In his wonderful fictional series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the late Douglas Adams introduced the ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ – a machine built by inventor Trin Tragula, who after being constantly nagged by his wife to “Have some sense of proportion!” (sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day), decided to build a machine “just to show her”. Into one end, he plugged the whole of reality (in classic Adams fashion, extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake), and into the other he plugged his wife, so that she would be shown in one instant “the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it”. To his horror, Trin Tragula realized that this single, devastating shock had completely annihilated his wife’s brain, but to his satisfaction “he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion”.
I don’t have any fairy cake on hand, but the above video is pretty close to being a Total Perspective Vortex: it’s an accurate 3-dimensional model and animation created out of data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), showing some 400,000 galaxies in their actual position in the Universe.
High resolution and full-screen recommended! Remember: each of those points of light is a complete galaxy, each with 100 billion stars or more within them. And in case that all doesn’t blow your mind enough, it’s worth pointing out that this 3D representation only includes all objects out to redshift 0.1 – roughly 1.3 billion light years from Earth, about 1/10 of the distance to the edge of the known Universe. And the perspective given in this video is actually impossible, as to see the Universe in this way would require traveling at many times the speed of light.