Here is one of the great existential problems that caused a lot of 20th century angst: the more we learn about the universe, the more we realize how insignificant we are. 

Here is 21st century science's answer to that: Humans are very sophisticated conglomerates of materials. We are very special indeed.

In the video below, Dartmouth professor Marcelo Gleiser walks us through some of the key milestones in our understanding of the universe, beginning with Copernicus telling us we are not at the center of the solar system, aka "the universe" as it was understood at the time. From Copernicus on, we grew less and less significant. Good heavens, our solar system is not even the center of the universe! Next, even our Milky Way galaxy is no big deal. 

The universe is expanding, and we are learning that we are smaller and smaller. Thanks a lot, science!

And yet, as Gleiser explains, we are also learning about life in the universe. While there may be Earth-like planets, we know just how special the conditions must be for the existence of intelligent life. Consider, for instance, that humans are able to think about who we are and ask questions about the universe.

Amazingly, the more we learn about the universe, the more we move back to the center again. 

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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