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Written by Jiro Funamoto

The universe is huge, and we're tiny!

The space shuttle. Credit: NASA

Our lives are ~80 years. On the other hand light takes 45 billion years to get from one side of our visible universe to the other. So it's commonly thought that there's no way living humans could really travel away from the Earth further than some invisible sphere of perhaps 80 light years (given that we can travel at the speed of light, and we put a newborn baby on a spaceship).

Since the speed of light is finite it therefore seems like such a restriction on how far living humans can venture into space, since at most we can only go almost as fast as light.

This is a misconception.

Time dilation (or equivalently length contraction) means that as long as the spaceship is travelling close enough to the speed of light, you can get to the edge of the universe in your lifetime. In fact, you can get to the edge of the universe in 2 sec (of your life) if you were going close enough to the speed of light. If you had a spaceship that could really approach the speed of light, you can travel to any destination in any amount of time you wanted.

Unfortunately, when you get there, the outside world might be 45 billion years older than what you felt was 2 secs ago.

Mind blown yet?

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