the universe as a metaphor

phreNic's picture

 We have used the universe as a metaphor for the internet. If I were to take that to as much an extreme as a non scientist can, I would say that you could relate the stars, planets, satellites, black holes, even galaxies to the many groupings of people, information, and blogs. But the structure, the internet as a thing, the wires, circuits, and waves, the hardware and software, must exist in that metaphor to fully capture the concept. To be fair, we have no way of counting the stars in our entire universe. So to be able to represent it visually, and to bring it to a level that we can better grasp, let us focus first at or galaxy, and than look to our visible sky. 

The internet is young and by the standards of the universe, barely in its conception state. According to Google, it is expanding out at a rate of several billion pages a day. With a growth rate that exponential, it seems safe to limit the current internet to a metaphor of the galaxy for two reasons. First, so as not to diminish any future metaphor. And more importantly second, to limit the metaphor to a measurable quantity.   That parameter being set, it is estimated that there are 200 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. In contrast , as indexed by Google, by in 2008, there are 1 trillion individual URLs on the net, a number that at the time was growing by several billion a day.

By the naked eye, in ideal conditions, there are 9000 stars visible from earth, and as many as half that visible from one spot at a given time. To show the enormity of the internet I took a star map of what one could see without a telescope in ideal conditions. Since there were 5 times the number of pages to stars in the galaxy, I made a companion sky map with 5 times the amount of stars to show how even our most expansive natural phenomenon stands next to the most expansive man made phenomenon.

http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Yoursky

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/we-knew-web-was-big.html

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