The universe is a grand and glorious place in which to live. Wonders abound in our universe. This is one of the things that make it such a strange and wonderful place not only to live, work, and play but also to explore. And our universe is very big. It is way bigger than any other universes out there.
It is full of “billions and billions of stars”.1 Some people have trouble imagining just how many stars billions and billions of stars really is and, to be honest, that is a pretty big number of stars; way more than thousands and maybe even way more than millions upon millions.
Here is a simple way to better grasp exactly what I am describing. On a clear, dry night drive out to an area away from any city lights. Get out of the car. Get out and...
Stop the car first, then get out of the car and look skyward. Look from one side of the horizon to...
Seriously??? Stop the car FIRST, put it in PARK, turn the car off, and THEN get out of the car.)
Look from one side of the horizon to the other. See all those white, sparkly things? Those are stars. See how many of them there are? A whole bunch, right? Now double that number (because of the southern hemisphere -- that damn southern hemisphere is always messing everything up). THAT’S billions and billions of stars.
Isn’t it amazing?2
We live in a very small part of the universe. Our neighborhood is called the Milky Way. It is called the Milky Way because when one views it from the Earth, it has a milky appearance. Scientists have now confirmed that it also has a delicious nougat center drizzled with caramel and covered in creamy milk chocolate.3
One question that has always puzzled experts since time began is the question of whether there is intelligent life out in the universe. This is a good question to ask because many people would like to know “IS there intelligent life out there in the universe” and, if so; they often wonder; where is it and why hasn’t it attempted to contact us yet?
Let me address the second question first. If there is intelligent life out there in the universe, why hasn’t it attempted to contact us yet? This is such a simple question with an equally simple answer. If there is intelligent life out there in the universe, it has not attempted to contact us yet because, seriously, have you seen the condition of our roads and bridges? It’s a mess down here.4 (This is known in the scientific community as a “giant cluster big bang”.)
Do you really think that an alien civilization, obviously so far advanced technologically from us, is going to visit here and risk damaging the suspension system on their lighter-than-air fancy flying machines? I doubt it. They are way smarter than we. Have you been to a UFO repair place and seen the price they are paying for shock absorbers in the Sirius galaxy? It’s highway robbery... well, at least it’s intergalactic highway robbery.5 We don’t even have laws for intergalactic highway robbery down here so good luck dealing with THAT!6
Now let me answer the first question. Is there intelligent life out in the universe? Are there beings out there flying around in lighter-than-air, fancy flying machines and paying way too much for suspension repair and then, as if that wasn't enough, getting their flying discs home and discovering that the idiot mechanic with five thumbs has somehow managed... (no, I didn’t mean he was clumsy. The creatures living in the Sirius galaxy actually have five thumbs - no fingers but five thumbs) ... the idiot mechanic with five thumbs has somehow managed to ... (it is TOO true. They have KFC there, too, but there, it’s thumb-lickin’ good).
ANYway, they get their flying disc home and discover that “Thumbie”, the idiot mechanic has somehow managed to…
No, that IS his real name.
…managed to ding the aerodynamically efficient outer platinum shell with an errant pipe wrench and now that “little” dent is going to throw the gas mileage all out of kilter. Figures. Stupid five-thumbed mechanic.
Back to that first question. Is there intelligent life out there in the universe? Are there beings out there flying around in lighter-than-air fancy flying machines and perhaps even visiting us on occasion? You bet your sweet, slimy, green, anterior torso there are. It is so simple. If there weren’t intelligent beings out there in the universe flying around in their lighter-than-air, fancy flying machines and getting screwed by mechanics at some cheap, hole-in-the-wall, fancy, lighter-than-air flying machine repair shop (although, to give them their due, they do have the best damn coffee in... well, in the universe), then how in Heaven’s name did all that delicious caramel nougat get distributed in the Milky Way?7 The universe did not nougatize itself.
I mean, my goodness, we humans can’t even develop a shampoo that doesn’t sting when you get it in your eyes so how could we ever...
(Well, yeah, there IS Johnson’s Baby Shampoo but seriously, how clean is your hair after using THAT? That stuff is for BABIES.)
As I was saying, we can’t even develop a shampoo that doesn’t sting when you get it in your eyes so how could we ever get all that yummy caramel nougat up into the Milky Way? It would take hundreds of thousands of man-hours, lift-rockets with thrust capable of moving thousands of metric tons of sticky, gooey, caramel nougat into orbit around the sun and then have the power to break the gravity of the sun and propel that tasty confection out into the greater Milky Way.
This is serious business. One would need a propulsion system with an engine powerful enough to cause that rocket to rise and rise, thrusting forward, at first slow and almost methodical and then, as the flight sequence continues, faster and faster, the excitement building, all the while being aware that through all this intense and powerful action, the projectile needs to be impervious to any damage to its hard, outer shell.
The engineers will want to protect not only the precious cargo inside but also the delicate environment into which the massive column is entering. This is a gentle balancing act. The initial stages of any launch require great patience. The launch site must be carefully prepared and this requires time and effort. Once in flight, the rigidity of that vessel cannot be compromised. If the launch site is not carefully prepared or if the propulsion unit is damaged during the flight there could be a catastrophic failure resulting not only in a return to Phase One but also, in some instances, a fair amount of embarrassment as it pertains to projectile dysfunction.8 It is truly an engineering nightmare.9
Some people wonder just exactly how far it is from our little world here on the outskirts of our very lonely, very cold, but very delicious universe (think about it, a Milky Way is way better when frozen) to our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri.10
Allow me to illustrate. Let’s imagine that the little circle below is our planet, the planet we know as Earth. I will draw a line to represent the distance from our little planet to the edge of Alpha Centauri.
O Alpha Centauri 11
It is a really long way. Bring a sandwich.
(The endnotes in this piece are not all from real publications but were, in fact, invented by the author for humorous effect. My apologies. Thomas Hofbauer)
Thomas Hofbauer © 2012
Our Stupid Universe
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