Note: This is a serious post about, like, cosmology and shit like that there, once you get past the infantile jokes.
8:13 AM 17 April 1949, Harrisburg, PA. (The Population Registry on the Sun clocked my birth in as “8:21”. We’ll get to that shortly.)
In a recent ‘What’s your favorite star?’ CNN poll our Sun scored a narrow majority, (67%), edging out Vega, Arcturus, and Beetlejuice, (popular these days) which were offered as options. A full 23% of the respondents declined to answer, citing either ‘No opinion’ or their objection to The Sun being included in a ‘star-popularity poll.’
But frankly, deplorables, our beloved solar plexus, without which we’d be toast in a New York minute, is, in fact a star, just like the other quintillion+ burning plasma-bags we see, but from an awesome distance.
Our own BFF star, viewed approx 150,000,000 kilometers from our front-and-center seats, is a reliable sight every morning. Tickets to view the nearest competitive attraction, Proxima Centauri, from the same close-up vantage-point are selling as we speak at a less-than-brisk rate. ‘Price-considerations’ are perhaps the main market factor. Still, with current technology, an investment of merely ‘1000 times the net output of the human race since what’s-her-name, Leaky’s skeleton?’, plus the proviso that for that price you only get a guarantee that your great-great-great-grand-daughter will be able to peer at it kinda wet-blankets the demand.
But that’s not why I’m writing this. No, there is another more immediate (and conceptual) problem an’ it’s keeping me awake nights. Read on:
You’ve all certainly watch as a fellow way off in the distance hammers steel posts into the ground. You hear the clang as metal strikles metal, but with a ‘speed-of’sound’ delay we common-sense Earthlings take for granted. I’ve even seen the poor bloke finish hammering and then heard a series of ‘clangs’ even after he’s already grabbed a beer.
Were he driving posts into the Sun , the delay-calculation might look something like this, assuming sound travelling in a vacuum, which it don’t:
Ok, the distance between the Sun and the Earth, 149.6 million kilometers needs to be divided by the distance sound travels in one second, 344 meters. (of course, in the Earth’s atmosphere, but we’re just having fun here, right?
The result is a time of travel of four hundred thirty-three thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine seconds. (433, 139)
With sixty second to a minute, sixty minutes to an hour, and 24 hours to a day, we can didvide the seconds tally by 60X60X24=86,400 seconds per day.
Thus, the sound of the fellow hammering on the Sun takes 5,013 days to get here. Hmm.. better than the USPS?
But seriously, even the Light, (by which we see, from Earth, the poor sun-burned dim-wit, duh) takes its good old time to reach us.
Or does it?
There are two schools of thought on this, and I can’t decide in which one to enroll.
The first, (I’ll call it Common sense) simply decides that what we see happening on the Sun is what happened there 8 minutes ago. The fucking thing coulda super-nova-ed already, while you were on the toilet, and, without a proper notice, rendering wiping your butt your last act on the planet.
However…the demi-god Albert Einstein, who was presumably above prosaic ‘calls of nature’, stood on the shoulders of Newton and tried, really tried, to show us the Second school-of-thought, a bitter pill to swallow but mathematically robust and un-arguable.
The speed of Light, he gently implied, is not only ‘as fast as it gets; no, it’s more fundamentally ‘The Speed of Reality'(!)
Take a second here, and a deep breath. He is in fact dis-allowing any naive statements about events separated by distance and time. Which proviso solidly include my ‘I see the Sun as it was 8 minutes ago’. There is no universal ‘Now’, no matter how much our instinct clings to the concept.
At least we are not alone in our misery; the Alpha Centurions, four-plus years of light travel-time from us, are not to be pitied for still dancing in the streets to ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and the ‘now-only-a-fond-memory’ TV broadcasts from Earth of Obama’s re-election.
On the contrary! Their ‘Reality’, as arguably ‘real’ as ours, does not, and cannot, include the disgusting elevation of an illiterate, perverted, racist piece of shit to the United States presidency. Don’t you envy them already?
Disclaimer: who knows what scoundrel those 7-tentacled lizards might have elected by them-selves? But in our Reality, it didn’t happen… yet. Whew!
Finally: So what’s with the eclipse (Aug 21; be there) ? Does it bother anyone but me that the Moon, one ‘light-second’ away is slated to block the light which the Sun sent our way eight minutes ago? Kinda sounds like shooting ahead of a duck in flight.
But then, this whole subject spins me in metaphysical and cosmological circles. Some nights I couldn’t even shoot an elephant in my pajamas. How (when?) he got in there, yeah, that’s an easier question. I envy Groucho.