Friday, September 25, 2009


On Tuesday, I said that space and time had collapsed.

Walking home from school today, I revised that opinion. Yes, being able to call home is nice. And it doesn't matter to you whether I write from home or school: you get the same information at the same time either way. But it turns out that when you're walking, 2.4 miles is still 2.4 miles. And when the sun is up in the early afternoon sky, and the weather is trying not to give up on the idea of summer--a 40 minute walk really does take 40 minutes (not the 7 minutes Google maps will estimate for you, based on its assumption that anyone checking an online map will be traveling with the aid of fermented dinosaur blood).

This problem of space staying big in spite of our technology is hardly limited to my local experience. The majority of the universe has escaped the effects of technology and globalization: light from the relatively close star Polaris (the north star) is 430 years old by the time it reaches us. Light from the furthest known galaxies in the universe reaches the Hubble telescope only after a 13 billion year trip across the cosmos.

If we knew how to send out a message that could be interpreted by any other sentient life in the universe, odds are that the world would be over before we heard back.

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