‘Why I never bawl out a waitress’

Harry Golden, the journalist and amateur philosopher, wrote this in his 1958 book Only in America.

I have a rule against registering complaints in a restaurant; because I know that there are at least four billion suns in the Milky Way — which is only one galaxy. Many of these suns are thousands of times larger than our own, and vast millions of them have whole planetary systems, including literally billions of satellites, and all of this revolves at the rate of about a million miles an hour, like a huge oval pinwheel. Our own sun and its planets, which includes the earth, are on the edge of this wheel. This is only our own small corner of the universe, so why do not these billions of revolving and rotating suns collide? The answer is, the place is so unbelievably vast that if we reduced the suns and the planets in correct mathematical proportions with relation to the distances between them, each sun would be a speck of dust, two, three and four thousand miles away from its nearest neighbor. And, mind you, this is only the Milky Way — our own small corner — our own galaxy. How many galaxies are there? Billions of galaxies spaced out at about one million light-years apart (one light-year is about six trillion miles). Within the ring of our largest telescopes there are at least one hundred million separate galaxies such as our own Milky Way, and that is not all, by any means. The scientists have found that the further you go out in space with the telescopes the thicker the galaxies become, and there are billions of billions as yet uncovered to the scientist’s camera and the astrophysicist’s calculations.

When you think of all this, it’s silly to worry whether the waitress brought you string beans instead of limas.

For a contemporary slide show that illustrates what Harry Golden was talking about, click on English Astronomie by one A. Zartha.  English is evidently not Zartha’s primary language but his pictures speak for themselves.

I found the link on Andrew Tobias’s Money and Other Subjects web site.

Also click on Hubble Ultra Deep Field 3D, if you didn’t when I posted the link on May 8.  I thank my friend Bill Elwell for this link.

P.S. (7/14/10)

Some of Andrew Tobias’s correspondents pointed out that the pictures are not all photographs, but artist’s conceptions of the data from the Hubble telescope.

Also, if you like these pictures, you might like NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.

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