Essay — From the December 2012 issue

Our Place in the Universe

Face to face with the infinite

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My most vivid encounter with the vastness of nature occurred years ago on the Aegean Sea. My wife and I had chartered a sailboat for a two-week holiday in the Greek islands. After setting out from Piraeus, we headed south and hugged the coast, which we held three or four miles to our port. In the thick summer air, the distant shore appeared as a hazy beige ribbon—not entirely solid, but a reassuring line of reference. With binoculars, we could just make out the glinting of houses, fragments of buildings. Then we passed the tip of Cape Sounion and turned …

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is a physicist and novelist who teaches at MIT. His novel Mr g: A Novel About the Creation was published in January 2012 by Pantheon.

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  • Frederick S.

    I enjoyed Alan Lightman

  • Beard Steel

    As a magazine subscriber, what is preventing me from posting
    a copy of the full article in this comment?
    The novel abstract thoughts of enveloping into an infinite loop serve
    just as much purpose as looking at the numbers.
    Is the universe a mental construct or better yet does the perimeter of
    the universe loop into the very tiniest atoms that define us originally?

    Wrapping my mind around this soothing article, my thoughts
    stuttered upon the second to last paragraph.
    The

  • Caramx

    I thought we already were “out there looking around” on starry nights while we speed around the sun at 67,000 mph.

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