching “Cosmos”. In the first episode, you talk about our cosmic address. Once you started talking about the Virgo Supercluster, I was blown away by the sheer monstrosity that is the cosmos. To think that there are billions of billions of other galaxies out there in our supercluster alone is mind boggling to me.
Now I’m constantly thinking about who I am in relation to everything else in our universe, and even in our galaxy alone. Another concept that changed my life is how dangerous everything in our universe is. At any moment, an asteroid could come zooming into our planet and everything we know could disappear. In section one of your book, a chapter is ended like this, “What are the lessons to be learned from this journey of the mind? That humans are emotionally fragile, perennially gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos. Have a nice day.” This brings me back to the first concept I wrote about which was how incredibly small and unimportant I am in the whole scope of things. If our earth would be gone, most of the universe would go on with its usual business. When I was young, I would practice counting to 100 and think of how many that was. To me it seemed like that was the maximum and there was nothing past that. As I grew older and learned more numbers, I kept thinking about how large the numbers were getting and how tiny the smaller numbers were getting. Eventually, 100 seemed like a pretty small number. When I finished reading “Death by Black Hole,” I tried comparing things to infinity and the closest concept I came up with was numbers. Just like the universe, they go on forever.
After thinking a great deal about all of the information you covered in your book and in “Cosmos,” I most definitely look at things differently and think of the extremities of our universe, both big and small. The days of me wondering about how large the Earth is are over.