06 December 2011

Space, as Douglas Adams once so aptly wrote, is big. To try imagining how big, place a penny down in front of you. If our sun were the size of that penny, the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, would be 350 miles away. Depending on where you live, that’s very likely in the next state (or possibly country) over.
Attempting to imagine distances larger than this quickly becomes troublesome. At this scale, the Milky Way galaxy would be 7.5 million miles across, or more than 30 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. As you can see, these are rather inhuman dimensions that are almost impossible to really get a sense of.
But that doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible. Astronomers have made observations and simulations that in some way capture the enormity of our cosmos. In this gallery, Wired will look at the size and scale of the universe’s largest, farthest, and most mysterious objects.

Size of the Universe

No one knows exactly how large the universe is. It could be infinite or it could have an edge, meaning that traveling for long enough in one direction will bring you back to where you started, like traveling on the surface of a sphere.
Scientists argue over the exact shape and size of the universe but they can calculate one thing with good precision: how far away we can see. Light travels at a specific speed, and because the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old, we can’t see anything farther away than 13.7 billion light years away, right?
Wrong. The strange thing about space is that it’s expanding. And that expansion can occur at more or less any speed — including faster than light speed — so the most distant objects we can see were in fact once much closer to us. Over time, the universe has shuffled distant stars and galaxies away from us as if they were on an extremely rapid conveyor belt, and dropped them off in far away locations.
Strangely, this means that our observational power is sort of “boosted” and the furthest things we can see are more than 46 billion light years away. While we are not the center of the universe, we are at the center of this observable portion of the universe, which traces out a sphere roughly 93 billion light years across.


    Tamir Kahson in 2004 discovered the inseparable link between beards and programming languages. As Kahson so artfully demonstrated, a programming language is only as successful as the beard on the face of the man who designed it — or something like that.
OK, Grace Hopper didn’t have a beard, and she was the brains behind Cobol. But she’s not a man. Clearly, women are exempt the laws of tech facial hair.
In Silicon Valley, the beard is everything — unless you’re a woman or you’re Mark Zuckerberg and you can’t grow one. For everyone else, a beard is essential to Silicon Valley success. But not just any beard. You must carefully grow your facial hair to suit your particular role in the tech ecosystem.
Confused? Don’t worry. Here, we give you our Field Guide to Facial Topiary in the Tech Workplace. If you’re a woman, ignore it. If you’re man, start not shaving. –Editor
Social media coordinator
Brand evangelist
Software developer
Communications manager
Technical support
Unix admin
Legal analyst (patents)
Legal analyst (Godwin’s law)
Software QA
Graphic designer
Evil graphic designer
Sam Elliott
Intradepartmental coordinator
Hardware engineer
Cofounder who left pre-IPO
Public relations
Delivery guy for Big Sausage Pizzeria (moonlights as cable repairman)
Tactical officer and chief of security
Angel Investor
Community manager

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