Breathtaking Visualization of the Universe Will Make You Feel Like an Ant

Images: Kim Albrecht
Images: Kim Albrecht

On the grandest scale, our universe is a network of galaxies tied together by the force of gravity. Cosmic Web, a new effort led by cosmologists and designers at Northeastern’s Center for Complex Network Research, offers a roadmap toward understanding how all of those tremendous clusters of stars connect—and the visualizations are stunning.

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The images below show us several hypothetical architectures for our universe, built from data on 24,000 galaxies. By varying the construction algorithm, the researchers have designed cosmic webs that link up in a number of different ways; based on the size, proximity, and relative velocities of individual galaxies. I call it God View.

“Before, the cosmic web was more like a metaphor,” Kim Albrecht, the designer behind the new visualizations told Gizmodo. “This is the first time somebody has made these calculations and thought about it as an actual network.”

The mathematical tools the researchers have developed will not only shed light on the large-scale structure of cosmos, they could help us answer fundamental questions about the birth and evolution of the universe. But if the science sounds a little out-of-this-world, don’t worry. You don’t need a physics PhD to appreciate the beauty of it.

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Illustration for article titled Breathtaking Visualization of the Universe Will Make You Feel Like an Ant
Illustration for article titled Breathtaking Visualization of the Universe Will Make You Feel Like an Ant
Illustration for article titled Breathtaking Visualization of the Universe Will Make You Feel Like an Ant
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[Cosmic Web]

Maddie Stone is a freelancer based in Philadelphia.

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DISCUSSION

lostengineer
lostEngineer

You don’t need a physics PhD to appreciate the beauty of it.

Yeah but it would sure help.

They’re trying to visualize something so large it can only be measured in the distance light travels through a vacuum per YEAR. We will call it c, just to give you a handhold, and it comes after b to make it less threatening.

It’s so old, you need units with 000,000,000 years behind it, just to make it manageable.

Speaking of, through some mind boggling physics, the visible universe is somehow bigger than its age x c. At some point it grew faster than the speed of light.

You have to dive into quantum theory and well beyond Einstein to start to make sense of this ancient ongoing explosion of light, fractals, and beauty.

The only way I know of to capture the sheer complexity, gravitas, and depth of such an effort, right or wrong, and explain it to a layman is to say

Then God* said, “Let there be light”; and there was.

*God being either a timeless being of immeasurable power, or an action from nothing of such impossible odds, or the product of time x randomness of such improbable chance and incomprehensible time, whose actions and ways are so far beyond my own, I'd rather comment on Game of Thrones puns.