I am in awe!

Ashok B. Boghani
3 min readJun 1, 2024

I am an engineer with a strong affinity for science. I firmly believe that science will be able to keep answering our questions about the universe and our existence. We will keep making progress and at the same time, continue to face additional mysteries to address.

However, that does not prevent me from feeling a sense of awe at the world and how amazing is its scale. Perhaps this is a child-like reaction, like the one you get when you look beyond all the reasonings and explanations.

Of many, here are two areas that create that sense of awe for me.

As I go on a long-distance flight, and see the world below me, I cannot but feel that our earth is huge. After flying for over 17 hours (as I did on way to Singapore), I appreciate that to go around the whole earth will take a lot longer. I am just a minor speck on this vast planet.

And our vast planet is rotating around sun, which is many times bigger. More than hundred times in diameter. However, on scale of the universe, our sun is practically insignificant. When I look up in dark night and see the Milky Way galaxy, I appreciate the fact that sun is just an average size star among 100 billion of them.

Now comes the next part. Our galaxy is just one out of some 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. When you look at the images sent by the James Webb Space Telescope, the field of observation is filled with galaxies everywhere (besides stars in our own galaxy).Just imagine how much stuff is around.

Now comes the two clinchers: What we don’t see in this vast universe is dark matter. The science is still not clear what this dark matter is, but whatever it is, the amount of it is huge, probably four times what we see. The next one is even more mind blowing, and that is dark energy. The amount of dark energy is perhaps four times the combined amount of visible universe and dark matter.

If that is not awe inspiring, here is the final point: All that visible matter, dark matter and dark energy emerged from a point, by some estimate, as small as a fraction of millimeter in diameter, when the Big Bang occurred.

That to me is truly mind blowing.

The other area that is equally amazing starts out very small. I am talking about a cell, a human cell, for example. It contains some 100 trillion atoms. Not only that, these atoms are parts of some very complex molecules that perform very specific functions. There is of course the nucleus with its magic pairs of DNAs. Some six billion DNAs are packaged into 23 pairs of chromosomes. These are the ones that transmit our legacy to our children, besides performing myriad functions.

In addition, a cell consists of cytoplasm within which lie intricate arrangements of fine fibers and hundreds or even thousands of miniscule but distinct structures called organelles. It is all contained in a membrane. What is awe inspiring is that all these tiny elements work like clockwork to make cell a living thing which make up more complex structures in a human being (as well as in plants, insects, animals, and so on).

How many cells are there in a human being? About 30 trillion cells, according to some researchers. This now sounds more and more like the number of stars in a galaxy and number of galaxies in the universe mentioned above. What is amazing is that all these cells are so structured and arranged that a human has the ability to do all kinds of things that we expect a living being to do. These cells are arranged to provide us a skin to package and protect us, a respiratory system to breath, a digestive system to convert food into energy, and so on. Sitting above all is the brain, which contain 86 billion neurons making 100 trillion connections to each other. Through this massive machinery, we are able to think, store information, direct our muscles to do tasks, and even be conscious.

The final amazing number is that of microbes living with us. They help with the digestive system, among other functions. The estimated number of these microbes is about 40 trillion. So, when we move, some 70 trillion cells move with us, doing things that we don’t even need to think about.

What can I say? Even as a fairly well educated rational human being, I am in awe!!

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Ashok B. Boghani

I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.