Mind-Blowing Science Facts That Make Us Feel Insignificant

List Rules
Vote up the facts about space and time that make you feel a bit inconsequential.

Stephen Hawking once said, "I believe everyone can, and should, have a broad picture of how the universe operates, and our place in it." Websites dedicated to inspirational quotes usually add the phrase, "It is a basic human desire... [and] puts our worries in perspective." The whole quote may not be attributed to Dr. Hawking, but the sentiment still rings true: Perspective is important. Especially in 2022 - when humanity is overtly distracted by its self-interests and inflated sense of importance.

Sure, we have reached near unimaginable heights in terms of technology, can treat disease, and can predict the weather (most of the time). However, when we look up at the stars in the sky, open a book, or look at a space map, we realize all of humanity is but a fly on the wall in front of an indifferent universe. This list will be a roundup of facts about the scale of time and space - not just facts about big things in the universe but also the scope of history - and how truly tiny they make us feel.

  • The Biggest Black Hole (That We Know Of) Is 66 Billion Times The Mass Of Our Sun
    Photo: Quantum squid88 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    69 VOTES

    The Biggest Black Hole (That We Know Of) Is 66 Billion Times The Mass Of Our Sun

    Black holes rip everything and anything apart. They can be the size of a small city or much, much larger. There are three common types of black holes. From smallest to largest, they are stellar black holes, intermediate-mass black holes, and supermassive/ultramassive black holes. The latter exist at the center of most galaxies and are millions to billions of times the mass of our sun.

    Ton 618, the largest known black hole, has a mass of 66 billion solar masses - which means it’s 66 billion times the mass of our sun. The thing is so large that many scientists have speculated a larger black hole may not even exist. 

    69 votes
  • 2
    54 VOTES

    'Normal' Matter Makes Up Less Than 5% Of The Universe - The Rest Is Darkness

    The universe is a dark place. In fact, roughly 68% of it is made up of what is known as dark energy. But what exactly is dark energy? Scientists know it's a repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the universe to expand, but apart from that, we're not sure.

    We know slightly more about dark matter, a nonluminous material that is postulated to exist in space and can take several forms. It may be composed of "non-baryonic matter," such as "weakly interacting massive particles... [that] have ten to a hundred times the mass of a proton." Dark matter makes up about 27% of the universe.

    That means everything else we can actually see, "normal matter" like planets and dust and stars, makes up just 5% of the known universe. 

    54 votes
  • Nearly 99.9% Of The Solar System's Mass Is Just The Sun
    Photo: NASA / SDO (AIA) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    65 VOTES

    Nearly 99.9% Of The Solar System's Mass Is Just The Sun

    Being that we live in the “solar” system, it should come as no surprise that the sun reigns supreme as the provider of life on our humble planet. What may come as a surprise is that Earth, the other planets, satellites, comets, asteroids, dust, and gas make up less than 0.2% of the solar system’s mass.

    The sun, on the other hand, makes up the other 99.8% to 99.9%. The second-largest object in the solar system, Jupiter, is only 1/1,000th the mass of the sun.

    More than 4 billion years old, the sun will remain stable for another 5 billion years until expanding into a red giant, eventually overtaking the orbits of Mercury and Venus, and then shrinking down into a white dwarf. 

    65 votes
  • 4
    57 VOTES

    Human Beings Have Existed For About 300,000 Years - But We've Only Recorded The Last 5,000 Years Of Our History

    “Humanity” began to split from the lineage of chimpanzees and gorillas over 6 million years ago. However, based on fossils and DNA, anatomically modern Homo sapiens didn’t evolve until around 300,000 years ago.

    That said, it wasn’t until 30,000 years ago that “behavioural modernity” like cave painting began to emerge. In 3400 BCE (approximately 5,422 years ago), the oldest form of writing, cuneiform, began to be used in Mesopotamia. 

    That means the vast majority of our species' history remains almost completely unknown to us.

    57 votes
  • Even If You Traveled At The Speed Of Light, It Would Take 100,000 Years To Cross The Milky Way Galaxy
    Photo: ESO / S. Brunier / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 4.0
    55 VOTES

    Even If You Traveled At The Speed Of Light, It Would Take 100,000 Years To Cross The Milky Way Galaxy

    To reiterate another point on this list, the sun makes up about 99% of the mass in our solar system. The sun is also one of at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of a billion galaxies in the universe.

    NASA's Voyager probe travels at 17.3 kilometers per second. At that pace, it would take more than 1,700,000,000 years to travel the entirety of the Milky Way. Even if it were possible to travel at the speed of light, which is impossible according to the special theory of relativity, it would still take 100,000 light-years (a light-year is the distance light travels in one year). We live about two-thirds of the way outward from the center of that gargantuan spiral galaxy. 

    55 votes
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot Is A Storm Bigger Than Our Planet
    Photo: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    52 VOTES

    Jupiter's Great Red Spot Is A Storm Bigger Than Our Planet

    Jupiter’s best-known feature is its Great Red Spot, the solar system’s largest storm that has raged on the system’s largest planet for hundreds of years. Its winds reach speeds of up to 400 miles per hour. Comparatively, the strongest hurricanes on Earth only reach speeds of 200 miles per hour.

    The storm's diameter is about 10,000 miles wide. Compare that to the Earth’s diameter of 7,917.5 miles. Yes, our planet could fit inside the Great Red Spot. 

    52 votes