Emily Dickinson was a remarkable genius but one of her most famous observations has just been blown sky high by a pair of 14 year old twins. Emily wrote:
THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.
The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.
The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.
– Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.
Get the rest here
It’s a nice poem, a deep poem and one that lots of scientists quote with approval. (Albeit, mumbling slightly when they get to the bit about God.) But a remarkable new “powers of 10” animation by 14 year old twin brothers Michael & Cary Huang proves that we fall a long way short.
Their beautiful animation lets you scroll effortlessly through the scales of the universe from the teeny weeeny Planck Length 10^-35 metres all the way up to 10^26 m, the franky bonkers size of the observable universe.
As this animation helpfully shows, Douglas Adams was closer to the mark:
“Space, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you might think it’s a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
-The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
He nicely lampoons the fact that when try to comprehend the scale of the universe our analogies and experiences quickly break down. At 10^26m the sky is definitely wider than the mind can ever truly comprehend. And just in case you get cocky and say that Haung twins have squeezed the universe down to fit in human brains, remember that this is just the observable universe.