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The Universe grows faster than we can know it

Let’s carefully think about this fact: every second about 20,000 stars move beyond the visible Universe, and, for that reason, that we will never be able, now or in the future, to see analyze, or study those stars. That means that each year about 630 billion stars escape forever from our sight.

The information comes from a video recently released by Dr. Don Lincoln, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame and researcher particles at the Fermi National Laboratory (home of a famous particle accelerator).

According to Lincoln, the expansion of the Universe is accelerating so that the light we see now, which took 14 billion years to reach Earth, originated when the Universe was a sphere with a radius of 42 billion light years. At present, the radius of the Universe reaches 46 billion light years, that is, 92 billion light years in diameter.

And because the Universe continues to expand, we can never see anything that is more than 15 billion light years from Earth. But how can we say that the Universe measures 92 billion light years if we only see a fraction of that distance?

Because, Lincoln explained, we see the objects that are now 46 billion light years away from us as they were 15 billion years ago. That is, what we see is their past, but not their present. (Obviously, the explanations are much more complex and profound than this simple summary that we present here.)

In short, every second we can see less of the Universe and those objects we can actually see we see them as they were in the past, but not as they are now.

If we are honest and understand what this means, we must admit that we know less and less (20,000 stars and countless planets escape our sight every second) and that what we know is obsolete the moment we know it.

We think we are the kings of creation, the apex of evolution, but the Universe laughs in our own faces, laughing at our lack of understanding about time and dark matter. 

On a much more mundane level, the situation reminded me of the conversation I recently had with a man in a Latin American country to whom I asked him for directions to a certain place. The man told me that I should use "the highway" and added: "When you see that highway, you won’t want to use any other".

The highway in question didn’t turn out to be anything special and, in fact, it’s not at the level of the great highways of Europe or of North America. But the good man, protected by his cultural and geographical isolation, was not comparing "his" road to the Autobahn, but to the dusty roads he knew in the past.

At the cosmic level, something similar happens: We don’t know what is happening now, but only the past. We believe we are "the best" because we insist on ignoring the true dimension of our ignorance.

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