1. Welcome to the Universe!

I remember as a child, writing out my address: “Andre Auger, 344 Daly Ave., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, North America, Earth, the Milky Way, the Universe.” What was I really doing? Situating myself, establishing my geography – my “cosmography”? What do we know about this Universe we all live in? Ought we to simply take it for granted and move on to what really matters – like what kind of car to buy, or what should we have for supper…?

What indeed do we know for certain about this Universe? It’s big and it’s old… Scientists estimate the Universe is at least 75 billion light years across… When we remember that light travels at 300,000 km a second, and covers about a trillion km in a year, that makes the universe a pretty big place. And the best estimates are that it is at least 13.7 billion years old. It contains 100 billion galaxies, and each galaxy contains roughly 100 billion stars, give or take a few.

And here’s the humbling discovery: all those stars and galaxies and black holes and comets and planets and asteroids account for about 4% of the “stuff” of the universe… The other 96%? Unknown! And by all accounts, say many scientists, unknowable. Because it doesn’t interact with anything we use to measure. Dark matter accounts for 25% and dark energy for the rest. We know they’re both there because we couldn’t explain some of the behaviours of the universe otherwise. But that’s all we know.

We also know that there is “stuff” and laws at all levels of the universe – from the infinitely small, quantum level, to the vast macro-level. We’ve even got the laws and principles at each end down pretty well – quantum mechanics at one end and general relativity at the other. But the two systems of laws don’t quite mesh.

We also know now that this universe of ours is expanding, and at an accelerating rate. And that has surprised cosmologists.

And so here we are, a tiny spec revolving around an ordinary star in some young arm of the Milky Way, itself a rather small galaxy amid billions of others. Feel small yet? Watch this video clip


We will ask ourselves this question repeatedly throughout these meditations: Why is the Universe so big? Why is it so old? What is it evolving toward? What feelings well up in you as you read this material, or contemplate the image? Do you feel awe? Fear? Indifference? Where is God in all this for you?

Here are the meditation topics we will cover: