If You're a Reasonably Cool Person, This Entry is Probably Not for You

I'm in love.

That's the funny thing about life. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, saucy old Cupid decides that frankly, enough is enough, and sends an arrow your way.

And even though my heart is aflutter for a 64-year-old man who can't move, I wouldn't change a damn thing about him.

When I was three I was obsessed with space and dinosaurs. Since then, anytime someone tells me cool things about space and dinosaurs, I can't help but ask myself the question: "Could this person be The One for me?" In middle school, when the teacher would put on some video in class and I'd think nothing of it until suddenly I'd realize that it's a video about space and the narrator would keep saying incredibly cool things about the space, I'd have to ask that question. Could this video be the answer? Maybe the video and I could find a home and settle down. As tempting as these questions have been, I've always found the strength to resist.

It was two nights ago that I started reading A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking, and it was about 2 paragraphs before the love question popped into my head. For example:

--Apparently time is not constant, the single most unintuitive fact in the world. The universe is not composed of space (a normal concept), but rather of space-time (an absurd concept). Once you get beyond the exact gravitational conditions on Earth, time moves at different speeds depending on a number of factors. Gravity makes time move slower. So do high speeds. At extremely high speeds, time moves incredibly slow. If you were able to travel near the speed of light for just a few seconds, you'd return to Earth and decades would have passed. I've been trying to wrap my mind around that, unsuccessfully. Try to imagine getting in some rocket and getting strapped in and noticing a 5-year-old kid standing on the ground outside the rocket. Then you take off, go ridiculously fast for a couple minutes while you read half a page of a magazine, and return to see the 5-year-old, who's now 50, standing there with his kids. Not science fiction-- that would actually happen. It's impossible to actually comprehend this because none of us ever moves fast enough or changes gravity enough to experience anything but absolute, constant time.

--Space-time is warped by matter. Meaning that a star or planet in space changes the space-time around it. Think of a soft foam mat. If you put a pool ball onto it, the ball will sink in, creating a dip in the mat. If you flicked a marble across the mat a few feet from the pool ball, it would move straight, like a piece of rock floating straight through space. But if you flicked it near the dip, it would wrap around the dip and continue in a different direction (like a golfball going around the rim of a hole but not falling in). And if you flicked it too close to the dip, it would probably get sucked in, like a piece of rock falling into the Earth because of gravity.

I won't get into the fact that time actually wraps around stars and planets like the golf ball moving around the rim of a hole and coming off in another direction, because it's too fucking ridiculous. But I'll take it a step back and talk about light. When a planet or star warps space-time, the path of light is affected in the same way the marble's path is affected by the pool ball's "warping" of the surface of the mat. During a solar eclipse (the only time we can see stars on the other side of the sun) constellations that we are used to seeing look wrong and distorted. This is because the presence of the sun is bending the paths of the stars' light on their way to us, making stars look like they're in places they're not. A star that should be on the right will have it's light bent around the sun (like the golf ball) and end up looking like it's on the left.

And the crazy thing is that the bent light is actually moving to us on the fastest path, even though it looks to us like the bent path travels a longer distance than a path straight to our eye. The fastest path from Europe to LA by airplane is up and around Greenland, over the Arctic. The Earth is 3-dimensional, and on a 3D globe that path looks like the correct fastest path. On a 2-dimensional map, though, that path appears to be way out of the way and the straightest path seems to be through the mid-Atlantic Ocean. When we look at light bending around the sun it's like looking at an airplane's 3D path on a 2D scale. Space-time actually exists in 4 dimensions (with time as the 4th dimension). And in the 4 dimensions, the bent light is actually taking the straightest path (like the Arctic is the actual fastest route in 3 dimensions). But since we can only view things in 3 dimensions, the true straightest path will always seem like a longer path to us (like someone who could only view the world as a map and never as a globe).

--The universe is expanding (which is why all galaxies are moving farther away from all other galaxies). One theory suggests that the force of expansion is great enough that it will expand forever, until eventually all the stars have burned out and there's just nothing (miserably depressing). Another theory says the expansion will eventually slow and stop and the universe will begin contracting. This ends with the entire universe contracting into the size of a pinhead, which would undoubtedly be hideously claustrophobic.

I'm going to the kitchen, now, to enjoy a sandwich.


Anonymous said...

Holy shit.

Anonymous said...

It's been a little while since I've had an overpowering man crush. That guy from your high school freshman year comes to mind. There was a stretch of a week or so where I think nothing would have made me happier than to drop out, move to a suburb of Cleveland, bear and tend to a huge brood of his children and make sure he had a hot meal when he came home from work. When I'd bring out his plate he would throw it back at me (soiling my apron and reducing me to tears), and proceed to savagely beat me in front of the children (and whoever else was over). The next day I'd try to do better.

Momcani said...

Obviously, to say that none of us have moved fast enough to stop time shows that you've never chased a two year old. That pretty gravity stopping, too. My regard is by no means sought and clearly I'm not reasonably cool (I am a married mother of 4 after all!), but manly scar aside, I wouldn't open with this when meeting someone. Your cuteness factor might suffer a bit if you share with other what Steven has done to you. Just a bit of advise.

Dennis said...

You're smaht...

Anonymous said...

As an extremely uncool person, I found this to be a phenomenal entry.

Anonymous said...

you're amazing, i wish i can meet someone with your intelligence