Written by evan keliher
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Saturday, 6 March 2010

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I love science. Of course, I never studied much of it in school because the stuff's too hard, but I still like it. Especially astronomy.

The astronomers are on the verge of a major breakthrough in their study of the universe's eventual fate and I'm all agog at the prospects. They've already figured out how it began, of course.

All the matter in the universe was compressed into a single matchbox and it blew up. A lot of black holes and quasars and quarks and truckloads of neutrinos and similar debris flew out and spread throughout space. They never said what happened to the matchbox.

They also never said how all that stuff got into the matchbox in the first place, or where the matchbox itself had come from but I guess that's not really important.

Anyway, there was a lot of dust and whatnot mixed in with all the quarks and things and this dust started swirling around in big clouds. It seems there was a lot of gravity mixed in with it and before long the gravity pulled the dust together and presto! We had the Milky Way and a few billion other galaxies stretching as far as the eye could see.

(I hope this isn't too technical for you, but I told you this stuff is hard.)

Well, the next thing you know some of this dust turned into the sun and the leftover dust formed up the planets and one of them was Earth and that's how we came to be here. We didn't know any of this for a long time, though, since people back then knew even less science than the average American today-if such a thing is possible-and everybody took the word of Middle Ages religiosos who knew practically nothing.

Then Galileo came along and found out the planets were circling the sun and not the other way around and this ticked off the church and he was placed under house arrest until he changed his mind. They would have arrested Copernicus, too, but he wisely stayed home in Poland and consequently lived to a ripe old age.

Actually, the pope recently admitted Galileo was right after all and apologized for having him arrested. He commuted his house arrest to time served and turned the details over to the papal revisionists to straighten out the history so it looks like none of this ever happened.

That was about it for a few hundred years until Einstein came along and told us all about relativity and how space is curved and light travels faster than time and how everything's expanding and so on.

(Incidentally, this relativity business is really complicated, but basically it has to do with everything in space being relative to everything else so that no matter where you go you're really right where you started. There may be a point or two I've missed, but that's essentially it.)

After Einstein died interest in astronomy fell off because the whole thing had just become so preposterous even the astronomers wouldn't believe it anymore, but then some guy came up with this matchbox story and another guy built a newfangled telescope that let people see both forward into the future and backward into the past and Carl Sagan started showing up on TV and all of a sudden astronomy was very popular again.

Which brings us to the end-or possible ends. You see, a guy named Hubble found out the universe is expanding on all sides and everything is moving away from everything else at great speed. The universe could expand forever until everything gets so far apart from everything else we all end up absolutely alone and get picked off one by one. This is called an open system.

However, if it does stop expanding gravity will pull it all together until it's all stuffed back in that matchbox and we have a closed system. It's one or the other but which? They're about to find out, you know. Maybe one of these new space telescopes will turn the trick, or some nerdy guy with inch-thick glasses will come up with another magic formula and reveal the truth at last.

As for me, I hope it's an open system and everything drifts away and vanishes. If that happens it's all over and we can forget about it and enjoy our leisure for a change.

But if the universe jumps back into that matchbox and blows up again it means we'll have to repeat the whole process endlessly for all eternity and that would mean we'll have to keep doing the same things over again in perpetuity. Same jobs, wives, mothers-in-law, futures, mistakes...

Ah, well.

©Evan Keliher

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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