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Cheap Thoughts on Science


The Universe
There Just Ain't No Place Like It


"Space," [the Hitchhiker's Guide] says, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen . . ." and so on.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Many races believe that it was created by some sort of god, though the Jatravartid people of Viltvodle VI believe that the entire Universe was in fact sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure. The Jatravartids, who live in perpetual fear of the time they call The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief, are small blue creatures with more than fifty arms each, who are therefore unique in being the only race in history to have invented the aerosol deodorant before the wheel.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


Once something actually happens somewhere in something as wildly complicated as the Universe, Kevin knows where it will all end up — where "Kevin" is any random entity that doesn't know nothin' about nothin'.
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


There is very little flexibility in the behavior of the Universe. What it does once, it does again.
     Isaac Asimov


We tend to view Nature through a tiny slot from a narrow angle; others see it from another angle and describe it in a different language. It sounds different, but it is not. The universe is so rich in diversity that almost anything one says about it is correct, provided one takes a broad enough view.
     Itzhak Bentov


I know the universe is important but there are other things on my mind.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The universe is my home, but I'm thinking of moving.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


What makes the Universe so hard to comprehend is that there's nothing to compare it with.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


You see, science has overcome time and space — well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space, but any objections.
     Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) in Mary Chase 
     and Oscar Brodney, Harvey (movie, 1950)


I'm worried that the universe will soon need replacing. It's not holding a charge.
     Edward Chilton


I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. ... I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in any philosophy.
     J. B. S. Haldane, Possible Worlds (1927)


When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
     John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)


For something to exist, it has to be observed.
     For something to exist, it has to have a position in time and space.
     And this explains why nine-tenths of the mass of the universe is unaccounted for.
     Nine-tenths of the universe is the knowledge of the position and direction of everything in the other tenth.  Every atom has its biography, every star its file, every chemical exchange its equivalent of the inspector with a clipboard.  It is unaccounted for because it is doing the accounting for the rest of it, and you cannot see the back of your own head.  [Except in very small universes.]
     Nine-tenths of the universe, in fact, is the paperwork.
          Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time (2001)


Don't let me catch anyone talking about the Universe in my department.
     Ernest Rutherford


If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
     Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)


If there's nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with the universe.
     Dr. Crusher in "Remember Me"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


The universe is wider than our views of it.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 
     or, Life in the Woods


In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.
     Edward P. Tryon