Vol. 4 No. 1 Suppl. 1 (2020) - Open Stream on Covid-19 Emergency
Covid-19 Emergency Open Stream Contribution

The Universe, the Light, the Earth, the Life: the Reality is Greater than We Are

Vincenzo Balzani
"G. Ciamician" Department of Chemistry, University of Bologna, Italy

Published 2020-06-05


  • Universe,
  • Light,
  • Earth,
  • Life,
  • Reality,
  • Complexity,
  • Mysteries,
  • Unbelievable Numbers,
  • Stars,
  • Atoms,
  • Time,
  • Energy,
  • Human,
  • Questions of Meaning,
  • Talents,
  • Spiritual Energy
  • ...More

How to Cite

Balzani, V. (2020). The Universe, the Light, the Earth, the Life: the Reality is Greater than We Are. Substantia, 4(1), 957. https://doi.org/10.13128/Substantia-957


The pandemic caused by Covid-19 locked us at home for several weeks. Some clever town councillors took this opportunity to offer their citizens cultural pills. In my little town I was asked to present a few short lectures on general scientific concepts. I tried to link together four entities of reality (Universe, Light, Earth and Life) showing that reality is much more complex than we think and much greater than us. E.g.: age of the Universe vs age of human civilization (~1.3x1010 vs ~ 1x104 years), size of universe vs human size (~1x1025 m vs ~1 m), velocity of light vs velocity of sound (3x108 vs 3.5x102 m/s), number of stars in the sky (~ 1x1023), number of molecule in a drop of water (~ 3x1021), number of atoms in a human body (~ 1x1027). Although we know reasonably well how Universe, Light, Earth and Life “work”, we are still surrounded by profound mysteries related to the why questions, i.e., the “questions of meaning”, that science cannot answer. Such questions, e.g., why is there the Universe? Why is there Life in this insignificant fragment of the Universe called Earth? Why did the evolution of Life lead to human? What's the meaning of my life? What is the meaning of the Covid-19 pandemic? The answers to the these “questions of meaning”, that cannot be given by science, are discussed in the enciclic Laudato si’ of pope Francis in relation to the ecological and social crisis we are going through.