I get a spiritual thrill when I contemplate some of the incomprehensible sizes and quantities in our universe. Gribben’s Watching the Universe provides plenty of examples.
The heat and light energy we receive from our sun results from nuclear fusion. That means fusion of hydrogen nuclei to form helium nuclei in a three-step nuclear reaction. The fusing nuclei lose mass, and the mass becomes photons of energy shining out into space and upon us! (E=mc2)
In this fusion process, every second, the sun loses 4,500,000,000 kilograms of mass. The sun can afford such a steady, gigantic loss of mass because its total mass is 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms.
Those photons resulting from nuclear fusion on the sun do not reach us instantaneously. The heat of the sun is so great, each photon experiences innumerable collisions that drive the photon back and forth, so that it will be a million years before any new photon makes the full trip out of the sun. A million years before that photon reaches outer space, and sometimes the surface of the earth. So the photons warming us and making vision possible came from fusion reactions that happened a million or more years ago.
But a 3% of the energy we receive from the sun, results from the neutrinos that fly out of the sun instantaneously during fusion reactions. Nothing stops them because neutrinos are without mass and without charge, though they do have “spin.” Neutrinos travel at the speed of light and don’t collide with anything as they zip through matter and empty space. Every second, 100,000,000,000 neutrinos pass through every square centimeter of everything on earth.
And finally, how is it that human brains can discover the laws of mathmatics and physics? How on earth can human brains use those laws to design research and experiments to figure all this out about the sun? Wow, I feel as if I’m floating in a mysterious, majestic ocean of cosmic truth.